“This I Believe” ~ Alin Badillo

This I Believe
By Alin Badillo

When I was younger I remember my mother always watering the plants she had around the house. I remember her watering them with a huge smile on her face. Her eyes glowed with such brightness that you could see the reflection of the moon upon the town. She seemed very peaceful and relaxed. I remember her looking at me and telling me about how much peace and harmony the plants brought to our house. She said that the plants gave us peace and harmony. At that age I was confused. I had no idea what she was talking about.

As I grew older the separation of my parents was cruel and devastating for me. I was only eight when my mother, who had custody of me, left me in Mexico and came to the USA. I didn’t know what to do. My two older sisters didn’t mind living with our aunt. Unlike them, I felt very lost with no guidance. Every day after school I spent my afternoons and free time on top of a tall, green and strong tree my grandmother had in her backyard. The tree was very bushy and wide like a tall and buff bodyguard guarding a one year old. The tree made me realized how being near plants and trees put me at ease with myself. I felt protected and safe.

It didn’t take long before my mother brought both of my sisters and me to the USA. All I wanted was to be with my mother so I didn’t mind leaving my history behind to start all over. The four of us arrived in Jackson, Wyoming at five in the morning at our mom’s apartment. That night I fell asleep in her arms. When I woke up she was watering plants. She had plants at every inch of the apartment. If you went to the bathroom, you saw a cactus. If you went to the kitchen you saw a spider plant. The apartment looked like a jungle. The jungle of in her house reminded me of how peaceful and calm I was at my grandmother’s tree.

Alin Tree-1

Growing up with a single mother and two teenage sisters was very hard. Not to mention growing up in a culture that was different to all of us. Going to school helped me to adapt but it was miniscule. What helped me the most was living in an area surrounded by mountains, plants and wildlife. Every time I was upset or just wanted peace, I went on hikes and stopped to look at the sky and listen to the birds chirp. I went to find the tranquility that only the forests could give me. I knew then that I had one mission in life. My mission was to protect the natural wonders of the world and teach others that plants and wild life can bring peace to the earth.

As I got older and more educated I understood that the only way I was going to fulfill my mission was through education. I wasn’t sure if I could even get that far; I come from a low-income family; my parents did not finish Middle School; my sisters got married and had kids at ages 18 and 19. I was expected to end up like my sisters, at least that’s what my coworkers and others said to me. Every time I spoke to them about my dream of saving the earth, they just laughed and changed the topic. It didn’t matter to me if they believed me or not, because every time I went to take a hike on the mountain or saw swans with their family crossing the street on my way to work, my ambition to protect the wild landscapes and teach others of its magic grew immense.

Alin Tree-1

Now that I am 21 years old, I am very proud of how far in life I have gotten because of how much I care for the environment. I know that society and nature can live together. I perceive that I can teach society what the natural environment taught me. If people are able to connect to the environment as my mother and I do, society will understand that taking care of our wildlife and plants as if it were part of us will bring peace and harmony to all of us.

Alin Badillo is a student of the University of Wyoming majoring in International Studies and Environment and Natural Resources. This past semester she had the opportunity to write a “This I Believe” essay through a course offered by the UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. She presented her work to students and faculty to share and express some of the core values that help guide her daily life. The “This I Believe” essay is based on a 1950’s radio program hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow. In 2004, This I Believe, Inc. was founded as a non-profit organization to engage people from all walks of life to share their core values in hopes to encourage people to respect beliefs that may be different from their own. Since then, essays have been featured in National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasts, in classrooms, within organizations, and across communities.

Alin is excited to share her “This I Believe” essay and hopes to inspire other young Latinas and Latinos to explore how they make connections to the natural world around them.


Finding a Connection to the Land: An interview with Dewey Gallegos – Community Leader and Bike Enthusiast

Dewey Gallegos is a Laramie, Wyoming native, community leader, bike enthusiast, and owner of the Laramie local bike shop, the Pedal House. Latino Outdoors was excited for the opportunity to interview with him to learn more about his connection to land and Chicano heritage.

