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Hilbert Morales

Just prior to this 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month EO’s Managing Editor, Arturo Hilario, assigned me the challenge of writing four opinion editorials (Op-Ed) which dealt with issues experienced by Hispanics, defined as Chicanos, Latinos, and Mexican-Americans as communities or individuals. I have already written two Op-Eds. The first was entitled, “HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH (SEPTEMBER 15 TO OCTOBER 15TH); the second was “Honoring Latino Women”. A recent Op-Ed was entitled: “Racial Profiling is Alive and Well.”

The focus this week is the technical and scientific professionalism of Latinos. Dr. George Castro, Ph.D. (Physical Chemistry), Dean of Sciences, San Jose State is an example. As a native of East Los Angeles, he attended public schools, earned a Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry (UC Riverside) following his B.Sc. (UCLA) degree. Castro was a research scientist employed by IBM where his insights resulted in the technical development of those many memory devices which enabled IBM to become the foremost memory device manufacturer (very profitable for IBM’s shareholders). As a very humble and modest scientist, Professor Castro will not divulge how many IBM patents are based upon his developmental insights (now IBM’s intangible property). Dr. Castro’s pride, joy and a source of frustration is the SACNAS organization he founded (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences). A few years ago, SACNAS had its national conference at the San Jose Convention Center which EO covered and which attracted over 4,000 Latino and Native American students who were interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

This year’s SACNAS annual conference is being held during October 19-21, 2017 at Salt Lake City, Utah (go to <>). Over 4,000 students attended the 2016 SACNAS conference; 1,045 made research presentations. SACNAS national offices are located in Santa Cruz, CA; circa 700 travel scholarship awards are made to financially needy students. Unlike many conferences which promote what sponsors needs now, the SACNAS conferences are designed to give the individual attendee an experience by doing; by being involved; by being exposed to many opportunities in STEM careers. If local corporations are really committed to having diverse employee demographics, then SVLG’s members would be well advised to deal with SACNAC as a partner which is effective in the development of ethnic students as high-tech professionals…which is always a long-term work in progress.

Several local Latino professionals became trained as physicians at Stanford Medical School. Dr. Yvonne “Bonnie” Maldonado, M.D. and Dr. Fernando Mendoza, M.D. are both faculty members in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Eddie Alderete, M.D., helped develop the Flying Ambulance Service in Alaska and has been Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Services, Good Samaritan Hospital; Dr. Alfonso Banuelos, M.D. served as Medical Director, SCVMC. Today, two Latinas are practicing physicians in this area: Dr. Sylvia Corral, M.D. (San Mateo); Carmen Meza (East San Jose Clinic). Dr. Albert Gomez, M.D. is the head of a chain of medical clinics whose clients are low income Spanish speaking Latinos; Dr. Peter Arellano, M.D. (with family ties in Gilroy) is an ER specialist for Kaiser Permanente. A few years ago, Peter and his sister, Guadalupe Arellano were the brother & sister elected officials on the Gilroy City Council.

What local Latino youth need to know is that there are an estimated 2,600 different professional career paths in the health & medical care arena. While everyone thinks of doctors (and nursing), these days there is a need for dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, clinical chemists, radiologists, (electronic) medical records; pharmacists; geneticists, geriatrics, hormone experts, etc. In addition, there are careers in Public Health specialties. Next time you visit a medical center such as Stanford University Medical Center or SCVMC, just walk around to view the many specialties listed on directories. These knowledge-worker positions cannot be relocated off-shore by profit oriented executives.

If you need to know about lawyers, contact the local La Raza Lawyers Association in addition to the local Bar Association. The same goes for civil, electrical and structural engineers.

I am always amazed that Latinos do not give their community credit for many food and medicinal plants which were domesticated in the Americas. These include corn (maize), potatoes (papas); tomato, yams and more.

Without curare modern surgery would not exist because this drug totally relaxes muscles enabling surgeons to temporarily move them to one side without cutting them in order to expose the surgical target. Tobacco plants yield nicotine (a simulant); marijuana; cocaine; peyote; herbs and mushrooms all have medicinal applications. Curanderos were the trained pharmacists having local cultural traditions.

During the 1970’s Mexican botanists assisted Iowa University faculty to develop several rice strains which produced higher yields and was not prone to bending over to permit the rice seed pod to dip into the water, thus eliminating seed rot. These strains were also genetically modified to have a stronger stem which could hold up the heavier rice seed pod. The Mexican botanists knew and used six micro-climate locations within Mexico which enabled having six growing seasons during one calendar year. This collaborative effort developed several rust resistant very high yield rice strains which replaced the native rice plants and is credited with elimination of severe famines in China. This effort was recognized by a Nobel Prize award to the Iowa University botanist. I do not know if those Mexican botanists ever shared the Nobel award.

Many Mexican-Americans were farm-workers (Campesinos) who knew much about the food plants they tended and harvested. Today’s factory-farmers do not view them as knowledge-workers who have botanical knowledge which is used productively.

In the field of metallurgy, my brother Michael, a high school graduate and bricklayer, over time became a self-taught expert on refractory bricks used to line specialty steel production. His expertise as a consultant who traveled world-wide to deal with metallurgical issues which had stumped college trained professionals (and was paid $45 per hour plus expenses). He loved his work; was respected for his accumulated smelting knowledge. His expertise solved a production issue at a Monterrey, Mexico steel plant. He never could understand why U.S. foreign trade policy allowed foreign steel into the American domestic marketplace.

In closing, let me acknowledge the excellent cultural arts & entertainment accomplishments of ‘Los Lobos’, Santana, and many Latinos who the community at large do not connect to their common Mexican heritage. During this 2017 Mexican Heritage Month try to identify those you personally enjoy and appreciate their accomplishments. These are Americans professionals of Mexican heritage who made contributions and thereby made America Great!