Diversity and Inclusion

Citizen astronaut headlines Latinx Heritage Month

Electrical engineer Katya Echazarreta, the first Mexican-born woman to travel in space, is the keynote speaker.

Graphic with view of outer space with stars in the background and text that reads:

Katya Echazarreta, an electrical engineer and the first Mexican-born woman to travel in space, will be the keynote speaker of Carolina’s 2023 celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.

Echazarreta’s talk is in line with this year’s theme, “LatinxVerse: El Universo Es Tuyo.”

“The theme encourages thinking beyond the box that society has placed us into, expanding our understanding of what it means to be Latino beyond societal expectations,” said Josmell Pérez, the Carolina Latinx Center director. “It celebrates our past and present while recognizing the ongoing evolution of Latinx identity and experiences. We are claiming the universe as ours and are ready for our generation’s opportunity to take the lead.”

Latinx Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Echazarreta will speak Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union’s Great Hall. The event is free.

Space for Humanity selected Echazarreta for a June 2022 mission to analyze the “overview effect” or profound shift in perspective that astronauts experience while viewing Earth. As a science communicator, she has been featured in “Mission Unstoppable” on CBS, hosted the YouTube series “Netflix IRL” and shared engineering-related content on her social media platforms. She also worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mattel created a Barbie to honor Echazarreta.

Nationally, the month is called Hispanic Heritage Month, but Carolina named the celebration Latinx Heritage Month to include the experiences and identities of students, staff and community. The Carolina Latinx Center leads the celebration in collaboration with organizations and departments from across campus.

Check the Carolina Latinx Center calendar for more event information and updates.