Raíces Bajo Las Estrellas: Rooted Under the Stars

The Adler Planetarium partners with Latinx astronomers, astrophysicists, astrophotographers, and scientists to demonstrate the amazing contributions of Latinx individuals to these fields, show barriers to be overcome in a field entrenched in racial biases, and provide advice and inspiration to future generations of the Latinx community. Join the Adler as we celebrate and learn from: Michael Bueno, Dr. Jessica Esquivel, Dr. Jorge Pérez Gallego, José and Sarah Morales, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Dr. Elisa Quintana, Prof. Jorge Moreno Soto, and Candy Torres. Audio narration provided by Adler's YOLO Teens.

Adler Created TransitionAdler Planetarium

Candy Torres 1983 NASA-Kennedy Space Center LaunchAdler Planetarium

“I dreamed of a better future for everyone”

"There is a saying: ‘Prepare for the future. Read science-fiction.’ It was the 1950s when I saw my first sci-fi film at age four, and I was hooked! It showed me there was a world beyond the housing project and blue-collar surroundings. I grew up on my parents’ stories of poverty, and I visited relatives in el barrio. I dreamed of a better future for everyone. Science and space exploration appeared to be exciting areas to work, and a means for improvement. At that time, there was no one to show me the way so I had to figure out my own path!"

- Candy Torres - Data technical support for an astrophysics satellite, engineer for STS & ISS at NASA-JSC, programmer, author, public speaker

Michael Bueno PresentingAdler Planetarium

“An astrophysicist who looked like me”

"I came into undergrad at Haverford College having a vague interest in studying physics. I was inspired to pursue a career in astronomy/astrophysics after taking a course with Prof. Desika Narayanan, now a professor at the University of Florida. Desika was also the first person of color STEM teacher I had since taking biology in 6th grade. Seeing an astrophysicist who looked like me definitely meant a lot when it came to envisioning myself as an astrophysicist."

- Michael Bueno - STEM Educator, Chicago Lights Summer Camp, astrophysicist, programmer

Jose Morales and Sarah Morales at Conway ObservatoryAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Michelle Alcantar speaks about Sarah Morales

“Found a passion for astronomy”

"My dad inspired me and has taught me to love astronomy. When he would do visuals he would always show us the result and I was always curious. I became his little helper and he taught me how to use the telescope and how to find planets. When I was around ten years old we went to a star party and a bunch of people there had their big impressive telescopes. So I set it up and I found Jupiter and people were lining up to see what I found. And I remember being so proud of myself and I feel like that was when I found a passion for astronomy."

- Sarah Morales - student, astrophotographer (with her father José Morales, an astrophotographer and Adler telescope volunteer)

Dr. Jessica EsquivelAdler Planetarium

“Una familia unida puede conquistar todo!”

"My mom and aunts fostered my love for STEM by enrolling me in math and science summer camps, in taking me to NASA or the museum. And when I got to college I had an amazing mentor/sponsor who propelled me into physics full force! The only reason my path was so straight and narrow were because of all these supportive people in my life that kept me on the course! I'm more proud of being the inspiration, and support, my mom needed to go back to school. She recently graduated with her nursing degree and I had the amazing pleasure of helping her through her math classes."

- Dr. Jessica Esquivel - particle physicist, researcher.

Adler Created TransitionAdler Planetarium

Ellen Ochoa works at the RMS controlsAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Michelle Alcantar speaks about Dr. Ellen Ochoa

“Conscious or unconscious bias can affect decisions”

"Some professors and scientists simply don’t picture scientists as other than white males, and their conscious or unconscious bias can affect decisions about joining research groups, grades, how much they talk to and encourage students and early career researchers and much more. It’s important to seek out those who do support you, who recognize the value that you bring, not only your intelligence but your dedication, hard work, and perseverance - qualities that are important to excelling."

- Dr. Ellen Ochoa, engineer, first Latina in space, former astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center.

