Technically Latino

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose5 Comments

The Urban Scientist recently posted a meme in honor of Latino Heritage Month (Sept. 16th – Oct. 16th). Here’s an excerpt:

Can you name 5 Latin/Hispanic Scientists?


1. Be sure to name their discipline or field.
2. You can’t choose people from your own institution or company. (I may go soft on this one, this time)
3. You can’t Google or use the internet to aid in your search. (But if you know someone is a scientist, but not sure what disciple, you can look that up).
4. You can consult textbooks, journals, and class notes.
5. You can ask others to help you brainstorm, but they can’t use the internet just to get 5 names fast (see #2).
6. Living and deceased scientists are acceptable.
7. Links to or references about the named scientists are greatly appreciated. Let’s share the knowledge, and tell as many as you can, even if it isn’t five.”


Ladies, and gentlemen, I only knew one of the top of my head. Only one. Jamie Escalante, and he’s not known so much for his mathematical achievements as he is for his classroom achievements. In other words, I, along with thousands (if not millions) of Latinos out there as well as millions of Americans have been deprived of the contributions of these scientists, engineers, astronauts, mathematicians, and leaders in their respective technical fields. Granted, there’s a dearth of said individuals in the field (which is why organizations such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was created), but Black innovators in the technical fields are a little easier to come by (George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, and Madame C.J. Walker come to mind almost instantly).

Thus it behooves us to encourage students, especially those proficient in math and science to continue pursuing those careers. Many fellow teachers don’t encourage those occupations because, frankly, they don’t know enough about engineers and what they do in our society besides the stereotypical assemblance of machinery and messing with multi-colored potions. It also seems that, in Black and Latino communities, the lack of people actually working in the technical fields perpetuates this cycle of technical condemnation.

Of course, I’m coming off a meeting where we’re discussing education and how lack of funds and social inequalities promote the digital divide across demographics, wondering if, after some of my fellow technical people graduate, they go back to the hoods where they came from and inspire others to become more than just computer-literate. It’s one thing to know what a computer does and how to get on your cool social network and quite another to understand the computer’s inner workings.

This will take a concerted effort from those of us who have scientific backgrounds to concentrate our efforts into letting children know that there’s this whole industry that we’ve had such a pivotal role in, but have very few trailblazers in. I know I’m doing my part, but I’m sure I can do more.

And maybe the next time someone asks me how many I can name, I’ll have a scroll in my back pocket, waiting to be read aloud …

jose, who thanks Urban Scientist for reviving my computer science background …

p.s. – If you think starting off Latino Heritage Month by honoring J. Lo is the way to go, you’re out of your mind. As an astute administrator said in reply, “OK, so should we start Black History Month off with Diddy?” Well said, sir. Well said. J. Lo, like Diddy, are cool with me, but … really?

Comments 5

  1. man… this post hit so close to home. Growing up my teachers were pushing the math and science on me like it was going out of style, but I really had no one to look up to and was like, “What am I going to do with a Math degree?”

    Not that I had any Latino writers to look up to, either (at the time), but engineering, math, sciences- even though it is what I ended up studying- never drew me because there didn’t seem to be a place for me.

    I don’t know… maybe I just didn’t look hard enough.

    (and your last comments on jennifer and diddy… LMAO!! preach on!!)

    The Jaded NYers last blog post..Drum Roll, BITCHEZ!

  2. Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela – Maturana is Chilean, I’m guessing Varela as well. They work in the area of neuroscience. I know of them because my Masters work got into the biology of cognition, which is what they are into.

    Varela wrote one of my favourite little books, Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition.

    I’ve got a video of Maturana talking about the biology of love in a comment to one of my posts. Here’s the link:

    Paulo Freire and his pedagogy of hope.

    Of course, I only met these people in GRAD SCHOOL, ok Freire maybe during my BEd…but that was my second degree so I was about 26.

    I have no memory of learning about Latin/Hispanic PEOPLE, let alone scientists in grade school. For Real.

    Tracy Rosens last blog post..Learning From My Students As I Rise

  3. Thanks gentlemen, this is great. I’m coming up short, too. I might have to break my own “no googling rule”, but I’ll wait. The purpose is to shine light and educate. I’ll try to find some Latino/Hispanic STEM professional websites first and let them know about this meme. And I’ll try to get some fellow Science/Engineering Bloggers to play along.

    Thanks for spreading the word and your great insight, Jose. Having role models, or at least someone to reference, in an under-represented field matters. You made that point so well. I’ve been struggling for the right words to explain that. Thanks.

  4. It is amazing how history textbooks in this country will not even acknowledge that Latinos have been part of its history since the 1500s. I am not referring to the Spaniards that set up the mission in Florida. Before the southwest became part of the United States, the people who lived in this region spoke Spanish and were Mexican citizens. Yet the perception many have of Latinos in this country are of the immigrants, los mojados, music, and dancing. Therefore it makes sense that J.Lo was chosen to launch the Latino Heritage month at a high school.

    Growing up, we were not made aware of the many Latino men and women whom have contributed significantly to the world and this country. I have to admit that I really had a hard time of coming up with five names. When I spoke to my dad and asked him, I was in awe of this man who did not complete high school because he just started giving me names of scientists. Of course I didn’t have a pen and paper to write them down but the lesson I learned was priceless.

    Our kids need more role models. They need to see that there are people who like them in these professions. As an educator, I have to make it my business to provide my students with said information and not leave it to the powers to be if I want them to be aware.

    Gracias Jose.

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