#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.

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Photo credit: Graciela Cabello.

 

Jose Gonzalez is the Founder of Latino Outdoors. 


My Culture’s Influence in my Environmental Journey

By Gabriela Worrel

 

Ever since I was a child, I loved the outdoors and cared deeply about nature. Growing up in a

multi-cultural family with an anglo father and Latina mother (from Russian and Mexican

descent), identity has always been challenging to define. However, one thing I know for sure is

that Latino culture has been a big influence on my life. As a child, I enjoyed visiting Mexico with

my parents and particularly my mother, who ran a business with my grandparents in Baja

California – in the town where she grew up. Life was much different in Ensenada – a seaside

town across the border from San Diego. As a young child, I was fascinated with the goats and

chickens my grandmother kept for their milk and eggs, the stripped down style of architecture

and furnishings, and the way my grandmother did many things by hand (things that were often

done with machines or in factories in the US).

 

Later, I was trained as a biologist and urban planner. Now, I work as an outreach coordinator for

an environmental nonprofit organization in Orange County, California. In my position, I help

engage others in implementing a wildlife corridor – a strip of habitat that connects two major

ecosystems in the region, and which will allow animals to move back and forth between

habitats. Corridors are essential for ecosystem health and more are needed in southern

California.

 

When I became connected to Latino Outdoors, I began thinking about the question: What

influence did my Latina family have on my love of nature, and my choice in vocation? Here are

three major ways my particular experiences growing up Latina contributed to my love of the

outdoors, nature, and conservation.

 

Cultivating ‘Enough’

Spending time with my family in Mexico on an almost weekly-bases, I noticed two major

differences from the lifestyle I experienced in the States. First, the physical surroundings were

much more simple and less luxurious. More importantly, life was still good. This had nothing to

do with being poor. Simply put, there was little emphasis on consuming, having luxury items,

and buying ‘stuff’. Money was thought of as something to save and used to fulfill fundamental

needs like education, housing, health care, and was shared with others in need. Secondly, most

people I encountered were careful in everyday life not to waste resources. For example, my

grandparents had a water heater that was turned down very low (or off) most of the time until

someone needed to bathe, at which time the temperature of the water would be temporarily

turned up. As a child, I took for granted the ethic of simple living and frugality, but as an adult I

see how this ethic is vital to living in such a way to minimize our impact on nature.

 

Connection to Natural Processes

Exposure to agriculture, livestock and doing things by hand was important for helping me

understand how nature works and where basic things come from. At a young age, I saw in a

practical way the process of nature’s provision of all of our needs. I saw first had how much time

and effort it takes to grow food, care for chickens that produce eggs, and make yogurt from

fresh goat milk. Understanding these processes helped me later connect the dots that

conservation is important, because we are dependent on nature for clean air, water, food, and

beauty.

 

Community Care

A value I have learned from my Latino community is the centrality of relationships and the rich

life that comes from helping each other. In my family, great focus was placed on helping others

we encountered through church, family relationships, and friends. It is not such a stretch to say

that nature has become part of my ‘community’, and the value of our collective wellbeing

extends to caring for our local nature – the forests, waters, and animals with which we share our

lives.

 

Of course, I realize not all Latinos grew up like me; Latinos are diverse and have different

experiences that impact their relationship with nature. My hope is that regardless of our different

values and traditions, we can find common ground in preserving a healthy planet for future

generations.

 

Gabriel Worrel is an outreach coordinator at Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., an organization committed

to preserving open space and establishing the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor in Orange

County, California. www.wildlifecorridor.org


Julian’s Adventure at Kirby Cove

By Juan Telles

LO California, Central Valley Regional Coordinator

 

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“This week, I had the pleasure of taking my five-year-old son camping for the first time. This post is dedicated to him.”

 

Julian (aka Little Tigre) is a wild child; his imagination takes him to places that usually involve anything minecraft, zombies, sharks and dinosaurs. His outdoor experience has been, mainly, in our urban parks, trails, and day-hikes in nature. His favorite activity is collecting rocks and sticks to take home. His passion for sticks and stones consequently lead our family and friends to find little treasures in the nooks of our homes and the compartments of our vehicles. He is curious, energetic, and always ready for adventure. Camping with Little Tigre has been something on my to-do list for quite some time. I was inspired by many things to make this happen for my little tiger. More specifically, camping with Chasqui Mom in early May at The Latino Outdoors Campout Conference, the newfound confidence in my outdoor skills, and a new book I bought at The Children & Nature Network Conference, “Vitamin N” by Richard Louv—motivated me to create this opportunity for Little Tigre. Thus, an inspired dad jumped at the opportunity to camp at Kirby Cove in The Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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We camped with Julian’s Tio Orlando and Tio Clay. These men helped me introduce a new experience to the young nature lover. Upon arrival, we all struggled to set up our tents. The confusion lied in the fact that the tents had been recently purchased, and we had not assembled them prior to our trip.  After an hour, our camp was set, and we explored the site. Venturing around the recreation area gave us three different types of chills: the temperature, wind, and mist gave us the cold chills (This was a world of difference from the Central Valley climate of 100 degree heat.), the beautiful sights gave us the awe-inspired chills, and we all felt the serenity of the space fill our bodies with a relaxation (insert hashtag) chill. I knew Julian was having fun; his main activity consisted of collecting sticks and yelling out, “BANANAS” at random. Now, if you were to ask me, I would not have an answer as to why. However, I could only guess that it meant that he was winning at life. He was bonding with his uncles and father in a very absurdly, amazing way.

 

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We bonded around the camp-fire: lounging, making fire-sticks, and cooking amazing food like the asada pictured.

 

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We bonded as nature explorers: on the trail, on the beach, and admiring the features of our surroundings.

 

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Strengthened the bond between a boy and his elders.

 

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The camp adventure fulfilled something in Lil Tigre. He accomplished feat after feat. He battled the raccoons that threatened to take his food and rip his tent. He found so many sticks and a treasure chest. He slept outside for two nights. When asked about his favorite part, Julian joyfully responds that his favorite activities were, “Eating and making fire.”

 

Our time at Kirby Cove was epic. I can only hope our next adventure is just as amazing.

For more from Juan Telles, visit him at @onetelles  IG – Snapchat – Twitter