“Yo Cuento Outside”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 2

Originally Posted on: http://www.fitfunand.com/latino-outdoors/yo-cuento-outsidethe-stories-of-latino-outdoors-2/

Author: Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

Aribba en el Cielo. Abajo en la Tierra. Afuero con Latino Outdoors.

 

I promised you more stories from the amazing Latino Outdoors leaders, coordinators and volunteers. This organization has provided us the space to grow and nurture nature in our own unique and individual ways. Nature knows no boundaries and how beautiful is that? Here we all are, hikers, bikers, mountain climbers, bird watchers, backpackers, environmentalist and the list goes on but our passion is the same … Tierra Madre! We have individually been called to nature in our own way and up next is the story of Ruby J. Garcia~Executive Projects Coordinator.

Ruby J. Garcia~Executive Projects Coordinator

 

What are some of the earliest memories you have with a connection to Nature?

I remember sitting in my grandma’s little mint garden as a small child. I’d help her transform rocks into ladybugs with a little bit of paint. One of my favorite past times as a child was examining California burclover fruit; I’d unravel it and eat the tiny seeds inside. This activity was very soothing for me, and I can confidently say that it is the foundation to my connection with nature.

I also remember standing beneath towering nopales and being so awe inspired. I grew up in the country, next door to a ditch – yes, I played in it during summer months. There was a pond at the end of this ditch, with a tire swing hanging from a tree. The ditch itself was lined with eucalyptus trees and a few weeping willows. And there was a bridge, where I’d sit and watch the tadpoles before jumping in to catch them. I remember catching ladybugs in the adjacent open field. This was my refuge, and I revisit it from time to time.

At 30, I am still soothed by the tiniest details of my interactions with nature. In these moments, I am fully immersed in nature and the burden of being human leaves me; suddenly, I experience life as one with my environment.

Tell me more about who Ruby is and how you connect to doing what you do now in the outdoor space?

[Big sigh] I was at Fresno Community College, switching majors every semester, when I finally decided to visit the Fresno State website to browse their programs and find a career path that would maintain my interest. Scrolling, scrolling through the programs. Then I saw “Recreation Administration” and was struck with curiosity. As I scanned this major I was hooked by, ”Adventure” “Serve at-risk youth” and “Leadership.” I wasn’t much of an outdoor enthusiast at the time, but intuition told me that this was the path I needed to take. At this time, my connection to nature was fairly faint. My connection to the outdoors was simple: I liked to be outside, in the sun, surrounded by plants.  

A few years later, I ventured to Yosemite in a time of tremendous hardship and eventually fell in love with hiking. I say “eventually” because my first two or three visits to this park consisted of driving around the park, awestruck.  You see, I didn’t know what to do. I just knew that I wanted to be in that space. So, I sort of just drove around aimlessly; awestruck and taking it all in. Eventually, I brought a backpack with some food and water (my “day pack” – I know that now) and took my very first day hike to Nevada Falls. It was emotionally painful and awkward, because nobody on the trail looked like me; that’s super uncomfortable. And I was alone on this journey. Everywhere I looked I saw groups of happy White people with gear. I honestly felt like I didn’t belong there, and I felt like I wasn’t free to feel connected to that space. But at the same time, I was in awe of my hike. And it became clear that the only time I ever felt I had potential as a person was when I found myself on an outdoor adventure. And I remember thinking, “Why not?”

It would be a few years before I took my first Recreation Administration course, but, when I did, all of these connections came flooding in. I began to realize that outdoor recreation was my passion because I saw its potential as a tool for empowerment. I uprooted myself and my children from Fresno so that I could attend Humboldt State University; eighth hours away from home. Outdoor recreation became my go-to tool as I established myself as an independent, empowered single mother – a life changing endeavor. You see, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of outdoor recreation whilst learning the theory and practice behind such efforts. I have gained the confidence, empowerment, and resilience that comes with relentlessly pushing one’s boundaries. I have simultaneously witnessed, experienced, studied, and managed the power of recreation, emerging with an unbreakable faith that recreation is the antitheses to oppression. I advocate for this field with all of my heart, because it has allowed me to break cycles of poverty and oppression.

What is the connection that makes the outdoors so special to you?

Connecting with nature alleviates the negative parts of my human experience. It allows me to reconnect with myself and the world around me. I see my potential more clearly when I find myself in open spaces. I also use nature as a tool to accomplish my motherhood endeavors, teaching my children about the value of wonder, perseverance, environmental stewardship, and so forth. Outdoor spaces alleviate stress, encourage introspection, and promote well-being. We were meant to be outside.

