Hispanic history, heritage run deep at Los Alamos National Laboratory

September 23, 2021

Cardenas Tana
As a child in Galisteo, New Mexico, Tana Cardenas liked to walk around the house with a screwdriver, tightening every loose screw she saw. “Someone asked me what I wanted to be, and I said, ‘I’m going to be a mechanical engineer.’” She’s now an R&D engineer at LANL, where she designs targets physicists put in the path of lasers.

Los Alamos stands out among national laboratories for its high percentage of Hispanic employees. Some hail from Latin America and Spain; many are Americans who trace their roots to those regions. LANL has garnered recognition as a top employer from publications such as Hispanic Network Magazine, Latina STYLE Magazine, STEM Workforce Diversity Magazine and Minority Engineer Magazine.

With local talent and contributions, especially from the Hispanic community in Northern New Mexico, the Lab gets a notable boost in its ability to work at a high-performance level. As of July 1, 2021, 4,858 employees self-identified as Hispanic or Latinx (or 37.9% of the total workforce).

“If you had told me as a young Hispanic girl growing up in Northern New Mexico that I would one day serve in an important role for a world-renowned institution in support of the national security mission, I would have thought it unattainable,” Human Resources’ Leah Sanchez told National Security Science magazine. “Los Alamos National Laboratory provided me that opportunity.”

There are 12 employee resource groups at the Laboratory. One of them is HOLA, the Hispanic employee resource group, which meets regularly and offers fun events and career and educational growth opportunities. The group “focuses on the growing population of Hispanic/Latino employees and helps to foster a sense of family and pride of Hispanic heritage while embracing other heritages, in order to deliver the best possible science and technology results for the nation.”