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Here’s How This Latina Broke Through Barriers To Become A Leading Force In The World Of NASCAR Auto Racing

In 1978, young girls across the country sat eagerly in front of televisions to see Sally Ride, the first American astronaut rocket to space and shatter one of the country’s most elevated glass ceilings. Among the girls watching Ride as she made history was Alba Colón a little girl born in Spain, raised in Puerto Rico with a newly planted desire to one day reach the stars too.

Ride’s mission to space inspired Colón to pursue a career in STEM so that she could one day become the world’s first Latina astronaut.

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“I was always interested in space,” Colón told CNN in an interview where she detailed how Ride’s mission to space brought her to the realization that she could actually be someone who could go there. “My model was Sally Ride. So I wanted to be like her. I used to have a poster of her in my room.” In her pursuit of a voyage to space, Colon went to college and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. But before she graduated, Colón’s desire to helm a NASA spacecraft took a bit of a detour.

After getting involved with the Society of Automotive Engineers at her university, Colón realized a new path for herself entirely. “I started to fall in love with vehicles and with the racing side,” Colón, now an engineer for NASCAR, explained.

After college, Colón joined General Motors as a data acquisitions engineer.

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For twenty years she has worked with the company’s NASCAR program, working her way up a cutthroat and rigorous ladder. Today, Colón acts as the lead engineer for Chevy Racing, a premier team in the world of auto racing.

In her role, the Latina oversees the technical resources of every NASCAR Sprint Cup Race team and manages a group that operates on a constant drive to improve the cars take part in races. With her help, GM has improved the design bodies, engine parts, and software of the cars that rip around race tracks, win championships and reel in devoted audiences from across the world.

As a Latina, Colón’s story makes her an impressive figure in the industry — in her own right.

Daniel Shirey / Stringer / Getty

Women in the fields of science and engineering are a rare sight to be seen even in today’s age.

In general, women are severely underrepresented in STEM areas.

But when it comes to Latinas, the numbers are downright scary.

According to the National Science Foundation, only 28% of U.S. scientists and engineers actually working in the science and engineering realms are women. Latinas make up merely 1.8% of that population.

Knowledge of this disparity has pushed Colon to chase after a new goal.  These days she has set her sights on inspiring children of color to get involved and interested in STEM spheres. As a representative of GM, she travels across the country to attend various diversity programs in an effort to encourage university and elementary students to build careers in both math and science fields.

“Many of these students, the examples they have at home is parents that didn’t finish school,” Colon shared. “So I want to show them hey, I am a Hispanic kid and I worked hard to get where I am. You can be like me. You don’t have to stop when you finish high school. You can keep going.”


Read: In The United States, FIFA Referee Badges Are Hard To Come By, This Latina Is One Of Three Women To Have Earned One

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This Mexican Scientist Is Making Eco-Friendly Shopping Bags Through Nopal Juice

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This Mexican Scientist Is Making Eco-Friendly Shopping Bags Through Nopal Juice

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only Latina fighting for a greener planet. Over in Mexico, Sandra Pascoe created a biodegradable, natural plastic that can make our shopping experiences a lot more eco-friendly. The key: The juice of the nopal cactus.

“The plastic is basically made out of the sugars of nopal juice, the monosaccharides and polysaccharides it contains,” Pascoe, a researcher at the University of the Valley of Atemajac, told EFE.

So far, the Guadalajara, Jalisco-based scientist has used the most popular type of edible nopal, the opuntia ficus-indica and the opuntia megacantha. According to her, the sugars, pectin and organic acids in the juice give it a thick, gummy consistency. This is then mixed with with Glycerol, natural waxes, proteins and colorants, which is dried on a hot plate to produce thin sheets of plastic.

Currently, the plastic can be used to make greener alternatives to shopping bags, cosmetic containers, accessories and toys. However, she is currently studying how much weight the plastic can hold to determine other possible uses for it. She also teamed up with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to test how quickly and in which cases the plastic will decompose.

“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down,” Pascoe said.

In 2014, the process was registered with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), where Pascoe is now seeking a patent. When the innovation is patented, her process could be commercialized, offering companies a greener alternative to plastic.

Read: Here’s How You Can Easily Be More Green And Save Big

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Yalitza Aparicio Brought Her Mother To The Oscars And Other Incredible Things Latinas Did Last Night

Entertainment

Yalitza Aparicio Brought Her Mother To The Oscars And Other Incredible Things Latinas Did Last Night

The 91st Annual Academy Awards took place Sunday night and this year, it was a night full of glitz, glamour, and, most surprisingly, a lot of Spanish language! (Diego Luna, Javier Bardem, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro all spoke Spanish during their speeches.)

