“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 4

Originally posted on Fit Fun And

Author: Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

 

The stories continue from our amazing volunteers at LatinoOutdoors.

This week we have Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor in Los Angeles, CA. I met Laura a little over a year ago and her kindness and authenticity is what drew me to her. Here is Laura’s story on her connections to the Outdoors.

Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor Los Angeles, CA

What are your earliest memories with a connection to nature?

My earliest memory of the outdoors is connected to living in Georgia and having fruit trees, growing some veggies, and a pond within walking distance of our home. It was great to have access to fresh fruits, especially when they were used to make dessert! I would also feed fish in the pond throughout the year and go fishing once they were big. My mom cleaned them and cooked them. Food is very important in my family and I think the Latino Culture in general. There were only two other Latino families in our community at that time and that we knew, and sharing food is one way we bonded.

What is your story in the outdoor space?

My story is one of learning to connect with Nature wherever I am. Whether I am in a rural space or a sprawling city. I have spent most of my life in Los Angeles and know firsthand the benefits and needs of regular access to nature. Making time to connect to nature is a priority. I am fortunate to currently work as the Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. This allows me to connect with others in advocating for the protection of Natural Resources, increased access to the outdoors for everyone and increased representation of Latino Heritage in the National Park System. Volunteering with Latino Outdoors allows me to contribute to increased Latino Representation in the Outdoors and support other developing leaders on outings.

Photo credit- Laura Torres

What is it that makes the Outdoors so special to you?

It’s the place in which I feel most free, most at peace and humbled. I have a connection to the outdoors, as my place of grounding, my place of creativity, and my place of building memories with my partner. A place to reconnect with friends and family. Every day I am thinking of the need for supporting others in building their own unique connection to the outdoors.

How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the outdoors? How do you see yourself “counting” in the outdoors?

I think about how my ancestors had a daily connection to the outdoors, that is far beyond my current connection. Nature is culturally and historically present in celebrations, survival and spiritual practice. By connecting with the outdoors I am active in strengthening my relationship and understanding of the earth. My Latinx identity goes beyond the snacks or clothes I wear when outdoors. It’s connected to supporting my community to have more access to the outdoors. “It’s connected to pushing my self to be in spaces that have predominantly been occupied by white males”. It is also about taking the time to learn about the native communities in an area I am enjoying and looking at the plants and researching on their multiple functions. I have much more to learn about my indigenous roots, while also learning how to take my nature adventures to the next level. It’s about making time to develop my relationship with the outdoors at my own pace and on my own terms. I started using Instagram to make sure I was being seen and that I could see others like myself in the outdoors. It was a way to connect and support each other. I think it is a great tool to feel empowered and have self-representation. I think it is working because I am starting to see mainstream media pay attention and acknowledge a need to include more diversity communities in our public lands and open spaces. I see myself “counting” as both a privilege and a responsibility. I have the privilege to have access to transportation to the great outdoors, having access to information and a basic understanding on how to prepare for the outdoors including securing permits when needed so that I can enjoy some truly magical places. I also have the responsibility to engage my representatives in issues of access to public lands and long term protection of natural resources.

Photo Credit-Laura Torres

How is this represented in the community around you?

I see that there is a growing interest in open spaces. many are starting their connection with the outdoors as a form of recreation and are willing to learn how they can not only bring others but also protect the local and national outdoor spaces. I am happy to see more meet-ups for hiking and seeing them expand. Among my friends, family and community I see an increase in yearly camping trips. I am also participating in conversations about the importance of more diversity regarding environmental education, health benefits and policy to keep our open spaces protected and accessible.

Why does what you do matter so much to you?

On a selfish note, I go kind of crazy when I don’t have regular access to nature, it’s my healthcare. I want access to nature in a fun and fulfilling way to be a given for my community. If I have children I want them to have beautiful, magical spaces to grow in and to have an opportunity to continue connecting with our heritage. It’s the best way to rest and refuel.

Photo credit-Laura Torres

Favorite hike to date and why?

My favorite hike was in Pinnacles National Park January 2016. It was my first over 3 mile solo hike in a new place. I usually hike with my friends or partner. This day I hiked a little over 6 miles in a trail that looped. This was on a whim while driving up to Pescadero to visit a friend that works on a farm. On the way up I took a detour. I had never visited the park before and only recently realized it existed. I thought this would be a great way to test my map skills and made sure I had my ten essentials and most importantly, checked in with my partner so he was aware of my location and hike. It felt great to know I had the freedom to be spontaneous. I was transitioning from one job to another and this was a great time to reflect and sow intentions for my career. This allowed time for myself and provided much increased confidence.

Favorite park and why?

My favorite place is Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a magical place! It’s the place where my mother and I hiked together for the first time. It’s a beautiful place and knowing that I am getting a tiny glimpse of the beauty of my Mom’s home state fills me with pride. This deepened my connection with my Mother. When she agreed to go with me I felt she was showing me trust and openness to building a healthier relationship. The park is full of natural elements I love, a majestic view of mountains, water to take a dip in and relax and an interesting mix of plants including agaves and cacti. It is a place that reminds me of my ancestors and their connections to nature. Visiting Hierve el Agua was a long time desire I had. I was undocumented for over twenty years so when I finally gained legal status and went to visit in 2010 it was truly magical. 

