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The following article/section is from the Paola Santiago continuity under Rick Riordan Presents and not the Riordanverse canon.

Let them go! Let them go or I swear God I'll vaporize every last one of you!

–Dante as he tries to save a group of children in, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears.

Dante Mata is a boy living in Silver Springs, Arizona with his grandmother. He is a close friend of Paola Santiago.


Dante was born in Raisin Valley, California to a sixteen year old girl and Rudolfo Mata. When he was three, a ghost attacked his home and killed his father while his mother fled before she could reach him. However his abuela came for him and took him with her to Silver Springs, Arizona.

When Dante was four, he befriended a girl his age, Paola, who lived in the apartment below him. The two became close friends.

When he was in middle school, he and Paola befriended Emma Lockwood, a girl from the wealthy part of town. Around this same time he witnessed a family in his apartment complex being arrested by ICE agents. He also joined his school's soccer team.

Paola Santiago series

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

On a summer day, he, Emma and Paola are by the banks of the Gila River as the sunset. He and Emma were talking about comics as Paola studied the algae. As we went to throw away the trash, the girls decided chase after him with algae in there hands. After they get tired Emma heads home as they head back to their apartment building. As he and Paola say goodbye he blushes slightly. The following day he and Pao play video games in his bedroom and they feel awkward whenever they touch. During lunch they watch a report on the string of kidnappings three counties north of them and that it is the anniversary of one of his classmate's, Marisa Martinez, disappearance. When Pao rebukes his grandmother's claim that she was beautiful, he kicks her out, say that it is a generational thing, and he talks with his grandmother. Later that day he goes to Pao's apartment to head to the Gill to stargaze with Emma and he apologizes on his grandmother's behalf. They go to the river and wait but Emma doesn't show. He suggests she probably got stuck at the country club with her parents. When Pao suggests they try again the following day, he says he is meeting with his soccer friends and reluctantly invites her and Emma to join them. As the sun sets they clean up and Pao sees a figure on the other side of the river, he talks her out of investigating and they leave.

They call Emma's parents and learn she has been missing for almost two hours. They reveal they were supposed to meet up by the river and the Lockwoods tell the pair to meet them at the police station. When they arrive an officer tells them to leave and they tell him they are waiting for their friends parents as she was reported missing. The officer tells them she is probably at someone else's house and calls them crazed and superstitious. They head back home before the Lockwoods arrive. When she looks around her apartment, she takes a jar and smashes it on the kitchen floor. She then falls asleep dreams of being by the river and sees the figure from before, she notices that his face is pixelated and all light flees from him. When she wakes up her mother arrives and, after seeing the mess, asks if there was a break in. Pal says she did it and checks the answering machine to find no messages. Her mother scolds her before Pao explains that Emma is missing and the police called her crazy because people like her mother created a stereotype for all Latinos. Her mother explains that the problems between the police and Latinos goes deeper then that and tells Pao to clean up the shards before going to bed. She wakes up to the smell of coffee and men's voices coming from the kitchen and she exits her room to find her mother, Dante, and his grandmother talking to two police officers. They introduce themselves as officers James and Tyler. She and Dante lead the police and her mother to river and explains the officer they talked to yesterday called them crazy and kicked them out of the station. When they reach the spot they ask her and Dante how often they can there and if anyone else knows about this spot. After she tells them about the man she saw and gives a basic description, the officers say they are done as Dante pushes them to do more. As they bicker, Pao goes to the river bank and pulls out some reeds, cutting her palm. As she starts to cry, she sees something on the ground and realizes it is Emma's ring. The police go back to the station to mount a search and Pao stays with Dante. As they are alone in his room, she reveals the dream she had about the Mesa kidnappings and Emma's disappearance, which he believes. As they watch the news and eat lunch, they watch the story about Emma and learn that other girls around her age with expensive jewelry have gone missing as well. As they watch they hold hands until his grandmother returns.