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

I highlight my connection between a Latinx identity and the outdoors with an unruly and celebratory rebelliousness, because this is my chosen avenue to empowerment, and I had to fight for it. I fought against the uncomfortableness of feeling unwelcomed in the outdoors. I stood against all odds and refused to fold in my pursuit of higher education. My experience has been that I make myself count in this field, as an outdoor enthusiast and recreation professional. And now that I’ve accomplished that, I seek to do the same for others as an extension of my own healing and empowerment.

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

There is a sense of comradery within the campus community here at Humboldt State. I see Latinx students making that journey to the outdoors together, venturing into an extremely culturally significant space which we’ve tradionally been excluded from as an act of resistance, self-discovery, and healing. It’s the adventure of a lifetime!

Why does what you do matter to you?

I wouldn’t be the empowered woman I am today without my unbreakable connection to nature. I couldn’t love myself, my children, or my community the way I do without having climbed this mountain. I believe in humankind’s capacity for growth, because I did it. Through my work I seek to create this opportunity for others.

It’s important that we use the outdoors to foster a connection between people and the environment. Yes, I want to promote environmental stewardship. Yes, conservation is of the utmost importance. I have heard a lot about providing outdoor recreation opportunities to underserved communities as a way of incorporating them into the mainstream conservation movement.

I’ve heard that people do not protect what they do not love. And I’ve heard the conservation movement needs all the help it can get. But my approach is this: Create outdoor recreation opportunities to uplift people first, and watch environmental stewardship come naturally. I don’t understand how we can expect populations that have been tradionally marginalized and excluded from the outdoors to even entertain ideas surrounding protecting our public lands, until they become empowered and make the journey to our public lands.

What three words best describe you?

Introspective: I learned how to love myself by spending lots of time exploring my mental and spiritual temples. This was my first step towards my journey to empowerment.

Open: Openness has helped me embrace vulnerability, practice honesty, and create pathways to understanding myself and the world around me. I am open and honest with myself and others on so many levels, and it has been so exhilarating to see the opportunities for growth this brings.

Resilient: My ability to thrive in unbelievably unfavorable conditions is something I have worked really hard for and am very proud of. At times I am in disbelief of my growth; it astounds me. The result is a profound belief in humankind’s capacity for growth.

The river or the beach?

Hands down the beach! The California Coastal National Monument is among my favorite places in California. I love to agate hunt, go tidepooling and watch the water in all its magnificence. Sometimes I visit Luffenholtz County Beach Parkjust to get quick kisses from my favorite place in Humboldt.

If you had one day to go outside where would you go and why?

The answer to this question is almost always the same. I would got to Humboldt Lagoons State Park to agate hunt by myself. I am a firm believer in self-care and spending time alone. Agate hunting couples nicely with this, because it is a passive activity which alleviates stress and promotes a sense of well-being.

The Family that Ruby built : )

 

Thank you Ruby for sharing your story. A Latina Outdoors powerhouse and inspiration. The passion you have for the outdoors is now something your children will always associate with you. Couldn’t imagine better memories! Your on the right path Mamacita!

Stay tuned for more stories of Latino Outdoors “Yo Cuento Afuera”.

Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez


“Yo Cuento Outdoors~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors”

Originally Posted on http://www.fitfunand.com/

Author: Josie Gutierrez

What is Latino Outdoors?

I asked myself that very question a few years back. Fast-forward to now and I can tell you exactly what Latino Outdoors is and who the community of amazing leaders that help support this beautiful organization are.

José G. González is an educator, environmentalist, artist and the founder of Latino Outdoors.

 

This organization helps connect Cultura with the outdoors with a growing and inclusive vision for the future in conservation, the environment and often just plain recreation in open spaces.

Latino Outdoors is a Latino-led and volunteer-powered organization which has inspired many to celebrate their culture with the outdoors. Even though we have a focused celebration of the Latinx identity, everyone is welcome regardless of race, language, socio-economic background, and ethnicity! The support of these unique, amazing individuals who are our volunteer leaders and the passion they have for Tierra Madre (Mother Earth) is what I would like to share with you. Their voice, their story and what the outdoors means to them. I myself have been a volunteer for over two years and I can honestly tell you it has been nothing short of amazing.

It is an honor to be a part of sharing what makes us unique in our passion for what we do. During the month of Hispanic Heritage Month I will be highlighting the stories of us. Who is Latino Outdoors … keep reading!!!

 

Yo Cuento Outside” Q & A with Carlos Jorge Miranda~Website Coordinator for LO

 

1.What are the earliest memories of you in the outdoors with a connection to Nature?

