The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
In school, we learn about important historical figures that inspire Americans across the states. We hear names such as former President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, and more. If you look up “inspiring American historical figures”, Abe Lincoln, Rosa Parks, George Washington, and Martin Luther King Jr show. Some websites have “top 100 inspiring Americans” with little to no Latinx figures on the list. Are there really no inspiring Latinx Americans, or have we just attributed the title of “most inspiring” to figures we have learned the most about from our textbooks? Juan Felipe Hererra and Ellen Ochoa are some of my biggest inspirations because of their strength and determination shown in their passion despite great discrimination or hardships they face due to being Latinx.
Juan Felipe Hererra
Juan Felipe Hererra is an American poet most well-known for his ability to convey his experiences as a Hispanic son of a migrant farm worker. Spanning his poetic career, Hererra has managed to cross poetic borders in his works, showing the fusion of art, activism, Spanish and English. In one of his most well-known works, “187 Reasons Mexicanos can’t cross the border” Juan Felipe Hererra uses numerous poetic devices such as imagery, anaphoras, and similes to articulate the Latinx American experience to his readers. Hererra even uses comedy and long lists to escalate the message of the poem. His ability to blend his life experiences into poetry and explicitly show readers the Latinx experience has won him numerous awards including National Book Critics Circle Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, and more. Additionally, he was the first Chicano to be named US poet laureate in 2015, an honorary position granted by the US Library of Congress that allows the laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.
Ochoa faced many hardships being a Latina woman in NASA in the 90s. She has explained that in many of her classes there were rarely other women, much less women of color, and incidents of her running into department heads that expressed their disdain. However, despite this all, Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space. She continued her education and got both her master’s and doctorate at Stanford University. She went on to create countless systems for NASA before being selected in 1990 to participate in NASA’s astronaut program. During the mission, she studied with others the interaction with Earth’s atmosphere, as well as released a satellite that would study solar wind. In 2007, she became deputy director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas before being promoted to director six years later. Through her hard work, achievements, and leadership roles, she is a great inspiration for all women, especially those interested in STEM, a predominately male field. She shows Latinx students (and other students of color) that facing discrimination, although hard, cannot stop someone from achieving their highest potential.