Dr. Jorge Pérez GallegoAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Araceli Magaña speaks about Jorge Pérez Gallego

“We need to keep working towards a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment”

"We need to keep working toward a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment in STEM fields in general, and astronomy in particular. We all, no matter our background, are astronomers at one point in our lives—we all, as kids, experience the night sky for the first time, we all wonder about the Moon and the stars when we first discover them. We need to take a hard look at when and why a wondrous interest in astronomy is disproportionately discouraged—whether directly or indirectly—in minorities."

- Dr. Jorge Pérez Gallego - astronomer, designer, educator

Dr. Jessica EsquivelAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Michelle Alcantar speaks about Dr. Jessica Esquivel

“I thought I needed to be the ‘model minority’”

"Being an AfroLatinX Lesbian in physics has definitely been difficult. As I've moved through my career I've seen a lot of focus and effort in recruitment from BIPOC populations and while I believe that this effort is important, it's important to also be focusing on retention and representation. There is also this idea that we need to get the "best" BIPOC so that they can survive the hardships. That weight of trying to be perfect, never asking questions for fear of looking stupid, leaves no room for growth. I need to be able to bring my whole self to my job, ask questions that allow me to be vulnerable and make me a better physicist. These organizations need to rethink their culture so as to not focus on those that have "grit" or those that can "survive" but to make systemic changes so that all populations, especially BIPOC thrive and grow professionally."

- Dr. Jessica Esquivel

Jose Morales in Doane ObservatoryAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Michelle Alcantar speaks about Jose Morales

“If we don’t welcome all in science, we are missing out”

"The main barrier for our community is the ever increasing cost of high level education. Our kids are struggling to get out of college and hard pressed to get high paying jobs to pay off their student loans and get started in a successful career. Science jobs are not corporate jobs. The progress gradient is slower and this discourages many students that opt for engineering or more "practical" careers. They come from all backgrounds and if we don't welcome all in science, we are missing out."

- José Morales

Dr. Elisa Quintana NASA HeadshotAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Araceli Magaña speaks about Elisa Quintana

“We must look beyond selecting students from prestigious schools”

"I am a big believer in community colleges. There are a huge number of Latinx students in community colleges across the US who are brilliant, but just didn’t have the opportunities that many students who went straight into college had, or the role models to inspire them. I wish more people would acknowledge this and develop bridge programs for students for community colleges to pursue advanced degrees."

- Dr. Elisa Quintana - scientist, astrophysicist, programmer

Adler Created TransitionAdler Planetarium

Michael Bueno at AASAdler Planetarium

YOLO Student Araceli Magaña speaks about Michael Bueno

“You are worthy and deserving of being in this field”

"I would advise younger students looking to get into STEM to internalize the idea that their self worth is independent from their ability to do research, solving a homework problem, and any other skill astronomy/astrophysics values. You are worthy and deserving of being in this field. I would advise them to surround themselves with people who think similarly. I would strongly advise avoiding STEM spaces that make you choose between your STEM work and the community/families you are invested in."

- Michael Bueno

Dr. Jorge G. Moreno Soto headshotAdler Planetarium

"Build a support network"

"First, some practical advice: build community. In this country we are taught to pull ourselves by our own bootstraps. That’s a lie. We need others to thrive and be happy. Build a support system. You need to tap into various groups, and create a mixture of support networks. Secondly, know your history. Read and take classes outside STEM. To change the world, we need to understand the world. Lastly, know yourself. And love yourself. The universe already approves of you. You are perfect already, right now, exactly the way you are. You should instead focus your energies into perfecting your love, your compassion, and turn that into action. And remember, when life gets overwhelming, it only takes one breath to reconnect with the Universe, your ancestors, and your heart."

