“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 6

Originally posted at: FitFunAnd.com

Yo Cuento Outdoors” is back!

 

Latino Outdoors is a wonderful Organization that provides many of us Volunteers and Leaders with a platform to amplify the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement. It is a space for the community to be present, share their voices, and showcase how conservation roots have been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations.

My pleasure to highlight Maricela ‘Marci’ Rosales~Outdoor Brands Coordinator for LO.

I had the pleasure of meeting Marci last summer and if I had to sum her up in three words they would be … passionateenergetic and fearless, she is a Force of Nature no doubt!

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

– Edmund Hillary

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

My earliest memory was swinging on a hammock looking up and looking at the two different trees, the sun was peeking through both trees creating shapes and bringing in glimmers of light. I remember the trees swaying and rustling. I would take naps outside because I loved the way the wind and trees made music together. I noticed that the hammock was being held by these two trees and my curiosity convinced me to climb the Palm tree. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I like climbing things.

How do you connect to doing what you do now in the outdoor space?

I have a long story. Haha. I will say that growing up I was disconnected to outdoor spaces. I never thought that my backyard was an outdoor space. Schools didn’t go to State Parks or the Angeles Forests, there were no community gardens, and there was a lot of concrete. Los Angeles at the time lacked safe outdoor spaces. My family worked a lot so we really didn’t recreate. I was also bit sheltered because of my disability. I would sit in my room and look at the national geographic books my dad used to collect. While looking at the amazing images in my mind at a very early age, it was something that I always wanted to do but didn’t know how to get there, where to start looking or what would be “my thing”. In my teens, we moved out of the inner city and in the Latino Suburbs is where I realized there was less trash, more parks, and green lawns.  At my new high school, I took AP Biology and really liked it. I was convinced this was the way in to find my calling. When I got accepted to UC Riverside as an Environmental Science Major. It didn’t take long for me to switch majors I couldn’t pay attention at the time. To many things were happening, my dad’s health was declining, I was commuting from Riverside to LA county regularly to help my dad and to work, and I was in physical pain that kept me from focusing on my studies.

Something happened when I switched my major to Sociology/Law & Society, different sociological phenomenon’s, demographics of communities, disparities and crime opened my mind to the world. It blew me away that so many things were interconnected and not one thing moved on its own when it came to our social world. At the same time, I got the help I needed to improve my well-being and got involved in the outdoors by getting a job at the Challenge course on campus. My dreams started coming together in different ways and I loved where things were going. I got into rock climbing and that in itself became a huge part of where I am today in life. Because of my experiences I have become an advocate and invested volunteer. Giving time to organizations like Latino Outdoors, Access Fund, and Nature For All has opened many opportunities for me and the surrounding communities I work with in Los Angeles. I am but one person but my goal is to share what I have with others so they too can benefit from outdoor spaces, access, and wellness. I want them to be volunteers, to get those jobs in the Outdoor Industry and I want the community where I come from to be champions of the land.

What make the outdoors special to you and do you have a favorite hike?

The outdoors is a special place for me because it’s a place to heal, to explore, to protect. It could be your back yard, your local park, and your rivers and forests. I connect while I’m climbing outside. I don’t have a favorite hike but I do like venturing into the San Gabriel National Monument. I really like the Horse Flats Campground area.

How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the outdoors?

Some of the folks that venture on outings in Los Angeles are doing it for the first time. Making them relatable and inclusive is important. Partnering with other organizations and rangers to translate builds trust. Making the outdoors relatable is important to celebrating diversity. Bringing in culture and storytelling helps celebrate the identify of people participating.

How do you see yourself “counting” in the outdoors and in the community around you?

In the summer, LO Los Angeles had their first campout and it was a lot of fun. We went to Malibu Creek State Park where we played in the water, went to the visitor center, saw some planets with a very big telescope, and we all made dinner together. On the last day, we talked about the importance of protecting places and picked up trash along the way. Families who participated mentioned their desire to get involved in their local communities; having a voice and amplifying the importance of what they felt mattered to them. To me it’s about leading and having others come into your place collectively using each other’s strengths to make things happen for the greater good. Maybe it’s not huge change but impacts come in all shapes and sizes.  As a woman of color with my experiences I feel inspired and responsible to be a part of change. Not a bone in my body is doing this for the wrong reasons.

Why does what you do matter to you?

It matters because I believe all communities benefit from outdoors spaces, from access to recreate, it creates sustainable communities.

Muchas Gracias Maricela for sharing what the outdoors means to you. I love the fact that you are not just hiking to the mountain but climbing it as well. You are truly a Latino Outdoors inspiration and may you continue to pave new paths on your aventuras Amiga : ).

 

Everyone has their own story on what they love most about Nature and what keeps them there. What is it that draws you to the wild open spaces?

Fitfunand  … Latina Outdoors.


Why #OptOutside is so important to Latino Outdoors:

The Thanksgiving Holiday is traditionally a time for family, laughter, fun, food, and friends. Growing up in a Latino family, everytime we got together — for a birthday, quinceañeara, baptism, or even a baby shower, celebrations around a table of food with family and friends with laughter and unity were always a must. So in a way, we had many Thanksgivings.
#OptOutside is special to Latino Outdoors because it allows us to grow our family. And it lets us do it after the celebration in the kitchen, and on the trail. Rather than spend Friday morning in line at a retail store, the #OptOutside campaign has allowed us to grow our network of outdoor enthusiasts. It allows us to grow our families of conservation-minded hikers, bikers, snowshoers, birders, and more. And it lets our local Latino Outdoors leaders do what they do best, lead on the trail. Not to mention, it gives us a good excuse to work off the tamale calories too.
We #OptOutside because its what we love to do. As volunteers for this organization, dedicating to bringing cultura to the outdoors and bringing in more members of our community to enjoy our public spaces, we thrive on showing others our favorite trails, our knowledge of the land, and our connection to the environment.  That’s why we choose to #OptOutside, and why we’ll continue to do it in the years to come. We encourage you to look for a local #OptOutside Latino Outdoors event near you, and encourage you to eat an extra tamale, because you’re probably going to work it off in great company, with new familia, on Friday, Nov. 24. Vamos Afuera!
#REI #OptOutside #sponsored
Gabe Vasquez- NM Coordiantor

“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