“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.


Latino Outdoors Interview: A Conversation with Claudio Rodriguez

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Tell us your story –  What is your connection to the land and conservation?

In a conch shell, I’m from South Side Tucson, Arizona and my journey began when my mom traveled from Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca to Nogales, Sonora where she worked in a maquiladora, she met my father who was an albañil, at the age of two the border crossed me, I learned choppy English in elementary, learned about guns and drugs in middle school, in high school I really learned my colors, I learned a different type of sign language. After being a trouble maker for a good while dodging bullets and ducking the law, I started losing friends. One friend in particular really impacted me, my best friend whom I lost through gang violence. After this I remembered conversations I had with him and he told me I was smart and I should go to school, after all the memories and liquor passed through my mind I decided it was time to enroll in community college, after a year in college a girl invited me to a community garden by the name of Tierra Y Libertad, I would say that I would go and I never showed up and I eventually gave in, so I showed up one Saturday morning in the fall, I walked to the address provided and I had this imagination of vegetables, trees, tomatoes and chickens but when I arrived there wasn’t anything but a dirt backyard, and I asked where the garden was and the response I got was, “we’re going to create it.” Tierra Y Libertad was a grassroots group in the south side of Tucson that talked about healthy food, gardening, and environmental justice. It saved my life and I thought they were crazy when I met them, I eventually became crazy myself. Now I create gardens in homes, schools and community centers. I have found my purpose, something the world needs, something I love, something I’m good at, something I can get paid to do, and something that makes my mother proud. Now I find myself working with kids creating food justice trough their little hands. Because it’s more than growing vegetables, it’s about seeing the magic when their eyes blow up and their smiles glow when they pull up their first carrot or taste their first cherry tomato, it’s about changing the environment that we live in, making our dreams our reality and it’s about creating value to our lives. Through mother earth we learn respect, value and humility. And of course if we ever run into each other I can tell you a gang(← did you catch the pun jaja) of stories that will make you laugh, wonder and maybe cry.

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How is this connection celebrated/expressed and understood/misunderstood in your community and culture—in the broader conservation community?

The green movement has created a belief that people of color do not care for the environment when that’s what our culture is all about! We are reflections of our realities and its time to change our realities, lets make the hood healthy, we express our needs and dreams through hood clean ups, art, fiestas, ceremonies. Sometimes we do have neighbors or friends who say, “Why you got to be such a tree hugger” obviously I’m quoting a nice version of this. Eventually what we do rubs off on people because conservation work or sustainability work doesn’t have to be super literal or linear. In society we are told to be a cholo is a bad thing but when we look at history and our language cholo is an “aztequismo” derived from the nahuatl work xolotl wich is the dog that guides us to next world in our passing. In my journey as an eco-cholo I have heard stories of nanas referring to the homeboys who would protect the barrio from anyone wanting to do harm us. So a cholo is a protector, I am proud to be a cholo, to bring back ways to not only protect the neighborhood from drive-bys but also drive-thrus. I love talking to youngsters about being green and what it really means to take care of the hood, about what it takes to be an enVATOmentalist. And don’t get me wrong this work is not only pertaining to the barrio but also to our mountains, to our rivers, to our rains. We do everything we can to show anyone willing to learn about our desert medicines, how to conserve the rain, how to ask permission before stepping on a mountain, we need to bring back our connection as indigenous people back into our daily life, because if we don’t we will just end up being conquistadores with no soul, no respect and no understanding of the connection that everything holds.

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Latino/Chicano identities are connected to the outdoors, the environment, and conservation—how are those words reflective of YOU, how is it expressed, what does it look like?

