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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Decade of Empowering the Latin/Hispanic Entomology Community

Group shot of about 40 people in a conference room, gathered for a group photo in front of a projection screen. Eleven people are sitting in a row of chairs in front, while the rest are standing in two rows behind them.

As ESA celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, a growing Latin American and Hispanic community in insect science marks 10 years since launching its yearly gathering at ESA Annual Meetings. Shown here are attendees at the 2022 Latin/Hispanic Symposium at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia in Vancouver.

By Ricky Lara, Ph.D., Carlos J. Esquivel, Ph.D., Ana Cabrera, Ph.D., Tina Lozano, Ph.D., Steven Reyna, Ph.D., Leslie Aviles, and Arani Cuevas-Sanchez

From September 15 to October 15, the United States commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the profound historical legacy, vibrant culture, and invaluable contributions of the diverse Latin/Hispanic community to the tapestry of the American experience. This celebration extends into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), where there has been a noteworthy rise in Hispanic/Latin college graduates embarking on STEM careers (NSF 2021; Pew Research Center 2022). This wave of achievement also permeates the professional field of entomology.

Within the Entomological Society of America (ESA), the Latin/Hispanic community represents a rapidly growing demographic, boasting nearly 500 members who play pivotal roles across academia, government, and industry, encompassing a spectrum of professions from researchers and extension specialists to pest managers, educators, naturalists, students, and more.

Bringing Together the Latin/Hispanic Community in Entomology

In commemoration of this national event, we reflect on the remarkable growing legacy of ESA’s Latin/Hispanic Symposium, which takes place yearly at the ESA Annual Meeting. It all began in 2013 with the inaugural event, “Making Connections Abroad: First Latin American Hispanic Symposium,” spearheaded by Silvia Rondon, Ph.D., Oregon State University; Ana Legrand, Ph.D., University of Connecticut; Raul Medina, Ph.D., Texas A&M University; and Erik Echegaray, Ph.D., North Carolina State University.

The primary objective of this annual symposium, and those that have followed, has been to amplify the inspiring narratives of influential ESA members who have driven change and catalyzed transformations in people, science, and policy. These symposia convey an empowering message to all ESA members, underscoring how entomologists infuse their distinctive perspectives into their work, yielding positive outcomes.

From 2013 to 2022, ESA’s Latin/Hispanic symposia have featured a diverse array of 72 invited speakers, representing various career stages and research connections spanning Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, and beyond. The goal of these connections is to foster and fortify cross-cultural collaborations and international partnerships, uniting entomologists as a cohesive global community.

Additionally, these sessions highlight successful members as role models for students and early career professionals, with the hope of boosting the recruitment and retention of new members from underrepresented groups in entomology careers. This vision remains the guiding principle for the next wave of Latin/Hispanic symposium organizers as they endeavor to advance the symposium’s mission and impact.

Future Directions: Meet the 2022-2023 Committee

The 2023 ESA Latin/Hispanic symposium team proudly includes a dynamic group of ESA members: Ana Cabrera, Ph.D., Bayer CropScience; and Tina Lozano, Ph.D., Corteva Agriscience; alongside dedicated co-organizers Carlos J. Esquivel, Ph.D., and Steven Reyna , Ph.D., Bayer CropScience; Ricky Lara, Ph.D., California Department of Food and Agriculture; Leslie Aviles, Purdue University; and Arani Cuevas-Sanchez, University of Western Ontario.

The Latin/Hispanic team has raised over $4,000 in funds to host the upcoming symposium and mixer. In addition, the team has cultivated the visibility of the Latin/Hispanic entomology community on social media platforms. In this effort, in 2022 the team introduced a transformative branding, “SomosEnto,” translating to “We are Ento,” symbolizing the unity of the Latin/Hispanic community of entomologists and its allies worldwide.

The SomosEnto community is ever-adapting to the evolving demands and challenges surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion, expanding its reach not only to ESA members with Latin American heritage but also to allies from all corners of the world who wish to join this movement. Beyond its inclusive vision, SomosEnto continues to serve as a platform to spotlight individuals and initiatives dedicated to the greater good.

As we prepare to continue the tradition of the Latin/Hispanic Symposium during Entomology 2023, we invite you to join us for the 11th Latin/Hispanic Symposium: “Multicultural Entomologists Transforming People, Science, and Policy,” on Tuesday, November 7. Our distinguished keynote speaker, Robert Wiedenmann, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas, will share invaluable insights on springboarding to success, followed by enlightening talks from Vilma Montenegro, University of Florida; Carlos Blanco, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Thais Rodrigues, Ph.D., GreenLight Biosciences; Jaqueline Serrano, Ph.D., USDA Agricultural Research Service; Arani Cuevas-Sanchez; and Karla Medina, Ph.D., Certis Biologicals. The symposium culminates with the SomosEnto mixer for networking and refreshments, fostering connections that inspire change.

Whether you identify as Latin/Hispanic or not, you are warmly invited to become a part of our movement by attending the 11th Latin/Hispanic Symposium, connecting with us on LinkedIn, finding us on X (@SomosEnto1), or joining the conversation with the hashtag #SomosEnto. Join us as we converge at Entomology 2023 in National Harbor, Maryland, for an unforgettable event! ¡Nos vemos pronto!

Ricky Lara, Ph.D., is a senior environmental scientist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento, California. Email: Carlos J. Esquivel, Ph.D., is a research entomologist at Bayer CropScience in Chesterfield, Missouri. Email: Ana Cabrera, Ph.D., is a principal scientist at Bayer CropScience in Chesterfield, Missouri. Tina Lozano, Ph.D., is a research investigator at Corteva Agriscience in Indianapolis, Indiana. Steven Reyna, Ph.D., is a research entomologist at Bayer CropScience in Chesterfield , Missouri. Leslie Aviles is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University. Arani Cuevas-Sanchez is a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Western Ontario.

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