A former migrant worker is scheduled to lift off for space this week. Jose Hernandez, a NASA astronaut, once toiled in California’s farm fields with his Mexican parents.
Hernandez didn't learn English until he was 12, according to the Associated Press.
California-born Hernandez is actually one of two Mexican-Americans who will be on board space shuttle Discovery when it launches this week. (Thunderstorms prevented Discovery from blasting off early Tuesday.)
Hernandez, 47, recalls his early years sweating in the fields. After a long day of work picking cucumbers and tomatoes back in the 1960s and 1970s, he said his father would turn to him and his brothers and sister and say, “Remember this feeling because if you guys don't do well in school, this is your future.”
Now a national hero in Mexico, Hernandez received a call this weekend from Mexican President Felipe Calderon, according to the Los Angeles Times. Calderon wished him “an enormous congratulation, with all our admiration, all our affection and all our pride.”
Calderon invited Hernandez down to the presidential palace once he’s returned from outer space.
Hernandez’s parents, Salvador and Julia, migrated to northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They later became U.S. citizens and raised four children.
As a kid, Hernandez continued to visit his parents’ old neighborhood in Michoacán, where cousins and aunts and uncles were being interviewed this week by the Mexican press.
For those of you interested in learning more about Hernandez, you can follow him on his Twitter feed. Hernandez has been posting updates his preparations for take-off and developments in both English and Spanish. Here is his Twitter page.
Photo: Jose Hernandez from his Twitter Page.