First off I’m Mexicano, a paisa and a cholo, I feel like I could never identify as a latino or hispano because I come from the people of the clouds, I’m a Zapoteca, from my mothers blood, from my mothers food, from my mothers love. When I look at my farthest relatives that I still had a connection with they speak about farming and raising animals and how they would converse with the plant nation, everything was treated with respect.
Our outdoors happens as soon as we look out or step out of the door of our home, what do we see, what do we smell and what do we hear. The outdoors and our environment are our reality, I live in the hood where hipsters in chanclas would get stung by haroin needles, were sex workers run business up and down the street and homefree people harvest tunas from the near by empty lot. But this is my environment and I feel safe in it.
My wife and I just recently came back from our honeymoon trip exploring the outdoors of Arizona in respects to national parks and monuments. I got to see beautiful site from Montezuma’s castle, the Petrified Forest, antelope canyon and many more before reaching the Grand Canyon. Our experience was a little crazy by the end of the trip I was just in awe of how everything was described with Eurocentric lenses, even when there was a chance to show a glimpse of native knowledge it was still white washed. As a brown man who hardly leaves his city (big step because before I wouldn’t even leave my barrio) it was amazing to witness the ignorance many people carried with them, from “ugly looking injuns” to white males being the first to have laid eyes on the magnificent wonders of nature when clearly there has been ceremonies carried out at all these sites for millions of years. (I’m not an archeologist). Other than that I fell in love with the mountains, the rock formations, the water that cut through rocks to make beautiful rivers and streams. Night skies are definitely beautiful when your with the love of your life.

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What needs to change and how do we grow, celebrate, and have the broader conservation movement connect with the role and values Latinos bring to the field?

I think one of the biggest changes that I see Latino Outdoors doing is education and leading by example, that we as a people belong in the outdoors, to return to our mother, to learn from her. One thing that my wife and I noticed on our trip was that there were not many people of color working in national parks and that’s a change that I would love to see! Personally I would like to have a guideline on how to be in the outdoors like what to take and what to be aware of. I think we feel like we need hiking boots or fancy backpacks to be out here but we are hiking in chucks and dickies and we need to know that that’s ok too. It also cost money to enter some of the parks and I understand the need for that money but when a family is dealing with a low income the outdoors seem quite out of reach and we have to work harder to bring it within reach. Also as local Latino/Chicano/indigenous organizations wherever you are, you need to get in contact with outdoor organizations, the conservation groups, the people who are making decisions because we need to be at that table if not we are going to be on their menu, but never forget that you have to build your own table too because if not you’ll just be picking up their plates. Always make it fun, at least that what we strive for, make people feel welcomed and appreciated but y’all do this already.
Why does this issue and work matter to you?

It matters to me because I need my kids to be able to hike, run and swim in the forest, in the valleys and in the canyons. I need my kids to go with their mother to harvest herbs, go hunting and fishing with their uncles. There are things that can be measured that don’t matter and things that matter that can’t be measured. Our environment is immeasurable, pictures cannot do justice to the real beauty and magical feeling one gets from being in the middle of nature. We are surrounded by concrete too much that we forget the health benefits of going on hikes, eating wild foods, breathing fresh air. I mean don’t get me wrong I love the roar of a work truck but that noise will never compare to the roar of a mountain lion or a coyotes howl.

What does success in all this (a Chicano/Latino conservation identity, community connection, land conservation with Latino support, diversification of conservation movement, etc.) look like to you?

Success in my eyes is happiness. If we can make families or individuals happy and knowledgeable of their own backyards then I think we may be doing something right. In the work that I do in regards to urban food production I see success when a gardener does not need me any more, when they can handle it, when they know what they are doing and are growing better peppers than me. It’s about making others better, letting it all spiral into something bigger. I mean at first I was like what is Latinos Outdoors? Then I understood when I played with my own identity and messed around with Cholos Outdoors, making myself comfortable with who I was in the environment that I placed myself in. Some of the conservation work that I have partaken in has also included building with adobe, a dying art, now we are working to conserving homes in the barrio through a Mexicano lens. I wasn’t even planning on doing this but my wife pulled me in and I’m all for it.

How has work with (your organization/current project) connected to/is reflective of all this?

My work is building strong, safe and sustainable communities through urban food production. We are outside working in the dirt, creating mini eco systems in our backyard, restoring alleys and neighborhoods that the city has forgotten. Teaching youth skills that can help them start something in their home to ease the stresses of eating healthy and living healthy. We work towards changing the hood environment; a design that was meant to kill our people should motivate us to find the means to live a healthier, happier life. We are surrounded by liquor stores, fast food, and police militarization how can we not care, its our duty to act for the our generation, our generation before us and the ones that will come after us.

I want to thank Latino Outdoors and Jose Gonzales for the opportunity.

Gracias!!


Latino Outdoors Interview: A Conversation with Tarah Hines

We always love profiling our leaders in the movement and in the field. Here is another interview in our series to showcase the individuals that embody the Latino Outdoors story, ambicultural leadership in action. Here is Tarah Hines, proud Afro-Latinx changing the world by her permaculture teaching, activism, and grassroots organizations in Florida.  

