In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, today’s Doodle celebrates Mexican-American botanist and explorer Ynes Mexía, who braved earthquakes, bogs, and poisonous berries to reach a remote volcano on the border of Colombia and Ecuador—all for the sake of botanical discoveries. “We started on the long journey back,” she wrote after collecting samples of the rare wax palm, “very tired, very hot, very dirty, but very happy.”
On this day in 1925, Mexía embarked on her first plant collection trip, travelling with a group from Stanford University to Sinaloa, Mexico in search of rare botanical species. The 55-year-old had joined the local Sierra Club just a few years earlier, enrolling in special classes at UC Berkeley soon after. Despite falling off a cliff and fracturing her hand and some ribs, Mexía brought home around 500 specimens—50 of them previously undiscovered.
Born in Washington D.C. in 1870 as a daughter to a Mexican diplomat, Mexía moved around a lot before becoming a social worker in California and falling in love with nature. At age 51, she began studying botany. After her inaugural plant discovery trip in 1925, Mexía continued journeying to uncover more species throughout Mexico, many of which were then named after her. The first was a flowering plant from the daisy family named Zexmenia mexiae in 1928, now referred to as Lasianthaea macrocephala.
Although she never completed her degree, Mexía became one of the most celebrated collectors of botanical specimens in history, gathering some 150,000 specimens throughout her career. She went on to travel the world while researching, writing, and lecturing widely.
More than 90 years after she started, scientists are still studying Mexía’s samples, which are now housed in a number of major institutions around the world.
Guest Artist Q&A with Loris Lora
Today's Doodle was created by Los Angeles-based guest artist Loris Lora.
Below she shares her thoughts behind the making of the Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: As a Latina, it's great to see Latin Americans’ lives and careers highlighted in such a special way.
I wasn't aware of who Ynés Mexia was, but when I started the project and researched her life, I was amazed at her accomplishments. She found her passion at 55 years and did so much in her short career. I love learning about influential Latin Americans and how they contributed to the things we all we enjoy today.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I was very excited to get to the opportunity to help celebrate Ynés’ life, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. To be a Latina illustrator illustrating someone of Mexican descent (like myself) is an honor. It feels like there is a responsibility to introduce the world to special people like Ynés Mexia though a Google Doodle image.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: For this piece, I wanted to pull inspiration from the plant specimens Ynés discovered. There was a lot of research involved in finding these plants and representing them in a fun way. I used the plants to help spell out "Google" by finding clever ways for each letter to be arranged within this collage-like composition. My work in general is influenced by bright colors and vintage graphic design so a lot of that helped inform the color palette and shapes, especially looking at early Latin American graphic design.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I hope people become curious about who Ynés Mexia was and, like me, learn about her achievements.
Early drafts of the Doodle