Two hours later she goes back to the Mata apartment to convince Dante to look for clues before the police arrive. He gives her a look that he thinks she is crazy. However Dante's grandmother appears in his doorway tandem has them come out. She closes the blinds and lights candles to perform and ritual. She gives Dante her slipper, which changes into something he would wear, and Pao and bag. She has them smear her Florida Water on them and tells them they have until the Summer Solstice in five days and that someone is afraid tone dreamer, which Pao thinks is her. After that the old woman's eyes glow green and she passes out. Dante moves her to the couch and checks her pulse as invisible waves force them to leave. She goes immediately while Dante clings to his abuela for as long as he could. When they are pushed out they see green light coming from his apartment as Dante desperately tries and fails to get back. They then head to the Gila. When they arrive he demands to know the rest of her plan, when she has nothing he berates her for dragging him into this and for not leaving it to the police. He apologizes soon after, explaining his concerns for his grandmother. Soon they hear a scream that Pao thinks is Emma and she runs into a nearby cactus field with him close behind, however they become separated. He finds Pao unconscious and calls her name until she wakes up. She explains how she ran into Marisa Martínez and was stabbed by her. He reluctantly checks her back and finds nothing. He suggests they turn back but she refuses, she empties the bag his grandmother gave them to reveal a bottle of Florida water and a flashlight Pao's father gave her. He demands they go back and leave it to the police and she berates him for wanting to swap her out for the cool kids, which he does deny, and she walks of with him calling after her. However she ends up right back where she started and keeps returning to him no matter where she goes. She kicks the flashlight in frustration and the two apologize and laugh at the situation. Pao then notices that the beam bends east no matter where they point it and they follow it. As dusk approaches Pao marks an X in the sand as the light beam changes to shine west. They continue east until they return to the X. He and Pao are separated again but he finds her along with a sliver haired girl. She flinches when she sees his grandmother's slipper and calls it a Arma del Alma. She reluctantly lets them come with her.

They ask her questions, which she ignores, as she takes them to the encampment of the Niños de la Luz, the children of the light. She brings them to their leader, Marisa, who tells them they have no new comers when they ask about Emma. When they learn he has an Arma del Alma, she asks him to see it and he reluctantly hands it over. She explains that it is a weapon passed between generations of family members that is tied to a person's life force and expresses disappointment that his grandmother failed to teach him how to properly use it. He snaps at the comment and an argument breaks out before him and Naomi until Marisa calms things down and let's them spend the night. As they eat he looks into the fire and falls asleep for a few minutes. When he wakes up he sees Pao talking to Sal, a boy whose family he saw get arrested by ICE, and a horn sounds soon after. Naomi herds them to a tent and tells them to stay put. They leave the tent to find the camp overrun with severed hands he recognized as La Mano Panchona, one grabs him by the ankle and drags him out of camp with Pao trying to free him. Pao remembers the clancha and grabs it, after it doesn't work for her she gives it to Dante. When he touches it him it turns into a yard long black club that revitalizes his strength. He bludgeons it until it turns into a pile of goo and they rush back to camp. He helps fends off the Mano and goes over to Pao after one suddenly stops strangling her. He stays with her as the Niños search the camp for Manos they might have missed. Naomi comes over to the two and complements them for their actions during the attack. As she and Dante look at each other, Pao coughs loudly and she tells them to come to the mess. After Marisa tells the Niños to rest for a day of cleaning the camp, he and Pao are told to stay behind as the older girls explain the purpose of the Niños. They reveal they are one of many groups in countless worlds keeping monsters at bay and invite them to join, as the veil between worlds weakens during the Summer Solstice and the third quarter further weakens it. After learning his loved ones are in danger, he agrees to help as Pao berates him for abandoning Emma. He believes they have a better shot at finding Emma after the solstice and calls Pao jealous as she leaves. He sleeps close to Pao and she wakes him up to tell him she is temporarily joining the Niños. She fills him in on what she learned and Sal comes in to congratulate them on joining. Soon Marisa calls them to the training pit. When Pao selects a dagger to fight with, he has trouble activating his weapon until Naomi throws a knife at Pao. Once he activates it he trains with Marisa, and manages to block little of his attack, while Pao trains with Naomi, who fares much better. They break when Marisa tells them about the double threat from the overlapping Summer Solstice and third quarter. Before they can resume, they get word of an attack from the east and Marisa tells him to go with Naomi and Pao to stay behind as she would district Dante. As Pao protests, he kisses her cheek and promises to return. However he is taken by the enemy.