 

Tell us your story, what is your connection to the land and conservation?

Land to me is deeply rooted in happiness. Growing up in upstate New York, I was outside every chance I got. Running around during recess, making forts with sticks, walking through forests, playing in creeks, the list goes on. One of my most vivid childhood memories is planting flowers with my mother in front of our house. I link nature with how happy and free I felt and I was conscious of it even back then. It only makes sense then that conservation comes naturally to me to preserve the places where I still feel so much love and find so much peace.

 

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Ziplining in Herb Hillz located in Daegu, South Korea.

How is this connection celebrated/expressed and understood/misunderstood in your community and culture—in the broader conservation community?

Seeing the pride my mother takes in her yard and eating from my grandmother’s, I think this connection is expressed through family ties and ancestral knowledge. Working together to grow or harvest something as a family, or even just enjoying the outdoors together at a park or beach is something I see still intact. I think in the broader community however, I’ve talked to many people who connect caring about land and conservation to being white. The great thing is though, I’ve talked to even more people who don’t. That narrative of “it being a white thing” is played out. We have been a part of land conservation and environmental movements for a very long time and I think the broader community is remembering that as are we. It’s a part of the history that many of us are re-learning.

Afro-Latino(a/x) identities are connected to the outdoors, the environment, and conservation—how are those words reflective of YOU, how is it expressed, what does it look like?

One of the ways I describe myself is an Earth Soul, meaning I am conscious of the connection I have with the environment and the outdoors. I don’t think I reflect any of those words but more so embody them by just being who I am. The way I live my life, how I decide to dress, the things I choose to support with my money and time, the organizations I associate with. All of the above contribute to my personal relationship with the environment and conservation. It’s become so much a part of me now that people I don’t even know know where I stand.  But that’s not to say that I am perfect or have done everything I need to do. I’m always a work in progress.

What needs to change and how do we grow, celebrate, and have the broader conservation movement connect with the role and values Latinos(as/x) bring to the field?

Visibility is a huge part of how we grow and celebrate Latinxs roles in the field. Sharing our personal stories through organizations like Latino Outdoors or the Black Permaculture Network help to show that we are actively taking part in creating change in our communities and beyond and shedding light on what is being done. We need to work harder though to fill the gaps within our communities as well, especially surrounding those of us who are of African descent and recognizing that intersectionality of being Latinx.

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Visiting the Ybor City Garden!

Why does this issue and work matter to you?

I have already seen what happens when I become disconnect myself from the natural world. Even as a young person my physical, mental, and spiritual health suffer when I remove myself from the outdoors and conservation. This work matters to me because it is so critical to my well-being and to everyone else’s. As I said before, what happens to the Earth, good and bad, affects us. What I do as an individual and what we do collectively right now will determine not only how the rest of my life will go but my nephew’s and niece’s lives and their children’s lives. If I can make their lives better by speaking up a little more and making a few little changes why wouldn’t I? Not to mention people of color are disproportionately affected by climate change in the first place.

What does success in all this (an Afro-Latinx conservation identity, community connection, land conservation with Latino(a/x) support, diversification of conservation movement, etc.) look like to you?

First it looks like unity among all Latinxs and active partnerships with other like-minded groups. It looks like infrastructures and curricula in place created by us, or at least in heavy partnership with us, that make land conservation and outdoor activities available to and enjoyable everyone.

How has work with (your organization/current project) connected to/is reflective of all this?

I am a huge advocate for Self-care and Self-love. I strive to embody that. I believe that if we love our Selves, how can we not love the Earth? If we care for our Selves, how can we not care for the Earth? What happens to the natural world greatly affects us. In order to take care of me, I need to be in the best environment possible. The air I breathe, the food I put into my body, the water I drink. How can we preach care of Self and then leave trash on the side of the road or let the ocean sweep up our plastic bottles? Through my current project Barrels Away! in Old Seminole Heights in Tampa, Florida, my work with the Black Permaculture Network, and by building my own brand, Earth & Alkemy, I encourage people to ask themselves these same questions. It is my hope that the simple answer they will come eventually come to is, we can’t.

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One of my all time favorite sayings is by Anais Nin “Ordinary life does not interest me” Image taken by my friend, Christy Marie Photography.