- Prof. Jorge G. Moreno Soto - astronomer, astrophysicist, researcher, professor

Ellen Ochoa in Mission Control CenterAdler Planetarium

“Get involved”

“We need your brains, curiosity, enthusiasm, and desire to discover new knowledge and solve problems, which is what STEM is about. Take advantage of the math and science classes available to you, and if possible, get involved in some kind of hands-on (including coding) projects that give you a feel for how to approach asking questions and investigating. In college, look to join student chapters of professional societies, including ones specifically for Latinx or other underrepresented groups in STEM – you’ll get to know a cohort of people like you whom you may end up interacting with professionally throughout your career."

- Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Candy Torres at NASA Work StationAdler Planetarium

“Dare to dream big”

“The future is vast with a universe of unknown possible careers. We are in the midst of a Space Renaissance, which will require a variety of skills. Art has an essential place in any field because you need to visualize your project, plan your approach, manipulate materials with various tools, communicate, and so much more. There is no end to the possibilities when one enters STEM. It is essential to get involved early, find role models and mentors, and gather support. Envision many dreams and follow them as far as they will go!"

- Candy Torres

YOLO Transition SlideAdler Planetarium

SOLESS co-creator Dr. Lorena Medina LunaAdler Planetarium

SOLESS (the Society of Latinx/Hispanics in Earth and Space Science) was created by two Latina women, Magali Barba-Sevilla at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Dr. Lorena Medina Luna at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It is a community and network space for Latinx/Hispanics in the geoscience and space sciences, fields with few traditionally underrepresented minorities. Through socials at conferences, members build a network of support with peers and mentors. SOLESS offers academic, professional, and networking opportunities, scholarships, fellowships, and internships, and support to present at conferences. Anyone can become a SOLESS member for free. While geared to building a network of Latinx/Hispanics in the geoscience and space sciences, SOLESS welcomes allies who strive to increase representation in these fields.

To learn more about SOLESS, its members, and to join the community, visit the website:

Adler YOLO Teen ProgramAdler Planetarium

Araceli Magaña and Michelle Alcantar, Adler YOLO students, talk what YOLO means to them

The Adler Planetarium program Youth Organization for Lights Out (Y.O.L.O.) is based in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. The program focuses on light pollution through an environmental justice lens. Teens explore light pollution in their neighborhood and in dark sky sites including the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve and Indiana Dunes National Park.

Araceli Magaña and Michelle Alcantar started YOLO in the Spring semester of their freshmen year at World Language High School. They have helped build the YOLO we are seeing today and will continue to leave their legacy for the next generation of light pollution advocates in Little Village. They are recent 2020 high school graduates and plan to continue with their studies. Michelle Alcantar will he attending University of Illinois at Chicago and Araceli Magaña will be attending Northeastern Illinois University this upcoming fall.

Credits: Story

The staff of the Adler Planetarium thanks all those who contributed their stories and their memories for the creation of this exhibition. Thank you to:
Michael Bueno - Twitter:@mbueno1996 Insta: @mikeb_219,
Dr. Jessica Esquivel,
Dr. Jorge Pérez Gallego,
José and Sarah Morales,
Dr. Ellen Ochoa - https://ellenochoa.space/
Dr. Elisa Quintana,
Prof. Jorge Moreno Soto,
Candy Torres,
Lorena Medina Luna - @LorenaMedinaPhD
Magali Barba-Sevilla

A special thank you as well to the programs:
SOLESS - https://ciresdiversity.colorado.edu/soless
YOLO - https://www.adlerplanetarium.org/blog/yolo-teens-talk-light-pollution/

The stories featured in this exhibition were condensed, the full transcript of answers from the featured scientists and SOLESS are available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MIy-I3ehXQtoktBkeYAK7N6DrbJHLojaGIJbrqKYCWY/edit?usp=sharing

The narration in this exhibit was provided by Adler YOLO participants: Araceli Magaña and Michelle Alcantar. The transcript to their narration can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1En16K1Rm-jt93xlkTQmmxVeDmZUYqEtLC9i_8f39vtI/edit?usp=sharing

This exhibition is also available in Spanish here: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/ra%C3%ADces-bajo-las-estrellas-rooted-under-the-stars/XAISl-V81FQdJQ?hl=es

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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