My earliest memories of being connected outdoors would be driving to Muir Woods in California and going to the beach most summers. Going to camp Mather outside of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park is another treasured memory. This was a week long camp for families a few miles from the park entrance. During these trips I would spend lots of time with my uncles learning how to hike properly and fish very early in the morning on the Tuolumne River and American River in California.

Yosemite National Park (2005)

2.What is your story in relation to what you do now in the outdoor space?

I mentioned earlier I spent lots of time outdoors as a kid but as a young adult I would lose sight of that passion. In 2007 I went through a traumatic spinal injury that happened on the job, this would make it even more difficult to go outdoors and travel as a whole and as I was going through rehab I learned to modify any outdoor activities to accomodate my disability. I’ve been able yo camp again, hike and do light backpacking despite my injuries. This is one of the reasons I work with disabled students and show them the power of “Modified Dis-Ability”. I am a father of a 5 year old and I see now that education, outdoor conservation and diversity in education but also in our wild and public spaces is crucial to our and generations to come.

3.What makes the outdoors special to you?

It makes it a special place because it brings my thoughts to a neutral place, I am able to slow down and enjoy being on the moment. One of the disadvantages of living in San Francisco is the hustle and bustle, one of the advantages is trails are within miles.

4.How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the Outdoors and how do you “count” yourself afuera?

As a current student at The University of San Francisco in the Latino/o/X American Studies department, culture, history and legacy is at the forefront of what drives me as a student, father, spouse and educator. I feel I am able to share outdoor spaces with those that may have not been exposed to it but also don’t have the means of transportation.

Counting as an “Identified” person of Color, also as a larger than average tattooed guy from San Francisco’s Mission district I have come accustomed to the stares and have used that as an ice breaker to educate people on diversity and outdoor equity for those underrepresented in these spaces.

 

Armstrong Redwoods 2015

5.How do you see this in others and the communities around you?

One of the things I do see in others in the LatinX community I live in is lack of resources, education and specialist who are of the same ethnic background to bring fourth the opportunity to experience even local outdoor spaces. This is the main reason I was excited to volunteer with Latino Outdoors and continue to work with them and I am now going on two years with them. I see the power in planting the seeds on the molecular level with those that know how to fertilize the soil in their own communities and that is what has made Latino Outdoors successful. They are also a wonderful team of volunteers and leadership roles.

6.Tell me why it is important to you to do what you do?

It matters because as a student, I love to educate and see that spark ignite in people of all ages. I love the memories that also come from hikes and walks from our elders who remind me that we come from the Tierra.

La Familia Miranda~Carlos Jorge, wife Veronica and son Mayuteo.

Muchas Gracias to Carlos for sharing what makes him and what he does special to his own family and Latino Outdoors. I am so honored to call him my friend and he really is a special soul and stories like his are what we will be sharing with you during Hispanic Heritage Month. Let your story be told and may you be inspired by some of our Outdoor Familia and stay tuned for another story!
Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

As a Force of Nature, who Inspired You?

By: Laura Torres, Social Media Contributor, Los Angeles California
E-mail: laura@latinooutdoors.org

When I think of who I am today, I am thankful for all the amazing people whom I have met and connected with throughout my life. I consider myself a resilient person and I learned primarily from the strong, loving, self-reliant women in my life. First and foremost my inspiration comes from my mother. She has overcame many obstacles in life, as an orphan, an immigrant and a single parent. My mother taught me by example to forge my own path, to be self-sufficient and to move forward even when I am filled with fear. My mother did not encourage me to be outdoorsy or even involved in sports. Growing up I knew my mother’s lack of interest in having me in sports was connected to a lack of resources. My own development into a force of nature stems both out of my mother’s guidance and a need to rebel and push back; a need to set my own path.

My mama on the right and her sister on the left, walking in their hometown in Oaxaca, México.

 

 

During high school, I joined the cross country team. This experience left a deep impact in my life, it taught me to focus and tune out troubles in my life, to push myself and reignited my connection with the nature. Through cross country met my high school best friend Yessica. Yessica made me feel completely comfortable in asking questions as a new person on the team, so I stuck around. Yessica shared her own insecurities, which helped me feel like I was not alone. When I felt like giving up on those 12 mile runs I remember her saying,   “You are an athlete, you need to convince yourself you can finish.” As I got better. I found it gratifying to feel the power of my own body. I went from having negative thoughts like “Am I fat?” to having positive thoughts like “I will practice until I can run up that hill” or “I will improve my mile time” etc.  Yessica was an inspiring Force of Nature because she was by my side both on the course and as I navigated planning my next step in life. Cross country was also a great opportunity to bond with other women. I loved the focus on teamwork and celebrating each other’s victories. While my mom wasn’t the biggest fan of having me arrive home late from practice and spending Saturdays in the forest,  My mother  knew running gave much more than an extracurricular for my college application.

