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The First Mexican-Born Woman To Go To Space, Katya Echazarreta, Started Off Working In A McDonald’s Unable To Attend College

If you find yourself in need of inspiration today, look no further. Take 27-year-old Katya Echazarreta‘s otherworldly and downright cosmic story. As the first Mexican-born woman to go to space, Echazarreta graces the new cover of Vogue México and shares a motivating and inspiring interview in which she shines light onto her journey, lightyears of difficulties, ambition, and perseverance.

The astronaut and engineer was born in Guadalajara and moved to the United States when she was seven years old. “I recall being made fun of for my accent, but I was determined to push through. It helped me become really hard working from a young age, and to not be afraid of a challenge,” she said about battling language barriers in an interview with one of UCLA’s publications. 

She explained to Vogue that while her journey to become the first Mexican-born woman to make it to space wasn’t easy, she attributes her strong will and work ethic to being raised by a mother who always valued ambition and independence. Echazarreta said, “[For my mother], the most important thing was for her daughters to be independent because she could not be. She always wanted a career and to study, but neither her [husband or father] let her.” Fast-forward to the future, and her mother taught them to be “strong” women— “My mom is the reason I’m here today.”

The super-impressive 27-year-old guerrera also explained that Mexican culture itself taught her about working hard to get what you want. “Us Mexican people are very hardworking. I am grateful to my roots for that because I always understand that, to accomplish my dreams, I had to work hard.” 

Echazarreta graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and is now completing her Master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University. There’s no doubt she is both studious and persevering— her internship at NASA that turned into a career there proves it as well. But the astronaut also has a sort of, ahem, star power that is difficult to deny—and makes her rise to fame that much more meteoric. 

Still, Echazarreta explained that her greatest difficulty is being a Mexican woman “in a society that believes they should not be” in her profession. The astronaut explains that she has to prove she is “the best, because only that way do they take you seriously.” And about detractors who say she “is not humble enough”? To that, Echazarreta simply replies: “When a man says [he is the best], he is an incredible man who knows who he is.” But the Guadalajara-born engineer knows she is a fantastic “engineer… very intelligent… capable” and deserves all the success she has worked so hard for.

As a first-generation college student, Echazarreta shared with Vogue in a must-watch video that she went through a “difficult moment” with her family when she was in high school. Her parents separated, and they “didn’t have money”— her mother did not work at the time, and Echazarreta was the only member of her family with a job, working at a local McDonald’s. While her mother cleaned houses, the now-astronaut decided to not attend college to help her family financially.

Once her family was on their feet, Echazarreta pulled through and went back to focusing on her own dreams — eventually making it to space!

She was chosen by Space for Humanity —  a social impact non-profit that sends “purpose-driven leaders to space,” according to their website —  among f thousands of applicants to go on a life-changing celestial mission—that has surely inspired and will inspire millions all over the world.

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