La Plaza

News from Latin America and the Caribbean

« Previous | La Plaza Home | Next »

Celebrating the first 'Mexican' astronaut: Out of this world!

This week’s planned launch of the space shuttle Discovery is getting special attention in Mexico. The seven-member crew includes astronaut Jose Hernandez, the California-born son of Mexican immigrants and suddenly a national hero here, as well.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon considers Hernandez a paisano -- the president and the astronaut’s parents come from the same Mexican state of Michoacan. Calderon telephoned Hernandez over the weekend and in a televised exchange wished him “an enormous congratulation, with all our admiration, all our affection and all our pride.”

Calderon invited Hernandez down to the presidential palace for a chat and a meal, once he’s returned from outer space. He thanked Hernandez for taking the name of Mexico to new heights.

Hernandez’s parents, Salvador and Julia, migrated to northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They eventually became U.S. citizens and raised four children, all of whom, young Jose included, helped toil in the fields, picking cucumbers and tomatoes. As a kid, Hernandez continued to visit his parents’ Michoacan homeland, where cousins and aunts and uncles were being interviewed this week by the Mexican press.

“Even when he was young he loved to study the stars,” cousin Alma Rosa Mendez recalled at home in La Piedad in Michoacan. “He’d say, ‘One day I will travel to the moon.’ And we’d say, ‘Yeah, sure.’ "

Mexico City’s main morning news/chat show featured lengthy reports today on Hernandez, 47, and his family’s humble Mexican origins. They included an interview with Hernandez from last year, where he told the host that he planned to take on his voyage to the International Space Station a small Mexican flag and a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He also showed what he said were freeze-dried tacos, ready to go into orbit.

You can watch parts (in Spanish) here and read more about foods for space travelers here.

--Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Comments () | Archives (14)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Very Awesome. It's good that diversity is starting to bloom around the United States of America.


The truly first Mexican astronaut was NERI VELA
See below


This article really sucks!! Where does Ms Wilkinson gets his information and who checks the facts!!
Mr. Hernandez traveled with his family back and forth to California from Mexico for several years. It was not until he was 11 that his family stayed in the US that he was able to attend regular US schools. Mr Hernandez is not the result of Mexico investment in science, tech or development. He has a beautiful and successful trajectory due to his personal effort and the opportunities he found here. Calderon is so eager to bring some success stories close to him that he's ready for anything. Shame on him!
And, by the way. He's not the first person from Mexico going to the space!

Mr. Hernandez can say or do what he wants but to put so much pride in a country that couldn't do a DARN thing to help his parents achieve a better life is astonishing.

Mr. Hernandez should have told Presidente Calderon.... "thanks for the invite to the presidential palace but since I'm an American and received all of my training and education in the US (no thanks to Mexico), I'm going to wait for that call from the White House. Oh, if there is so much pride, affection and admiration for me, where was the love for my parents and millions of other Mexicans who had to leave a country they loved because the country they loved couldn't or wouldn't do a darn thing to help them create a better life."

He's gone up to repaint the space station.

I saw the buckets.

That's great. But, I'm confused with the Mexican flag and such...since he is from the U.S.A. Wait, I just had another thought: those of Italian and Irish decent are quick to turn up the 'pride' for contries they've never lived in. So, why not? Since Mexico is right next door, I'm sure he is more than familiar with Mexico than those that wave Irish flags on St. Patricks day are familiar with Ireland.

Jose Hernandez is an American: born, raised, and educated in America. He happens to be of Mexican descent. If he had not become an astronaut, I would bet that most Mexicans wouldn't regard him as a true Mexican.

A Mexican flag?? Will such racist nationalism never end??

It is about time!!! I am sure space has no prejudices and will surely welcome a Mexican astronaut! I pray Jose Hernandez will inspire other Mexicans and Mexican Americans to reach for the stars!!!

It is neither the first Mexican nor the first Mexican-American in space with NASA. It is only the first time that two Mexican-Americans go together on a same mission, Olivas & Hernandez. Please do research your notes more extensively. Mexicans have been in space since 1985 on mission STS-61B.

Tara im confused by your statements, Mr Hernandez was born in America, he is an American like you and I. Yes his parents immigrate here from Mexico, and the Mexican government take great pride of Mr. Hernandez accomplishment. Its all positive, your statements are not, they seem resentful. Why?

Fuzzy dice on the Discovery rear-view?

In addition to the mexican flag, the virgin of guadalupe & the freeze-dried tacos, I imagine Mr. Hernandez will be carrying valuable cargo such as the diplomas, degrees and training he received at American schools and universities...or was his flight subsidized by the Mexican government?


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »
'Twitter terrorists' freed in Mexico, charges dropped |  September 21, 2011, 7:03 pm »
Freedom likely for Mexico's 'Twitter Terrorists' |  September 21, 2011, 11:00 am »



About the Reporters
Ken Ellingwood
Daniel Hernandez
Efrain Hernandez Jr.
Chris Kraul
Richard Marosi
Tracy Wilkinson