In 2010, statistics from the National Science Foundation showed that “Latino males represented only 4% of scientists and engineers, while Latina women were only 2%.”
But it is not like Latinos have an inherent deficiency in these subjects. If you dig deep into our history- and I mean deep because most of Latino history has been erased or replaced-, you will see key examples of great engineering and scientific work. Some examples are:
Machu Picchu, Peru: The creation of a city 7,970 feet above sea level by the Incas. How do you think they built it? What irrigation systems did they design to keep the city from flooding at such a high elevation? Moreover, how did they maintain their agricultural fields with those volatile climate changes?
Central Balsas River Valley of Southern Mexico: The domestication of corn through plant hybridization that began about 9,000 years ago by pre-Hispanic geneticists- yes, many years before Gregor Mendel introduced his work to the Western world.
Tikal in Guatemala: The Mayans boasted their mastery of architecture between 200 and 800 A.D with majestic temples reaching 200 feet in height.
Although these were grand accomplishments that our forefathers left behind, they do not seem to reflect the percentage of Latinos going into the engineering field today. There are very few engineers, computer scientists, and doctors, but that is slowly starting to change.
Manos Accelerators, a new program based in San Jose, California, is encouraging Latino entrepreneurs from the U.S and Latin America to seek opportunities in the high-tech industry. If accepted, the program will offer entrepreneurs mentorship, hands-on education, business resources, infrastructure, and capital. The profound commitment of Manos Accelerators comes from the realization that less than 1% of venture-backed startups are founded by Latinos. They want to make a difference.
But waiting until after college to make a difference can sometimes be too late. You must begin at an early age in order to foster genuine interest in subjects like math and science. Inspired by the Cosmos Summer Program she use to attend at a young age, Denisse Fernández, a UC San Diego graduate, founded the Summer Science and Innovation Camp at the Institute of the Americas (IOA). The program, located at the University of California, San Diego, brings young Latino students from all over Latin America and the U.S. to participate in a two week on-campus program filled with fun and intellectually stimulating science projects.
Programs like Manos Accelerators and Summer Science and Innovation Camp are paving the way for the next generation of Latinos in the fields of math and science. In the upcoming decades, we will see more Latinos creating venture-funded startups, designing majestic buildings, and shedding new light in the realms of mathematics and science.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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