As three children are deposited in the Rift, he charges at the supernatural creatures surrounding them. He soon reunites with Pao and nearly hurts Bruto before Pao stops him, causing him confusion about her adopting a chupacabra puppy. Soon all supernatural beings, save for two grown chupacabra, freeze in place and a girl jumps off one of their backs. He and Pao are frozen in place as the kids are lead through another portal. Ondina commands them to mount the chupacabras and they obey with him getting on immediately and Pao resisting for a second. When they enter the nearby palace they dismount and Ondina orders them to climb a set of stairs.

When Pao is with La Llorona, he is seen as one of the sacrifices in resurrecting Ondina along with Emma and Franco. After the orb powering The Rift is drained, he and the other sacrifices are freed and he stands between Pao and La Llorona. When the orb is shattered, the area around them starts to fall apart and he watches as La Llorona and Ondina pass on.

They float upward and breach the surface of the Gila and swim to shore. As they walk he sticks close to Franco and they run into three Niños as they head back to camp. He shows of his club and point up Bruto when he returns to his friends. Marisa shows them out of the cactus field and they head to the Riverside Palace Apartments as Pao makes up a story of Emma getting lost in the cactus field and staying put while he and Pao got lost looking for her. Soon his grandmother sneaks up from behind and he hugs her. Back at his apartment, he reluctantly returns the Arma del Alma as his grandmother reveals she was with the Niños de la Luz for a century, they try to get more out of her but she only tells them it is just beginning. His grandmother calls his friend's parents and they three are kept at home for the next three days until they are allowed to meet up to watch the SpaceX launch at the Santiago apartment. He arrives last and they watch the news as it talks about their return and shows children that are still missing, including Marisa and Naomi. Pao leaves to light a candle for them with her mother and sits to close to him when she returns.

Unknown to him, he was being manipulated by Joaquín.

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares

As he and Pao head into seventh grade, he starts to distance himself from her. They would fight more often with him ghosting her for three days, the longest they ever went without talking to each other. One day during winter break, he is sitting outside when Pao and her mom are returning from a meeting with her new boyfriend. After an awkward silence his abuela calls him "Alberto" and says to come inside. When Pao asks if anything is wrong, he insults her and she goes to her apartment before he can apologize to her.

The following day he heads to soccer practice and when he returns, he finds his grandmother unconscious and Pao kneeling over her as green lights appear air. The lights vanish as soon as Dante comes close to his grandmother and reveals she has been acting like that since they saved Emma and blames Pao for it. The ambulance Emma calls arrives and Pao tells the paramedic everything that happened as he holds his grandmother’s hand. Pao and goes with the Matas to the hospital. When they arrive at the Silver Springs Hospital, a nurse gives Dante paperwork, he goes with the doctors as Pao waits for Emma. Pao and Emma enter the room, claiming to be Dante’s cousins, where the doctors say Seniors Mata is fine physically but they are not picking up any brainwaves. As Emma talks to the doctors as Pao pulls a reluctant Dante into the hallway to talk. He knows she is hiding something but before she can tell him, they hear screams. They go towards the screaming to find two specters. He goes to get his grandmother’s Arma del Alma and, after a long while, returns and takes the ghosts out. After a moment of calm, Emma comes out and a janitor tells them that the nurses called the police thinking Pao and him for destroyed the hallway and to get away as soon as possible, After Emma says she’ll take care and everything, he reluctantly agrees to go with Pao to Oregon to save his grandmother. They sneak out the back and out of town before heading to the Gila River to spend the night with the Niños de la Luz to throw the authorities off their trail and ask them for help in getting to Oregon. When they get close, Dante accuses her of orchestrating everything and hurting his grandmother just so she can be the hero. She snaps back that everything just happened and she had no control over it. After calming down he agrees to spend the night.

