Pioneering Latina Aviator Tells the Stories of Other Latinos

A child of Mexican immigrants, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato grew up in small, north Colorado towns dominated by meatpacking plants. Her mother worked on the assembly line, her father in high-end men’s clothing stores as a tailor. Together they raised five children.

It was stable, honest work, says Tiscareño-Sato, but she aspired to a more cosmopolitan life. “I always thought: I have to figure out how to get that, versus what I know as the daughter of immigrants,” she says. “They had very culturally limited ideas about the role of young ladies.”

Thanks to a mentor, who helped her pursue a U.S. Air Force ROTC scholarship, Tiscareño-Sato ultimately broke far afield of any of those perceived cultural limitations, graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with training in architecture, environmental design, and aerospace studies, and completing navigator flight training at Mather Air Force Base, in Sacramento. She was the only woman in the yearlong flight-training class, and finished in the top 15 percent.

For nearly a decade, Tiscareño-Sato served as an Air Force officer and aviator, flying the world aboard KC-135 aerial refueling jets, and she went on to become an instructor navigator, at Fairchild Air Force Base, in Washington. Yet throughout, she noticed one thing: “I don’t think I ever met another Latina when I was flying for the Air Force,” she says.

For us to be able to serve global economies […] all of that requires immigration policy that is real and rooted in respect for immigrants.

So, after earning a master’s degree in international business management, from Whitworth University’s School of Global Commerce & Management, and working in marketing management for a Silicon Valley telecom giant, Tiscareño-Sato founded Gracefully Global Group, a publisher focused on telling the stories of U.S. Hispanic contributions in entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.

“You can go to school in this country, reach the age of 18, and actually never be exposed to literature about highly educated Latinos and Latinas, who are the backbone of our economy,” Tiscareño-Sato says. The company has won 10 international book awards, and employs two people full time and 15 to 20 contractors. In 2014, the White House named Tiscareño-Sato a “Champion of Change, Woman Veteran Leader.”

One of Gracefully Global Group’s most successful titles is “Latinnovating: Green American jobs and the Latinos creating them,” which features 10 highly educated children of immigrants, all of whom are social entrepreneurs. “Everybody has their own company or is running a successful nonprofit,” she says. “These are exactly the sorts of stories that America’s immigrant children need while growing up in the USA.”

“Kids don’t stay little forever,” Tiscareño-Sato says. “They grow up, they become somebody, and then they turn around and they create jobs for everybody. For us to be able to serve global economies — those that want to buy American products, that want to come here and learn how we do it and expand economies — all of that requires immigration policy that is real and rooted in respect for immigrants.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…