No Pues Wow! Latina Trail Crew Breaks Down Barriers to Stewardship

No, pues, wow.

For those who know me, you’ll recognize the sentence above as my go-to catchphrase. It’s a Spanglish phrase best used to communicate awe in a natural setting. I frequently mutter it after reaching a ridge-top view after a steep climb. But right now, after having spent a week wandering in the woods with the Latina Trail Crew, “no pues wow” feels like an appropriate statement.

Latina Trail Crew explore an unnamed lake at Mt. Rainier

So what happened? The Latina Trail Crew was launched in conjunction with Washington Trails Association and Latino Outdoors.  On July 23rd, nine young girls (ranging in age from 13 to 16) embarked on an epic adventure at Mt. Rainier. We were stationed out of the White River campground and spent our days building trails, exploring rivers and contemplating the future of equity in the outdoors. Most of the participants hailed from the South Park neighborhood of Seattle and were alumni of the esteemed Duwamish Youth Corps. They had spent several months learning about environmental justice and community healing and were eager to take the lessons learned in South Park to the wild lands of Mt. Rainier.

several participants had never experienced snow in the mountains – so naturally we went looking for snow. 

 

Over the course of four days of trail work and over 30 hours of volunteer maintenance, the nine girls learned about the parks natural history, careers in the park service, and their own place in world of public land conservation.  We also learned, first-hand, just how ruthless the bugs can be in the sub-alpine.

Gazing over majestic scenery or scratching a bug bite?

 

 

This work would not have been possible without the support of the Washington National Park Fund, who raised funds to provide students for each participant. We are also greatly indebted to the folks at Mt. Rainier National Park (including Ranger Orozco, Ranger Annie, and Ranger Montgomery) who welcomes the crew to the park and inspired several to consider careers in the Park Service.

Ranger Montgomery explains the importance of building an inclusive conservation legacy. 

 

Thanks to the support of REI, Outdoor Research and MSR, the adventure doesn’t stop here. Each of the girls received numerous outdoor gear (ranging from stoves to backpacks to Goretex rain jackets) to encourage further exploration. It is our hope that WTA and Latino Outdoors have merely planted a seed, a passion for the outdoors, that will be further cultivated in years to come.

Girls pose with trail bosses, Boston and Alex, after a hard day of building check-steps.

Ranger Orozco, current Latino Outdoors Washington Ambassador, joins the girls to chat careers in the Park Service. 

 

No, pues, wow. 


#VamosCamping: 13 ways you’re camping Latino style

#VamosCamping: 13 ways you’re camping Latino style—tried and tested by real Latino outdoor enthusiasts

Camping can mean different things to different people and some certainly have different preferences than others. Some like to “rough it” while others prefer a more “glamping” approach. Regardless, camping is a way we enjoy our public lands and it is important to understand our responsibility in caring for them. It is also important to state that without equitable access to our public lands, we are not able to have and enjoy these experiences.

It is important that all communities feel they belong in the outdoors and they can bring their identity into these beautiful scenic landscapes. Latinos have an outdoor identity like many other communities. So here are some 13, trece ways those in the Latino Outdoors community camp, showcasing ways in which we bring our cultura to camping in our public lands:

  1. Your camping hot chocolate looks familiar…

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2. You perfect a bean recipe for the outdoors to get it as close to mom’s

Frijoles

3. Cholula or Tapatio are essential spices–can’t forget your favorite hot sauce

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4. What’s for Breakfast? Grandma may be the first one up in the morning, has two pots and a pan going over a fire she built with wood she collected in her apron. That is…unless you happened to be up all night celebrating . Then it’s a couple large cans of menudito… doctored up of course…or chorizo con huevos.

Menudo

5. There is a place for your huaraches.

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Photo credit: Eduardo Gonzalez

6. Regardless of time of day, there is cafe de olla and pan dulce.

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7. The first story around the campfire is La Llorona

La Llorona

8. Instead of cards you’re likely to play Lotería.

Loteria

9. When your tablecloth is also a blanket and a baby carrier….and it is as colorful as a bird of paradise.

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Photo credit: Chasqui Mom

10. Osos, seem to be something to be afraid of like el cucuy, even in places where there are no bears. But no joke with el cucuy, that’s definitely everywhere.

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11. Your sleeping bag backup is a San Marcos blanket con la Virgen de Guadalupe or a lion, or a tiger, or horses…. And you’re not the only one sleeping in San Marcos blankets.

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12. Piñata time.

Pepe-camp

Photo credit: Graciela Cabello

13. You rock by using a rock comal.

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Photo credit: Eduardo Gonzalez

And you notice so many of these have to do with food….porque abuelita is going to ask, ya comiste?

And yes, I’ve done and encountered all these things, stereotypical as some may seem. I’ve carried my huaraches to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, got Tapatio packets in my backpack, and adapted Loteria for the outdoors.

How do you rock your Latino identity in a positive way in the Outdoors? Share and tag with: #VamosOutdoors #VamosCamping #LatinoOutdoors

C8.

José González is the Founder of Latino Outdoors. His commentary on diversity and environmental outreach has been featured by High Country News, Outside, Earth Island Journal,and Latino USA, and he has been engaged in collaborations with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of Interior, and the National Park Service. He also represents Latino Outdoors in several coalitions including the Latino Conservation Alliance and the Next 100 Coalition. He has been recognized with several honors, including the National Wildlife Federation, Grist Magazine, and The Murie Center

To learn more about the Next 100 Coalition, check out this site and sign the petition.