They find the camp abandoned and Pao starts to panic, with Dante's criticism only making her feel worse. After telling Pao this will be the first place the police would look, she snaps at him, saying she was going through things as he was pushing her away. Dante retorts by saying she abandoned Emma after saving her and helping her come out, and only contacting her when she needed something. Things then calm down and, after a couple hours rest, they agree to catch a bus at Rock Creek, the next town over. Pao takes first watch as Dante falls asleep. When he wakes up he finds Naomi at the camp and glares at her, revealing she let him get taken. As Naomi secures the camp, Pao reveals to Dante that she asked Naomi to help them, much to his anger. After a brief argument Dante reveals that he’s worried about his grandmother and the two reconcile as Naomi returns and they walk two and a half hours to Rock Creek. During the walk Emma calls to tell them nothing has changed with Señora Mata and that she was moved to a new room and the police believe drug addicts attacked the hospital. When they arrive they buy sunglasses and breakfast burritos. Naomi reveals some she helped a few months back, Johnny, makes trips to Fresno and she thinks she can talk him into taking them. When they finish eating Pao goes to wash her hands and they go to meet Johnny when she comes out. Naomi takes them to Juan & Sons Auto Repair and introduces them to Johnny, who he quit bonds with over his knowledge of cars. He agrees to take them to Fresno during a scheduled trip on Thursday, three days from then, but Pao insists they have to leave that day. Johnny rejects the offer and Naomi ushers Pao and Dante away after saying she will refuse Johnny's next call for help. Johnny gives in and agrees to take them in a car he is working on, as the owner won't pick it up for a few days. They head out after Naomi decides not to join them, only for her to change her mind and join them soon after.

As they are driving across the Arizona-California border, he and Pao look out the window as they are driven to their destination. After Pao learns from Emma Señora Mata is still the same as when they left and the doctors are bringing in a specialist and new equipment, she relays this information to Dante, who's expression is hard to read. After a few more miles Johnny stops at a rest stop and gives them ten minutes to get snacks and go to the bathroom. After Pao is attacked by a pack of Cadejo, Naomi has him throw his Arma del Alma to her. After Pao takes them out and they help her up, Johnny comes up to them and says some tourists called the police on Pao "assaulting the vending machines" and they head out as. As they continue north, Pao apologizes to him and says none of this is her fault and that they are still friends. He agrees that they are still friends as Johnny pulls into a dive for lunch. Back on the road, Johnny asks for a drop off location. Pao and Naomi have nothing, but he requests they be dropped off in Raisin Valley, a town southwest of Fresno.

They reach Raisin Valley at sunset and he directs Johnny to a house. When they get out of the car, Johnny gives his fair wells and leaves them. Dante knocks on the door as a woman answers it as Naomi catches Pao as her legs weaken. Dante addresses the woman as his mother and asks if they could come in as Pao passes out. He locks his mom and Naomi in his old bedroom, telling them they will be safe, and waits outside by a well until Pao wakes up. He reveals that he knows that she knows about his past and blames her for letting his father die. Pao says there was nothing she could do as Dante brings out his club. He says that despite his weapon, tragic backstory, and lineage, Pao is the hero and not him. He goes on to say that someone told him the truth and her lineage and why she has these dreams, as well as the danger she poses to his family. He explains that he was distancing himself from her to keep his grandmother safe and that he should be with her now and berates her for trying to keep him to herself. Pao apologies for it as he lands a blow on her shoulder. In retaliation, Pao transforms her Arma del Alma and pins him to the ground. Unfazed, he digs up the locket and breaks it, unleashing the ghost and escaping while Pao is distracted. He later appears before his "new friend" and says the ghost is ready and everything is in order.

