By Izar Olivares
Throughout this weekend, I was able to witness many milestones and firsts in not only the aviation industry, but in the Latina community as well.
What happened at the Latinas in Aviation Global Festival was surreal. I have never seen anything like it. It was a moment that is hard to put into words, not because I can’t, but because I don’t know where to start. This weekend was full of so many beautiful and full-circle moments where it’s hard to focus on just one.
First, there was the unveiling of first ever Latinas in Aviation permanent exhibit. The fact that there was an exhibit in a museum, full of hundreds of years of history, of Latina women who hold only 1% of their kind in the ENTIRE aviation industry was something that has never happened before and will forever go down in history as one of the biggest accomplishments that the Latina community has made in the US. This isn’t something to just simply be celebrated because it’s more than just a recognition of this small yet powerful kind of women—this paves the way for an entire generation because it provides the resources to young women wanting to pursue aviation that weren’t available for these ladies when they were young because of how few women there are in the industry to begin with, and to think it only stared with a book and became an entire movement!
As a young Latina, I look at this amazing experience with another perspective: I was surrounded by women that made it in life, regardless of the industry they are in. The minute I met them, their aura shined bright, almost bringing tears in my eyes as I had hope that, being Latina, I too can reach the same level of success and grace that each of these ladies hold. I had the pleasure of speaking with many authors of all ages and getting to know how much it took for them to reach where they were now—some said it took them 10 years, others said it took 20+ years. This shows a level of patience and perseverance that I have only seen a few times in my life because these ladies knew that they were going into a cut-throat, male-dominated industry and chose to fight through in order to earn their careers. You read that right; they EARNED it.
Hearing their stories and their inspiration was something that gives our younger generations that hope that they can be whatever they wish to be and that is very important in today’s society. We want our young Latinas to flourish but need to provide them the resources and stories to do so and this festival gives them that base to begin, despite whatever career they choose to pursue. By providing these types of events and books with ladies of different jobs in the aviation industry, they get to see not only one experience, but various types, which gives them the chance to see that there are more jobs available than just being a pilot or just being a flight attendant, etc.
One of my most favorite moments at the festival was seeing the stars in many young girls’ eyes as they met the authors and received autographs. Their interest grew in aviation as these ladies connected with them and they heard the amazing jobs that they could one day have. What’s more inspirational to a little girl wanting to be in aviation than a woman talking about her career in it? I was able to see this happen to girls around the age of 6-8 and even high schoolers, but despite their ages, they held something in common: a spark of inspiration and hope that ignited in them as they walked through the exhibit, spoke to the authors about their future, and noticed the hallway of opportunities that were opened from this.
There’s also the IMMENSE level of support for Latinas in Aviation that was present the entire time. This was one of the moments that made everything come together full-circle. Not only was the festival full of attendees and supported by College Aviation Museum, but it was also supported by the entire state of Maryland, so much that it was given a formal citation by the Maryland Secretary of State. This was truly a one-of-a-kind event, where it once was only a book anthology that birthed an entire brand, a second volume, recognition from the state of Maryland, interest from the FAA, NASA, and AirBus, and not to forget a PERMANENT exhibit at the College Park Aviation Museum. I can’t wait to see where Latinas in Aviation “takes flight” to next!