5 Latina Explorers You Should Know About

Travel Latina is a collective of women seizing what the world has to offer, and globe trotting is our way of breaking the mold and pursuing the things that we are passionate about. All around us, history is in the making as more and more Latinas make their mark on our planet with their incredible accomplishments. Women’s History Month is about celebrating remarkable individuals and I’m here to highlight some Latinas who made seeing the world part of their life’s work.

Finding Latina travelers who left their mark on our planet in extraordinary ways was not easy, and I invite readers to share any others that we should know about. These women are few and far between in our history books, and it begs the question of who has been written out of them completely, their memory lost to time. Who knows…maybe one day it’ll be one of us!

Ynes Mexia

Ynes was more than just an early women in science, she was the premiere plant collector of her era and traveled all over Mexico and South America to collect samples. She gathered over 150,000 specimens, discovered more than 500 new species, and even uncovered a new genus of plant. You could say she was a “late bloomer”…her career didn’t start until she was 55. Many of her finds were named after her, Mexianthus Mexicanus, and her contributions to botany are still praised to this day. Talk about sowing some deep roots!

Dr. Ellen Ochoa
Astronaut, First Latina in Space

She’s in every list you see of famous Latino explorers… and usually the only woman! Ellen’s claim to fame is her nine day mission on the space shuttle Discovery in 1993 and being an incredible Astronaut. During her Discovery mission, she studied the impact of the sun’s cycle on earth and how it changes the earth’s climate. She also brought some music to her zero gravity environment for fun; a flute that ended up being suspended in the air as she played it.  Ellen is currently the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Cristina Mittermeir
Conservation Photographer

Cristina’s work is dedicated to documenting the relationship people have with nature, particularly indigenous groups around the world. Most of it focuses on the Kayapo tribe in the central Amazon who are struggling to conserve their way of life and territory, an area the size of NY State. She’s spent considerable time with them and believes that people are “inspired into action and compelled to care for nature when they see beautiful images“, but also thinks “the public needs to see the devastation around the world and not just the pretty parts”. She’s considered one of the World’s 40 “Most Influential Outdoor Photographers“, and is the founder of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

Elsa Avila
First Latin American and Mexican Woman
to Climb Mount Everest
The Chilean Women Everest Expedition
First South American Women Group
to Climb Mount Everest

Training to conquer the highest mountain in the world is a HUGE undertaking; it requires patience, ideal weather conditions, and lots of physical and mental preparation. The task is something only the bravest of climbers attempt, a consuming goal that takes no small amount of willpower and strength to complete. It’s also extremely unpleasant. Climbers can expect to lose up to 20% of their body weight, hallucinate, and deal with loads of physical ailments on their way to the top…if they even get there. Elsa Ávila (left) became the first Mexican and Latin American woman to reach summit in 1999, and was followed by the first group of South American women (right) in 2001.

Carmen Sandiego
V.I.L.E Ringleader, International Heist Master

Sure, she’s a cartoon villain…but for many children growing up in the 80s and 90s she was the biggest exposure they had to the world (not to mention the root of this author’s travel bug!). My research shows that she’s probably the first Latina cartoon character on American TV that eschewed the awful stereotypes, so YES she deserves a spot on this list!

The franchise taught geography and history through an amazing TV show, computer games, and books that had a distinct humor full of word play and memorable puns. “They’re rowdy in Saudi Arabia”, “They never Arkansas her!”, and “She had an urge for sturgeon from the Caspian Sea” charmed players into eagerly recovering stolen landmarks (the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Great Wall of China, the Trans Arabian Pipeline) swiped by Carmen while piecing together her whereabouts.

…and lucky you, here is a photo of the author as Carmen Sandiego in 2007!


Got any other Latina explorers we should know about? Let us know in the comments!


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