Lantigua, who is touring local schools in the coming months, says she didn’t start out to write a book with a strong religious undercurrent, but as the story developed Luisito’s budding faith became a narrative force. “This is not a Catholic book,” she says. “It’s a book about a Catholic boy.”
Lantigua began her career as a newspaper reporter for The Miami Herald, writing under her maiden name, Lizette Muñiz, before jumping to television. After the first of three daughters was born, she stayed home to raise a family but also freelanced for various publications.
In 2004, recognizing a need for Hispanic-themed greeting cards, she launched Lantigua Designs, using popular Spanish sayings. “Eres como el oso,” one birthday card declares. “Mientras mas viejo mas hermoso.” (You’re like a bear. The older you get, the more handsome you grow.)
At an industry show in New York, her creations got a lot of press and sales picked up. But distribution proved a problem, so now Lantigua sells the cards on her website, lantiguadesigns.com, and through small shops. She has also licensed the characters. They decorate the walls of her office in her Southwest Ranches home.
Through the years, however, she never gave up on Luisito’s story, tinkering with it every now and then. Later, as a mother of teenagers, she was always in search of good books for her kids to read.
“So much out there is dark and gloomy,” she says. “I wanted something more wholesome, an alternative.”
Now she’s toying with a sequel to Mission Libertad. “It takes place a few years later,” she says mysteriously. “It’s another secret mission.”