When Being Borinqueña Acquired New Meaning

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This article by Greetchen Díaz appeared in Scientific American.

I knew my idea was not unique, mainly because it originated from a collective need. Like many others, I felt the need to have a voice and to form a space for a community that would highlight and represent the women in science of Puerto Rico. This was my personal desire and aspiration, but one I shared with many other women and men who expressed their joy when the Borinqueña blog was launched in November 2013 as an initiative of Ciencia Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization engaging Hispanic scientists with science communication and education.

The concept of the Borinqueña blog went through many changes before it was completed. It changed its name and its colors, and became a group initiative more than a personal one. However its original purpose remained clear: to focus attention on the scientific contributions of Boricuas and Hispanic women and thereby motivate and set an example for future generations of female scientists.

The team at the Borinqueña blog made a reality of what once was the idea of a dreamer. Recruiting the members of this team was very easy, mostly because they understood and shared my need to have a voice for Borinqueñas in science, and because they overflowed with enthusiasm and excitement for the project. It turned out to a special team, indeed, which gave shape to my idea and started building a new page in the history of Puerto Rican women in science.

This team of young, female Boricua scientists, who volunteer their time, is committed to nurturing the seeds of success planted by our young girls. An, in addition to highlighting the work currently active women in science, the Boriqueña blog provides an opportunity to look back and recognize the legacy of the women who came before us, whose intellect and passion helped develop science during more difficult times.

We are very fortunate to have had other Borinqueñas joining this effort. They’ve helped the blog grow and become the voice of the Boricuas women in science. The success of the Borinqueña blog is theirs too.

We have told many stories during the first year of the Borinqueña blog. We have learned from each other and from other women’s experiences. We have shared stories of successes, stories on overcoming failures and challenges, stories of dreams and how to make them a reality.

Today, about 30 posts from a dozen contributors have been published, showcasing more than 50 women and future generations of women in STEM. From a promising college student planting seeds of success in computer sciences, to a brave materials scientist dreaming to be the first Puerto Rican woman astronaut; from Latinas making bright futures a reality, to a woman chemist making history in her country. All those stories where accompanied by advice from the Borinqueña community to empower women in STEM and help develop their careers. Borinqueña’s blog entries are among the most popular within the Ciencia Puerto Rico website.

A year ago being Borinqueña turned into something that describes so much more than being one of Borinquen’s children—much more than having Puerto Rican blood running through our veins or having this tiny island attached to our hearts. In the last year, being Borinqueña has become a synonym for a professional woman who is leaving her fingerprint through science, paving the way for future generations of women.

Now, after completing my postdoc at the U.S. and returning to my beloved island, I look back and my heart is filled with joy when I think that the idea for the blog was not just mine and was not unique. Rather, it was an idea that represented the voice of every Puerto Rican female scientist—every Borinqueña.

Puerto Rico is privileged to have abundant scientific talent, but nevertheless, we have a lot of work to do in terms of gender equality in the work force, especially in science. Unfortunately, gender equality is not just a Puerto Rican issue. It is a global issue, but we are looking to set an example for the rest of the world.

Unlike other countries, Puerto Rico has exceptionally high enrollment and graduation of women in some STEM fields. Know that we are many and we are strong. We have a lot to tell the world, but especially our own country.

Puerto Rico, if science and technology is to be the path toward finding solutions to our biggest challenges, and therefore to enhance our economy, then our island is fortunately in the hands of women.

Thank you Borinqueñas for all the triumphs so far! Let’s go for more.

During this month, Borinqueña blog is celebrating its first anniversary showcasing the stories of Puerto Rican and Hispanic women in STEM. You can read this post in Spanish here. All images in this post courtesy of  Borinqueña blog and CienciaPR.

For the original report go to http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/2014/11/15/when-being-borinquena-acquired-new-meaning/

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