Graciela was born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents and grew up in Greeley, Colorado. As the first-born daughter of immigrants, she had a weight of responsibility on her shoulders, but she also had dreams. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of California at Berkeley as an Air Force ROTC scholarship cadet. Graciela pursued a degree in Architecture while completing the Aerospace Studies Program. One day she visited a pilot training base in Arizona. She had never been on a plane until college. After an orientation flight with a woman pilot, she left that base determined to fly.
During her military service, Graciela deployed to over 26 countries. Her job was to plan the missions and perform mathematical calculations to make sure the team could refuel anywhere on the planet. She received an Air Medal for combat air operations over Iraq. Graciela later became an instructor and after nine years and four months, she transitioned into civilian life.
Since then, she became the author of several books. She also founded her own publishing company called Gracefully Global Group, LLC. In her first book, Latinnovating, she shares the stories of highly educated Latinos and Latinas. Graciela aims to motivate the young generation to build their own success.
Good Night Captain Mama/Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá is the first bilingual children’s book written by a woman veteran and Graciela’s first children’s book. She was inspired to write it after a conversation with her then-3-year-old boy. One night Graciela was wearing her uniform ahead of a Veterans Day assembly at her son’s preschool when he stopped by and saw her. He was curious about her uniform and the patches on it, so she told him all about her sage green flight suit and why she served.
Then, she wrote the second book of the series, Captain Mama’s Surprise/La Sorpresa de Capitán Mamá, is narrated by little Marco, a military child on a field trip with his classmates to learn about the plane where his mom works. This book also included more activities in Spanish.
Taking Flight with Captain Mama/Despegando con Capitán Mamá is the third book of the series, which will be available everywhere on October 28th. This time we hear Marco’s voice as he takes flight on the KC-135 with his friends. This book includes a bilingual aviation glossary and origami jet.
Graciela wants to normalize women in the military, moms in the military, and moms who fly airplanes, especially Latina women. Hispanic Heritage Month is important to her because she is passionate about her community. She believes that military service is very much part of the Hispanic heritage and legacy. Graciela is intentional in showing up and telling these stories to motivate young people. Her whole life was based on people who showed up for her and made a tremendous impact. Now, she wants to show up for others as a Latina mentor and leader.
“You will be successful when you surround yourself with people who want you to be successful. But you have to put yourself in a position to ask questions and be in a place where these opportunities are given to you."