Today is the International Day of the Girl, an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of girls around the world. One super girl from southern Mexico turned heads in the world of science.
We felt her story was the perfect way to start our new series on Pourquoi Princesse Super Girls, spotlighting the stories of brave girls who have done amazing things and have demonstrated innovation, intelligence, courage, determination and kindness in their communities.
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López with her solar powered water heater
When Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López first set out at 8 years old to find an alternative to heating water with firewood for her family and her neighbors in Chiapas, Mexico, she had no idea what was in store for her. Xóchitl got the idea to create an inexpensive solar-powered water heater as a way to lessen her community’s reliance on cutting down trees for firewood, and thus, decrease its negative impact on the environment, particularly with regards to climate change. "In San Cristóbal, it’s very cold most of the year so if people shower with cold water they can get sick with respiratory illnesses and constantly have to go to the doctor," she said in a video made by EI Universal, "These are low-income people who don’t have the possibility to buy these heaters, so what they do is cut the trees to get firewood, which affects the world through climate change. So, what I did is make this project, this heater, from recycled objects that don’t hurt the environment.”
Since the age of four years old, Xóchitl has been attending scientific workshops through a program called PAUTA, or Adopt a Talent Program. An educational project sponsored by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Adopt a Talent seeks to stimulate an interest in science for girls and boys using experts and mentors throughout Mexico. It was through this initiative that she initially became inspired to design her water heater made out of low-cost recycled materials and powered by the sun. She began by simply mapping out plans for a heater in her notebook. Then, the young inventor accumulated different materials to make the heater, including a 15-meter black hose, 10 PET bottles that she painted black, plastic cable ties, a wooden base, black nylon and recycled glass. “I used the glass doors of a broken cooler to create a greenhouse effect . . .” Xóchitl described.
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López receives a prestigious award, Photo Credit: PMNoticias MX
After gathering all the right supplies, she built the heater on the roof of her family’s home with the help of her father, Lucio Guadalupe. This experiment proved the heater was capable of warming ten liters of water between 35 and 45 degrees Celsius in cold weather. As an indigenous teacher at a local preschool, her father said that he and other teachers tried their best to encourage and support Xóchitl's talent for science with limited resources and skills. Guadalupe explained: "I’m very proud of my daughter because here in Chiapas it’s very difficult to excel in science... As teachers we don’t have that specialization, and we’re finding out little by little how to teach the young ones. The truth is that we’ve learned a lot with her."
Picture from her father's IG account
In 2018 at nine years old, she won the Instituto de Ciencia Nuclear (ICN) de Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Women’s Recognition Award, making her the first child to ever do so! But the budding scientist, with a passion for soccer and aspirations to earn her doctorate degree in mathematics, doesn’t want to stop there. With the support of local universities, she’s hoping to be able to build a larger water heater for all of her neighbors.
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López meets with Senator Zoé Robledo. Photo Credit: MorenaSenado
Xóchitl’s story is living proof that inspiration and innovation can be found in the simple things that surround us and that in trying to solve the problems of our local community, we can achieve great things.
UNAM's Programa Adopte Un Talento (Adopt a Talent Program) helps encourage young inventors and scientists in Mexico, including Xóchitl who has participated in their youth science fairs. To learn more or donate to support their work, visit http://www.pauta.org.mx/.
Laura Drewett is the CEO and Co-Founder of Pourquoi Princesse. She’s also a mom to a boisterous, vivacious little girl and a calm, cuddly little boy. An American, she lives in the south of France with her husband and kids.