I love sharing these stories. Thank you Laura for not only being a beautiful friend but for also believing that you can and doing so as well. You are smart, sweet and inspiring Chica and I can’t wait for your next Texas trip.

Fitfunand … Afuera!


“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 3

Originally Posted on: http://www.fitfunand.com/uncategorized/yo-cuento-outdoorsthe-stories-latino-outdoors/

Author: Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

It’s a wondrous thing how the wild calms the spirit within us. The “feels” we get when we know we are right where we are supposed to be. This then turns into what more can I explore, what more can I do and then how can I share this with others. The “feels” become so much more that it becomes part of your existence. For some it leads to a career in the outdoors and for some just a personal joy to share with others. Latino Outdoors has allowed more opportunities for us to experience and share what we love to do and in the process we have become a family. My pleasure to introduce New Mexico Coordinator~Gabe Vasquez.

What is the story of Gabe and the connection you have to the outdoors?

Well, it actually goes back to the story of when I first experienced the outdoors. When my family and I first got to Caballo Lake in New Mexico we threw our lines in the water and it wasn’t long before a Game & Fish officer came to check on our licenses. Because it was our first time fishing and we were from Mexico, we didn’t realize we needed a license. The officer claimed he couldn’t understand what my Dad was saying, so he called Border Patrol. Border Patrol detained my Dad that afternoon at a county jail in Truth or Consequences. They released him several hours later because he had not done anything wrong. Despite that harrasement, my dad told me to stay strong and that the outdoors were a place for everyone. We got our fishing licenses that afternoon and went back to the river. Since then, I’ve tried to spread the same message … the outdoors are for everyone.

How did this connection to the outdoors connect you more with Nature?

Fishing with my Dad and brother. I grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, an industrialized border city. There weren’t many places to play outdoors and we lived in the inner city, so we were mostly surrounded by concrete. So when my Dad took me and my brother fishing as young kids, it meant a lot. My whole world changed. He took us to southern New Mexico, to a place called Caballo Lake, about two hours north of Juarez. We camped by the Rio Grande, fished for catfish and went to sleep counting the stars. I had never seen the stars that bright in my life.

What is it about the outdoors that make it special for you?

It’s a place of healing, a place of reflection, and also the world’s biggest classroom. The outdoors teaches us that we can’t just take, we have to give, it teaches us about balance and equality. We’re all the same on the trail–nature doesn’t judge–it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what color you are, gender or sexuality, we are all having the same experience outdoors.

How do you celebrate the connection between a Latinx identity and the outdoors and how do you see yourself “counting” afuera?

I helped start a youth outdoor recreation and education program in my community to help Latinx youth and people better understand their history on this land, in southern New Mexico. we celebrate our history here, not just as Latino’s but as Mestizos, as people with mixed indigenous blood, roots and beliefs. We count here because we’ve been on this land for thousands of years, we’re not outsiders here.

How do you see it in others and in the community around you?

In the world of outdoor recreation and environmental advocacy, there is a pretty homogeneous community that dominates both spaces. Much of that has to do with wealth, the people most prone to go outdoors or become advocates for their environment are people who have had the time to have the opportunities to experience recreation outdoors. We’re changing that one person at a time every time we get a new young person of color on the trail, we create more balance in those spaces.

Why does what you do matter to you?

Because it helps me find meaning in life and it connects me spiritually to the creation and his creation. Working and volunteering as an outdoor advocate is what makes me happy, and my parents always said to do what makes me happy. They were right … nothing compares!

Describe your perfect day?

A perfect day outside is sitting in silence at the top of a mountain in Mesilla Valley, watching and listening to the wildlife and seeing the clouds roll in. I think about how many other generations before us have sat on the same spot and observed the same beauty?
What has been your favorite hike?
My favorite hike to date was hiking Tonuco Mountains with my girlfriend. Tonuco Mountains is a sacred site dotted with petroglyphs and full of rich, rare earth minerals. We hiked for about nine miles that day in the middle of the fall, bushwhacking through mesquite, devils thorn and cacti to get to the very top, where an old mine shaft exists. After the sixth mile we looked at each other and wanted to turn back every 10 minutes or so, but we kept going, because getting to the top was just as important for both of us. the views of the Organ Mountains at the very top paid off. We will both never forget that hike.
Do you have any traditions outside?
I try and follow in the footsteps of those who came before us, not just indigenous communities and people, but my own father, grandfather, and ancestors. I remember them when I hike, hunt, and fish. It makes the experience sacred for me. Of course, after every hike a need a cold beer to reflect on the outing!
A huge thank you to Gabe for allowing us to share more about what a genuine and legit soul he is. Gabe is that guy you just want to know more about. His kind heart is evident from the moment you meet him. May your journeys be many my friend and keep being an inspiration to many. How lucky is New mexico and Latino Outdoors : ).
For more info about Las Cruces, New Mexico and what is happening afuera check out … Nuestra Tierra.
Josie Gutierrez ~ Southwest Ambassador

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.