As we continue to recognize and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we are thrilled to share the story of Luis Martinez Jr. Luis is a 2020 Tillman Scholar and Ph.D candidate studying geography at Texas A&M University. Combining his military experience with his research in GPS-denied areas, Luis’ goal is to develop and evaluate automated means for generating maps and collecting intelligence about subterranean environments.
We had the opportunity to hear from Luis as he discusses with us what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him. Check out his thoughts below:
Hispanic Heritage month is a time for me to celebrate my heritage, honor the accomplishments of friends and family, and reflect on what has been done by other Hispanics so I can have the opportunities I have today. Lack of representation has always served as a driving force to do more and show others that look like me that we can be and belong in the room. Often, I find myself as the only Hispanic or person of color in the room. This can be daunting, intimidating, and quite frankly exhausting at times.
My maternal grandparents came to the United States in 1963 and my paternal grandmother in 1967, speaking only Spanish. They settled in upstate New York and worked to provide my mother and father an opportunity for a better life. Their sacrifice and values set the foundation for my parents to achieve their goals and ensure they provide a better life for my siblings and me.
My father retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 with 33 years of service in the Navy and my mother worked as an early childhood educator while serving as the foundation that kept our family whole throughout my father’s career, which included many separations, moves, and challenges.
This sacrifice to provide a better future for their children is something that has dawned on me more now that I am a father to 2-year-old Mackenzie. As I learn more about my family’s history, it’s more evident that I have not achieved success on my own. The sacrifices and efforts made by my grandparents and parents allowed me to have access to higher education and opportunities that my family only ever dreamed of. I am the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and hopefully will be the first to earn a Ph.D.
My diplomas say Luis A. Martinez Jr., but they wouldn’t without my family’s sacrifices. I am proud to be Puerto Rican and continue the legacy of my family. Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to think back to all that has been sacrificed by my family, Hispanics before me, and those breaking through barriers today.
For more scholars stories, check blog.ptf.org.