Heading into the night, many viewed “Roma”, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s artful and semi-autobiographic film, as the Best Picture front-runner and indeed, the film racked up three Oscars. But ultimately, “Roma” lost the Best Picture award to Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”

Although The Oscars still woefully under-represent Latinas in almost every category, Netflix’s critical darling, ‘Roma,” has provided a major spotlight for Latinx talent and stories, employing a largely Latinx cast and crew in its production.

Latinos Win Big

Sunday night was a big night for the Latinx community, with Spanish-language film “Roma” amassing three Oscar wins out of a total of 10 nominations. “Roma” wasn’t the only winner for the Latinx community though: Cuban-American director Phil Lord’s animated feature “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” won for Best Animated Film. All in all, Latinos walked away with Oscars for Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Directing, and Animated Film.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, won the Best Director statue for “Roma”, marking the second year in a row that a Latino has won the award after Guillermo del Toro won last year. Cuarón also won the award for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film–marking the first time Mexico has landed the award out of a total of ten nominations.

Cuarón began his impassioned acceptance speech Best Director first by thanking “Roma”‘s leading ladies, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. He then went on to thank the Academy for “recognizing a film centering around an indigenous woman–a character who has historically been relegated to the background in cinema”.

In another win for the Latinx community, “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” up-ended animation titan Disney to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. “Into the Spiderverse” revolves around the story of an Afro-Latino teenager moonlighting as Spiderman who discovers there are multiple versions of Spiderman in parallel universes.

Latino Director Phil Lord touched on the importance of representation in his acceptance speech, saying: “When we hear that a child turns to their parent and says, “[Spiderman] looks like me’ or ‘He speaks Spanish like us’, we feel like we already won”.

Latina Nominees Break New Ground

Most of the Latinx nominees for the night consisted of “Roma”‘s cast and crew, including Mexican actress Marina de Tavira for Best Supporting Actress, Yalitza Aparicio for Best Leading Actress, producer Gabriela Rodriguez for Best Picture, and set decorator Barbra Enriquez for Achievement in set design.

Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination, especially, was notable, as it was the first time in the Academy’s 90-year history that an Indigenous woman was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role.

Although these Latinas didn’t walk away with a gold statue, their presence alone was encouraging enough for the historically under-represented Latinx community.

“It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now”

The winners and nominees weren’t the only Latinos making a splash at this year’s Academy Awards, however. Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem veered into political territory when he presented the award for Best Foreign Language film.

In Spanish, he stated: “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent,” which many interpreted as a dig aimed at President Trump.

Actor Diego Luna began his introduction of “Roma” by stating, in Spanish:
“Ya se puede hablar español en los Oscars. Ya nos abrieron la puerta y no nos vamos a ir”. Translation: “It’s possible to speak Spanish at the Oscars now. They finally opened the door for us, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Spanish-American Chef José Andrés joined Luna in introducing “Roma”and praised the film for shining a spotlight on “all the invisible people in our lives–immigrants and women–who move humanity forward”.

As usual, Latina Twitter users had a lot to say about Hollywood’s biggest night.

Never one to beat around the bush, political commentator Ana Navarro remarked on the refreshing amount of diversity displayed onstage this year.

Other Latinas gave Alfonso Cuarón props for acknowledging domestic workers, a class of women that Hollywood often ignores:

Nuanced stories centered on domestic workers are few and far between in Hollywood.

This Latina expressed excitement at the novelty of a film featuring an Afro-Latino characters winning Best Animated Film:

Just the phrase “#WeSeeYou” says all that needs to be said about the importance of representation.

Some Latinas expressed disappointment that “Roma” was relegated to the “Foreign Film” category when its story transcended such labels:


Some members of the Latinx community were frustrated that “Roma” wasn’t awarded the Best Picture award.

Many Latinas were here for Javier Bardem condemning border walls:

He was one of the few actors of the night who dared to make a political statement–and in Spanish, no less!

And of course, Yalitza made us all fall in love with her more when she brought her mom.

The Mexican actress didn’t take home an Oscar last night, but there’s no doubting that her presence in Hollywood has changed the future of its landscape. Last night Mexican-American fans of the newcomer gushed about Aparicio’s role in bucking the light-skinned Latina stereotype that has so long been favored in Spanish-language films and TV shows.

Also, her appearance at the Oscars couldn’t have been more defining. After spending awards season turning heads in a series of dresses by Alberta Ferretti, Miu Miu and Prada, Aparicio took to the red carpet a pale tulle custom Rodarte gown designed specifically for her, the actress stepped out onto the red carpet with her mother at her side.

And finally, Latinas everywhere expressed their joy at hearing Spanish proudly spoken at the Oscars

The importance of normalizing Spanish’s presence in day to day life cannot be overstated–especially during a time when many Latinas are afraid to speak Spanish in public.

As usual, the Oscars were a night to remember. We hope that the Academy continues to support actors, producers and filmmakers of Latinx descent into the future.


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