#VamosOutdoors- A Home Where I Am Me

The Outdoors Is A Home Where I Am Me

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Family Campout in Alicia East Campground, Mt. Tamalpais, CA. Photo Credit: Jose Gonzalez.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with REI to support Latino Outdoors’ #VamosCamping & #VamosOutdoors–and invite our community to enjoy our public lands and outdoor spaces. All opinions, thoughts, and musings are my own. -Jose Gonzalez

I have often shared that some of my most memorable outdoor experiences have been among the redwoods, from the giants at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, to the intimate community of Muir Woods National Monument. Consistently, the term that came to mind was the magical realism associated with Latin American literature.  I would think…these giants existthey are real—but with a sense of hyper-realism or maybe so unreal that they are so magical. They are living breathing giants, fantasy materialized. They are telling me so much in this silence if I listen attentively—I am not just looking at trees here. Layers of connection happen with all the senses and emotions as I walk around them. I am not just visiting a park to see things on display. I am connecting with myself in mind and spirit—a restorative experience. I learn about the place and myself and these elders have a story—a long life over so many human histories.  And all these connections, between nature and culture make me feel welcome and I think of how the outdoors connects with my ideas of home.

Home is where my ancestors and elders greet me

Home is not just where my immediate family is. My culture is deeply intergenerational and I’ve often lived in a home where my grandparents have raised me, where my aunts and uncles are ever present, but also where my elders from past generations still stop by to give advice or simply are present in the family space. So when I’m outdoors and I look at a family of redwoods, sequoias, or oaks, these are elders and ancestors as well— similar as those of Native American communities, where familiar spirits are present in these outdoors spaces. When I am connected to that in the outdoors, I am home.

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Olompali State Historic Park, Novato, CA. Photo credit: Jose Gonzalez.

 

Home is where my familia welcomes me

Although the outdoors is a nurturing and healing space for solitary endeavors—often a place to “get away from it all” and quietly reflect by one self, to me home is also where my familia is present, in many senses of the word. Like many others, I do enjoy some personal space to be and reconnect with myself, but my community has raices in creating family in social spaces and the outdoors is and should be no different. Home is where the parents and the children play together and where families can be together to create a larger family of cultural familiarity and comfort. Home is where the campground feels no different than the plaza of my hometown, the cocina of my abuela, or me sitting with my parents on the front lawn, catching up on how the primos and tias are doing.

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Family Campout at Alice Eastwood Campground, Mt. Tamalpais, CA. Photo by Alicia Cruz, Latino Outdoors Regional Coordinator.

Home is where my cultura sings to me

Beyond my family, home is where culture is blended with the space such that it does not feel like such extremely different spaces. Yes, some of the activities may be different but HOW we do them can still be very familiar. It is where beans are soaking near the campfire stove and where hot chocolate comes in the form of Abuelita or Ibarra tablets. It is where Chespirito, Chapulin Colorado, Cholula, and chanclas are mixed with leave-no-trace principles, proper tent setup, and countless naturalist quotes. It is where the table cover around which we will gather for a meal—in its resplendent array of color—will have come from Mexico or Peru. And yes, it is where the homemade salsa will be on that tabletop or someone will be asking who brought the Tapatio bottle.

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Hiking Leadership module at Fernandez Ranch, John Muir Land Trust, Martinez, CA. Photo credit: Jose Gonzalez.

Home is Where I am Me

I am an immigrant from Mexico. I am an English Language Learner. I am a former Migrant student. I am the oldest of all my siblings and the first in my family to go to college. I grew up poor as my parents did their best to provide for us in a new country. My story is like that of many others and what my home was growing up was no different than countless others who followed a similar path. But I grew to love and understand the idea of “the Outdoors” in this new country, and advocate for a multifaceted view and interaction with nature and our public lands. Hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities became as comfortable and familiar as quinceañeras, bautizos, and posadas. This is important because it was powerful to realize I could function competently and comfortably in what could have been two seemingly disparate cultures. I began to explore the idea of being “ambicultural”— not just bicultural — a role in which I could leverage both my “Latino” culture and identity and my growing “outdoors” culture and identity to be me and be of service to my community. This was important because both places mattered to me and I did not want to leave my cultura at the trailhead or have my outdoor adventures be labeled as “another white thing he does”. Now I proudly take my huaraches to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or by the campfire at a local state park as we gather to make s’mores and others have their night cafecito con pan dulce.

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Jose Gonzalez.

Home is where we’ll pitch tent, where we camp, where we hit the trail, where we’ll look up at the countless stars and where we will greet el sol, Tonatiuh. Because we bring home with us, not just packed in our daypack or car trunks, but also packed in our minds and hearts, to be shared with each other.  When we say “Vamos Camping” we are creating the space to take home with us. That is a reality and aspiration that should be within reach of anyone that loves and enjoys the outdoors regardless of their background. If home is where the heart is, then we can make home anywhere, and the outdoors should be no exception.

immigrant

Photo credit: Graciela Cabello.

 

Jose Gonzalez is the Founder of Latino Outdoors.