National Hispanic Heritage Month: NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame

In discussing the importance of creating Hispanic Heritage Week (now Hispanic Heritage Month), Representative George E. Brown of California noted in House Joint Resolution 1299 dated June 11, 1968 that:

“It is in the tradition of our country to recognize, cherish, and conserve the many cultural contributions of the people who have helped achieve the greatness of our Nation.”

As someone who was born and raised in Costa Rica and later immigrated to the USA, one of my personal heroes has always been Dr. Franklin Chang-Díaz.  Dr. Chang-Díaz is a Costa Rican born immigrant who worked tirelessly for his dream and in 2012 was inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.   

The Washington Post reported that Dr. Chang-Díaz immigrated to the USA when he was a teenager and, in 1980, he became the first U.S. naturalized citizen to become an astronaut and six years later the first Latino Astronaut. 

Dr. Chang-Díaz holds the record as one of only two people to have flown on seven shuttle missions, according to NASA.  He logged more than 1,600 hours in space, including 19 hours and 31 minutes during three spacewalks.

In his induction to the Astronaut Hall of Fame speech, Dr. Chang-Díaz said:

“Today, I’m most thankful to this great nation that in 1968 opened the doors for me, a dreamer that came to the shores of this country, and this country opened the doors to the land of opportunity, to the American dream. I can say that I have fulfilled that dream.”

I too immigrated to the USA from Costa Rica when I was a teenager and have held Dr. Chang-Díaz as a role model.  In my opinion, he is the perfect example of someone of Hispanic Heritage who was allowed to follow his dream and has made great contributions to this country. 

As such, join me this Hispanic Heritage Month in celebrating Dr. Chang-Díaz’ contributions to this great Nation. 


Julio Navarro is a member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.