I tend to get a lot of questions about my life in the context of academia, bias, prejudice, and the activism work I do. So, I decided to make a Q&A compiling some of the best and most common questions I get. I hope this gives you a better understanding of who I am, and why I do what I do.
1. If you had to define your life in a paragraph, how would you write it?
Let us start on 2008, standing on a subway platform, in Manhattan waiting for my train, not to board it… but to jump in front of it. A young and clueless version of myself, fresh out of family court, feeling tired and very much defeated after going in convinced that my days of physical, mental, financial, and sexual abuse were over. I had absolutely no idea who I was, born and raised in the Dominican Republic with complete confusion over my “duties" as a woman—under the boot of an extremely patriarchal upbringing. This is how I ended up in a dangerously toxic marriage at a very young age, and by walking away, I eventually became homeless of NYC.
2. Why do you love science?
The very core of who I am has been connected to science, even before I knew what science was. I’ve always craved a deeper understanding of the world around me; this was a need which was never satisfied growing up and it actually became a huge source of anxiety for me.
I never had exposure to science or proper education under any capacity, so there was no way for me to know that my passion has a name. I used to be obsessed with knowing the “how and why” of everything, and as cliché as this will probably sound, I always wanted to go into space. The universe (which to me consisted of the Moon and the Sun at the time) has always been a source of peace in my life.
3. When did you decide to focus on space?
I always wanted to study the universe, but I had no idea that such a thing could be done—let alone by someone like me, or that women could, or were even allowed to.
4. What’s your education?
This is an odd one for me, because anyone involved in academia knows being conventional has always been a priority, and that it benefits the privileged. To make this part short, when I was 17 years old (living in the US) I had basically taught myself English, moved on from an extremely underserved high school, figured out how to get a GED, and after experiencing seemingly endless biases because of it, I set out to try to meet my goals. The lack of mentoring and guidance did not make things any easier over the following years, but I was finally leaving behind toxic relationships, poverty, homelessness, and focus on getting a better understanding of our amazing universe.
5. How do advocacy and activism come into the picture?
Navigating many spaces I wished to occupy, I realized the complete lack of awareness many people have about the fact that not everyone is born into good circumstances, has access to proper education, or is able to follow what they call “traditional paths" in life. There are some individuals who, like me, must rely on survival to even dare to dream-this enables a lot of exclusion in the sciences and everyday life. These days I own my story by being unapologetically vocal about my experiences, and I am determined to challenge whatever stereotypes I face when chasing my goals by self-advocating.
6. Do you like social media and being considered an influencer?
I cannot stand the word influencer, I think when you become public about any aspect of your life, it becomes more about what others think you should be versus who you really are. My life is not palatable for everyone, because it makes people uncomfortable. That is why I don't like to be called anything, I'm just someone who does not stop fighting for her dreams.
When it comes to social media, it was more of a happy accident for me. In 2017 while recovering from an accident, I repurposed an old and unused Twitter account to entertain myself, and in this process, I realized places like Twitter can be a great tool for visibility and outreach.
My "rebellious and non-traditional" pursuit of autonomy has made me gain some notoriety in certain groups, which can be very difficult and attract a lot of unwarranted negativity at times, but it is also an opportunity to help others who come from similar situations.
7. How do you handle obstacles and stereotypes?
I live my life by the quote: "It is not about who's going to let me, it's about who's going to stop me".
8. What would you say to anyone out there needing motivation to pursue their goals?
Personally, it has been an exhausting journey for me, but I cannot say I regret it. Things like family, love, support, mentoring, and access to things like education can easily be taken for granted by those who always had them, and that is unfortunate and very common. Keep going, if it’s what you really want it will be worth it.
Sometimes you must become the person you needed when you were younger.