Roosevelt High school Cross Country Team. 2002

 

Laura Torres  & Yessica senior year of high school.

As an adult challenging times have lead to growth. When I was in graduate school, I worked during the day and took classes in the evening/night. There was very little time for anything else outside of pursuing my degree. To save money I began to ride my bike home after class. To be honest, this was a bit scary at first. I was a young woman alone and at the time there were no bike lanes on my route. I had seen my mother do things that terrified her because she had a vision of a better life for me. It was my turn, I had to finish up my degree and continue moving towards not only being  self-reliant but also a support system for her. Over time these night rides became my favorite time of day. My fears diminished and I fell in love with night rides. My rides became longer and a time to bond with friends.  Social rides became a test to my will power, self-love and an opportunity to challenge outdated ideas of what others expected of me because I was a woman.  My mother made it clear she hated my night bike rides.  As a young woman she felt it was inappropriate for me to ride around the street of LA late into the night with a bunch of men. At this point in life my mother and I had many disagreements on the path I was forging for myself. I had learned my mother’s lessons on standing her ground so I choose to move out for the sake of our relationship.

Picture: ( top left) Laura riding along the 4th street bridge in Boyle Heights. 2010 (top right)  A “Spoke N Words” ride around downtown LA .  2011 (bottom left) Exploring the industrial parts of Boyle Heights with friends. 2010 (bottom right) Taking a moment to watch traffic and time the lights changes, to be able to ride down the hill on Grand past 5th in downtown LA without getting a red light.

 

In 2010, I volunteered at day labor center because they had a bike kitchen and I could get a free bike if I volunteered enough hours. (Did I mention I was hit and my bike did not survive? I was fine just had a small scratch on my arm.) While Volunteering, I met Brenda. It was the first time I got to know another woman who not only rode a bike, but was a bike mechanic. I was in awe of Brenda’s  knowledge of bikes. As we got to know each other, Brenda inspired me in multiple ways.  Brenda  is such a badass woman. Women who inspire me are like my mother self-reliant, and courageous. One reason Brenda is my shero is her participation in a mostly female bike ride from Los Angeles, California  to San Andres Iztapa, Guatemala. Let that sink in over two thousand miles, an international bike ride! They were not held back by not having the right gear or even a crystal clear day-to-day plan. When she arrived to Guatemala she spent some time there to reconnect with her Guatemalan roots. I could go on with reasons why Brenda is a Force of Nature that inspires me.

Picture: (Top) Brenda taking a break with bikepacking gear (bottom left) Brenda engaging with local communities, this time about reproductive rights (bottom left) Brena using her bike as a multitool, including to make smoothies and run some errands.

 

Currently, I am grateful for the opportunity to work in engaging communities to conservation and specifically to advocate for our National Parks. As the Los Angeles Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association, I have a responsibility to connect communities to our public lands. As an advocacy organization, this is done with a mix of outreach, presentations, workshops like our “Civic Voice Lessons”, partnering with other great organizations to have community events, among other wonderful opportunities. The days I come home with the most energy, are days that spent with young people who love nature and are becoming more confident in using their own voice to push for environmental rights, access and adventure. Seeing women in my age range and younger inspires me to dream that we can make our communities and our world better.

Picture: NPCA volunteers Lizbeth, Rebecca & Jenny provide outreach support during the 626 Golden Streets event in March 2017. Laura holding a plush P 22.

 

Of course, the women of Latinos Outdoors inspire me. I have the privilege of  getting to know them little by little and  beyond what you see on social media; they are all amazing. They are resilient, courageous and loving enough to volunteer time to support others in getting outdoors and connecting with nature. To me being a Force of Nature is using one’s personal adventure and accomplishments as a form to inspire and support other women in becoming a Force of Nature for their communities.” As women, we are underrepresented in the outdoors. As a woman of color, my peers are my inspirations, I still do not see many women of color in mainstream outdoors media. My younger nieces and cousins are my motivation. I hope my actions and my guidance will help my nieces  forge their own path with less push back from societal norms, cultural expectations, and even the remaining outdated family ideas of what a “good woman” is. Most of us have struggles, fears, and things beyond our control, yet as we nourish each other’s growth more of us will see ourselves as a Force of Nature.

Picture: Overnight camping trip in Malibu Creek State Park , lead by Los Angeles Coordinator Maricela Rosales.