  1. Tell us your story, what is your connection to the land?

How could someone that has been born and raised in Laramie, Wyoming not be connected to the land. I was young when we didn’t have the technologies we have today so it was a lot easier to be enticed by the wild things creeping and crawling in the woods. My mother, Gloria, was a single mother for a while, and I think that gave me a little freedom to move around and explore the outdoors. Luckily, we lived two blocks from the river so I spent a great deal of time there with my Uncle David and his friends. They were older, all former boy scouts, and basically my heroes. We played with bb guns and bows and arrows. I remember being something of an outsider because whenever we played “cowboys and Indians”, I wanted to be Clint Eastwood and all of my friends wanted to be the Indians. I didn’t learn until later that we were more Native than Mexican. That actually impacted my desire to be outside more when I found out about my ancestry, and for a while I did the thing s that I thought a Native would do outside. Collected rocks, or sage, or something. I just wanted to be connected to something, like most people I guess. I really didn’t find my own personal connection to the land until I started riding my bike. And I don’t mean riding my bike like my friends, like 12 year olds who didn’t have drivers license’s yet. I found out, around 17 years of age, that I was an introvert who liked to spend lots of time on my own. I would ride around all day, and sometimes, all night on a stolen mountain bike my friend Miguel and I called affectionately, The Black Bike. For point of clarity, I didn’t steal the bike. I am not innocent, I knew the bike was stolen, but I rode it anyway. This bike opened a door for me. Some friends and I went camping, and Miguel and I brought bikes. I found some single track, over near Devil’s Playground, and I was hooked. I had a new love, a love that I still feel today, so I guess I would say that my connection to the outdoors has always been intensified by my relationship with my bike.

Cowboy Dewey

  1. How is this connection understood or misunderstood in your community?

My cultural community has always looked at my fascination with bicycles and the outdoors as something of an oddity. I grew up with my best friend and riding partner Miguel Rosales, so I did have a friend with a similar identity to relate with, but in general most of my family members would always ask questions like, “So you really wear those tight clothes and go out in public?” Engrained in our ideas of identity as American’s is the idea that we need to be automobile owners, and for some reason I think Chicano people tend to amplify this ideal. I do have family that goes hunting and fishing, but other than that, they don’t spend much time outside playing in the woods. I guess I just don’t see enough Chicanos outside playing after they can drive a car.

  1. Chicano identities connected to the outdoors, the environment, conservation—how are those words reflective of you?

I believe we have a responsibility to protect our outdoor recreation areas. I have a strong connection to my Native heritage, but I am in no way one of those people who believe that we Natives are able to listen to the wind or are somehow more connected to the land than any other cultural group. I only say this because my sense of responsibility isn’t derived from my culture, but from my selfishness to preserve my playground, and insure that there are spaces where the next generations can also recreate in the outdoors. I have worked with several Native and Chicano kids who have never been mountain biking or rock climbing, or even hiking in the woods. The more people who have no connection to the land, the fewer people who have no urgency to preserve the disappearing landscape that makes Wyoming so unique. I also look at the socioeconomics of the situation and realize how privileged I am to be able to play at all, much less outside. After working a 12 hour shift, going to the woods to recreate isn’t my priority, especially if I have to get up in the morning and do it all again.   I have no idea how my mother, a single mom, was able to pull it off. I guess it was the familial support system she had in place, but a lot of Chicano people don’t. I think that is where groups like yours come into play, at least I hope so.

My Tree

  1. What needs to change to have the broader conservation movement connect with it?

Programs that get kids outside are the way to go. Kids from all cultures need to be outside, playing in the woods. We need to realize why we always working so hard in our daily hum drum lives, and for me that is so that I can get outside and explore the deepest darkest corners of the world. We also need mentors who are willing to share these moments with people in a responsible way. We need to organize into groups, like Laramie BikeNet, and work with local landowners, the BLM, and the National Forest Service to insure our lands are protected.

  1. Why does your connection to land and work at the Pedal House matter to you?

As a bike shop owner, it is a financial answer I could give you, but that would not be the real reason. I love when I am sitting on top of a mountain, an hour from the car, and I get to see the sunrise in a way no one else is experiencing at that moment. I am not a religious or spiritual man, so this is more of a logical thing for me. Logically, when I feel the wind on my face, I don’t need to believe in something I can’t understand, but rather I am willing to wait to find out and try to live well in the meantime. For me to live well I need this connection with the land, with the wind, with the trees. I believe in trees. I believe in wind. I believe that these relationships with land are necessary for our survival as a people too, and it isn’t anything more than logic either. I just feel good when I am there, and I think that others would have the same or similar feelings if the listened long enough. But these experiences are hard to come by for some people in our culture. For reasons I mentioned earlier, but also because of the idea we have of ourselves as an Urban culture. That is only part of who we are. We need to rekindle some of that connection for the sake of the world. We need these open spaces so the next generation can experience a sense of place on our little planet. So hopefully they too can believe in trees.

  1. What does success in this connection to land and Chicano identity look like to you?

I guess it looks like every group bicycle ride I have been on, only with more Chicano people in the group. Smiling, laughing, giggling. It would also be great to have more Chicano people joining the local outdoor groups, and participating in outdoor events. Programs like yours are the key to this.

Me and Jeff

 

  1. How has work with the Pedal House been reflective of all this?

I am currently working as a coach for young people, and sponsor many events to encourage youth to get outside. I did, however, work in a program where we took kids out for one week hiking, biking and counseling trips to try to provide positive experiences in nature. We provided opportunities for kids who didn’t have a chance to play in the woods themselves. Now I use my business to continue this work. I am believe that it is my responsibility to make sure I spend time passing on what I have learned to the next generation.