The time has come to look back on the achievements of members of the Latinx community during National Latinx Heritage Month. Beginning Sept. 17, this month calls for the celebration of the cultures and countless contributions made by Latinx Americans. During this month, we recognize the profound impact that Latinx people have had in all areas of society, from culture to science and beyond.
Oftentimes when discussing Latinx culture, there is a focus on food and dance. As these topics are, others of equal caliber fly under the radar, unrecognized. So, in addition to the aforementioned food and dance, we should take the time to appreciate the hard work of Latinx people in a broad range of matters.
One such area is science, which, without decades of work from Latinx scientists, would be a very different field.
In 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina woman to go into space when she boarded the Discovery space shuttle for a nine-day mission. She flew into space three times after her first mission, spending almost 1,000 hours in orbit. After four subsequent missions, she became the director of the Johnson Space Center. She is now retired, but her work has left a deep impact in her field.
Additionally, infectious disease researcher Jacinto Convit made life-saving discoveries with his leprosy vaccine. By modifying a tuberculosis treatment, he became one of the most well-known scientists working on treating the disease. Not only was he able to develop the vaccine, but Convit went above and beyond by treating outcasted leprosy patients and working to destigmatize those affected.
Another important area demonstrating both the achievements of Latinx people, as well as their culture, is literature. Latinx protagonists are often underrepresented in media, so what could be a better time to start reading books by or about Latinx people and culture than now?
A great place to start would be “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros. It is a classic read and used in schools because of its unique narrative design and compelling plot. Composed of vignettes, “The House on Mango Street” describes the life of a young Puerto Rican girl growing up in Chicago.
Other books to pick up this month (or any time) include those by Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz. He is the author of “Drown,” “This Is How You Lose Her” and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” His short stories, similar to “The House on Mango Street,” are interlocking, creating an intricate narrative design.
These are just a few of the stellar Latinx people who have made their mark in both their community and country. As we appreciate all that they, and those like them, have done, this month is also an opportunity to look forward to the future of the Latinx community as new generations follow in the footsteps of those before them and pave the way for generations to come.
For more information on Latinx Heritage Month, including possible events on campus, contact the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) in the Student Union.
Meghan Shaw is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached cia email at firstname.lastname@example.org.