As Pao heads to Oregon, she dreams of him in a white and gold suit with glowing green eyes. He is placed in stasis soon after in the void. Pao is unable to save him and he is trapped in the void.


Dante is an adolescent Hispanic boy with dark skin and black hair that he gels into spikes.


Dante is a friendly boy who enjoys soccer. He's noted to have a hero complex by multiple people, where he always wants to save and help those he loves; this is shown in his desire to protect Pao and him trying to stay with his grandmother when he's worried she might be in danger.

Despite his heroic nature, Dante has somewhat of an inferiority complex. This is demonstrated when he and Pao are being trained by Marisa and Naomi, when he is envious of Pao for doing better at training then him. This inferiority complex has resulted in him feeling jealously and hatred towards Pao.


  • Bilingualism: Dante can speak both English and Spanish.
  • Athleticism: Dante is quite athletic.
  • Prowess in Battle: Despite lacking much formal training, Dante can hold his own when taking on small groups with a weapon.


  • Arma del Alma: Dante possesses a weapon of the soul given to him but his grandmother. While it was originally only the form of a slipper, it can turn into a yard long black club when he is in danger. After Emma is found and rescued, he returns it to his abuela, albeit somewhat reluctantly. He takes it again when his abuela is hospitalized.



Dante was raised by his grandmother and loves and fears her. After she sends him and Pao out to find Emma, he becomes worried when he is forced to leave her passed out on the couch. He continued to be called concerned for her well being as he and Pao continued to look for Emma. When they returned to the Riverside Palace Apartments, he happily hugged his abuela.

Six months later, he comes home to find her out cold and fears she is going to die. After the hospital is attacked by ghosts, he reluctantly agrees to go to Oregon to save her.

Dante detests his mother for abandoning him when their house was attacked.


Paola Santiago, his close friend.

Dante has known Paola since the two were four years old and have been close friends ever since. In their summer between the sixth and seventh grade, the two would start to act strangely around each other. While he often agrees with her, he tends to stand his ground when he thinks he is needed somewhere else. When he leaves to fend off an attack from the east with Marisa, he kisses Pao on the cheek when she is told to stay behind. When he sees Pao in the rift,he is overjoyed to see her. When Ondina takes control of the two of them, they lean against them.

After they start seventh grade, he starts to distance himself from her. The two have problems expressing their feelings for each other. After he finds her kneeling over his unconscious grandmother, he reveals she has been having problems since they saved Emma and, having started around that time, blames her for his abuela's declining mental state.

As he journeys with Pao to Oregon, he acts indifferent to most events, barely reacting when she is almost mauled by a pack of Cadejo. After going to his mother's house, he starts to berate Pao for putting his family in danger and trying to keep her to herself. Things get physical and he unleashes the ghost that killed his father to distract her as he escaped.

Emma Lockwood, his friend.

Dante and Emma met each other at age eleven and have be close friends. He becomes worried when she vanishes and sets out with Pao to find her, albeit somewhat reluctantly. When Emma was found he was grateful to find her.

He trusts Emma judgment and word, agreeing to go with Pao to Oregon after promising to look after his grandmother.


  • Dante is an Italian given name derived from "Durante", which comes from the Latin verb "dūrāre", meaning "to endure".
  • Mata is a surname of Spanish and Portuguese origin.


  • Dante is grossed out by algae.
  • He is left-handed.
  • Dante is the first character in both the main literary universe and the imprint to be born through a teen pregnancy.
Paola Santiago series
Books: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears | Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares | Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows
Main Characters: Paola Santiago | Dante Mata | Bruto | Naomi
Secondary Characters: Maria Santiago | Marisa Martínez | Ondina | Carmela Mata | Beto | Emma Lockwood | Joaquín
Minor Characters: Sal | Franco | Aaron | Johnny
Mythical Creatures: Chupacabra | La Llorona | Ahogada | La Mano Panchona | Lechuza | Duendecillos | Cadejo | The Hitchhiker
Related Content: Tehlor Kay Mejia | Rick Riordan Presents