Frida Kahlo – Mexican Cultural Pride

Honoree: Frida Kahlo

Career: Artist

Community Organization: Boys & Girls Club of McAllen

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk-art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.

Oscar de la Renta: el rey de la moda

Honoree: Oscar de la Renta

Career: Fashion Design

Community Organization: Center for Latin American Arts

Dominican Republic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta (1932-2014) is best known for his modern evening gowns, dressing dignitaries such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama, as well as celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, for decades.

At age 18, Oscar departed from his hometown of Santo Domingo to pursue painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid and later apprenticed under fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.

By 1965, de la Renta opened his own ready-to-wear line, which was venerated by fashion designers worldwide. Synonymous with sophistication and elegance, Oscar embraced his Latino heritage through his usage of ruffles, lace, statement jewelry, and vibrant color pallets.

He also supported nonprofits in NYC such as the New Yorkers for Children, the Americas Society, and the Spanish Institute. Oscar served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America during 1973-1976 and 1986-1988.

La Gran Calavera

Honoree: José Guadalupe Posada

Career: Illustrator

Community Organization: Mission Historical Museum

José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) was a Mexican illustrator who created lithographs, engravings, and wood blocks that depicted both natural and political events faced by Mexico’s working poor. Through these graphic illustrations printed on pamphlets and newspapers Posada sought to provide accessible news and entertainment to keep even the illiterate members of Mexican society informed.

His most iconic illustration being an image of a calavera wearing a fashionable hat decorated with flowers (la Cucaracha or la Calavera), reminding all of us that no matter who we are, rich or poor, that death is something we all have in common. Achieving no real fame in his lifetime, he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Dolores Cemetery of Mexico City.

Hidden Figures in Paper Chromatography

Honoree: Alma Levant Hayden

Career: Chemist

Community Organization: McAllen Public Utility

Alma Levant Hayden (March 30, 1927-August 2, 1967) was an American Chemist and one of the first African-American women to gain a scientist position at a science agency in Washington, D.C. Hayden had a master’s degree in chemistry from Howard University, and worked at the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

She became an expert in spectrophotometry, the measurement of how substances absorb light and published work on infrared and other techniques for analyzing chemicals in a range of journals. In 1963, Hayden became Chief of the Spectrophotometer Research Branch in the Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.


Honoree: Guillermo González Camarena

Career: Electrical Engineer

Community Organization: McAllen Public Library

Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena was born on February 17, 1917 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He studied engineering at the National Polytechnic Institute. In 1939 he invented a color television transmission system that could easily adapt black and white television equipment. He obtained the patent for his invention in 1940.

In 1964, he received an award from the Asociación Nacional de Distribuidores de Aparatos Domésticos. On April 18, 1965 he died in a car accident at the age of 48, on his way back from inspecting a television transmitter. In 1969, Apollo XI used the camera for color television that he designed.

Gran Música de Méjico

Honoree: José Pablo Moncayo

Career: Composer & Conductor

Community Organization: Valley Symphony Orchestra

José Pablo Moncayo García (1912-1958) is one of the most famous Mexican composers and conductors in history. He is best remembered through his Huapango—a colorful orchestral fantasy emblematic of the spirit of Mexico and the nationalist movement in musical composition that he bolstered and that effectively died with him.

Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Moncayo was a versatile music student, mastering classical piano, jazz piano, percussion, conducting, and composition. Despite contrary efforts by Mexico’s National Conservatory of Music, Moncayo remained dedicated to promoting and developing new works of Mexican music, earning himself a celebrated legacy of Mexican nationalism in music.

A Star in the Sky

Honoree: Kalpana Chawla

Career: Astronaut & Engineer

IMAS Education Department

IMAS is honoring fallen astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla (1961-2003). She was the first Indian-born American astronaut, and our altar brings her legacy to life. She was lost too soon, having perished during reentry on Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Chawla had a big interest in flying, from planes to space shuttles. To fulfill this dream, she attended University of Texas - Arlington to receive a Master of Science in aerospace engineering in 1984 and went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1988.

Outside of school, Chawla enjoyed flying aerobatics, hiking, back-packing, and reading. Her passion for flying came to its highest point when NASA accepted her as a candidate for the astronaut training program. After training, she worked for the Astronaut Office of EVA/Robotics and Computer Branches.

She flew on two missions, one on STS-87 in 1996 and her last on STS-107. She has logged 31 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space.

After she passed, a satellite was renamed in her honor. Most recently, the Space Shuttle Kalpana Chawla was named after her for mission Cygnus NG-14. As her family so endearingly calls her, she is now a star in the sky.