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. 


Self-Preservation in the Outdoors

By Alejandro Granados

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Working in Yosemite National Park is amazing. I get to live in one of the most beautiful natural spaces in the world and I doubt I’ll ever have a drive to work as colorful and grand as the one I have now. I also find myself surrounded by people who don’t understand where I come from and I don’t understand where they come from. Growing up, my parents couldn’t afford to take us up to Yosemite National Park and I think my parents actively tried to avoid living in conditions like the ones they grew up in rural Mexico. When I started working in a National Park, I had to integrate myself into white culture and outdoor culture, which in some way are one in the same. However, like oil and water, I feel a disconnect between my culture and this culture. I feel like it took me in and puked me out like a sunburned American tourist eating greasy Mexican street food. This is a short, brief list of three things I do to cope with cultural isolation in no particular order of importance:

1.) I don’t ever listen to Podcasts because I can’t focus long enough on purely auditory stimuli for more than a song’s length. I’d rather listen to “Lemonade” on my drive to work than the steady drone of the nasal radio voice explaining the process of something I care nothing about. Then, I found Latino USA. It’s usually my ritual to listen to Latino USA on my 1.5 hour drive down to the Central Valley to visit my family. I managed to catch the tail end of a program where they were reading off the credits to the Latino USA staff on a car ride to work one morning. Maria Hinojosa’s voice, anchor and executive producer of Latino USA, evokes the nurturing, powerful warmth of strong Latinas who’ve shaped me into who I am. I get to indirectly participate in conversations surrounding issues that affect my community like immigration reform, farm worker’s rights, and education equity by perching myself as a wallflower in these conversations. I feel starved of these issues because living and working around pristine wilderness tends to make it feel like I’m living in a magical bubble where nothing bad ever happens and racism, classism, and all the other isms and would affect me on a much higher level …

2.) I started learning to cook the food my mother made for me growing up, and makes for me when I go visit. At first, I felt self-conscious in this community where the norm is to eat dishes that include kale, squash, and other vegetables I’ve never heard of while the foods I eat are kind of frowned upon. Tacos are too greasy and horchata is too sugary in this hyper-healthy community. Healthy food is a commodity, and growing up we ate not-so-healthy food because we couldn’t afford to eat healthier. This is the reality in which I grew up, and one I have to constantly defend whenever I eat in the presence of someone eating a salad. I make myself carne asada tacos with cilantro, onions, and tomatillo sauce. I serve myself a tall, cold glass of horchata to perfectly compliment the savory of the tacos. I eat them myself and feel satisfied as I binge-watch as many episodes of El Chavo del Ocho. At night, especially in the wintertime, I would make myself a warm cup of atolé and read a good book or watch an episode of whatever television show I’m binging on at the moment.

3.) I speak up whenever I feel like my personal identity is being put on the line. As a sexually fluid Latino, I’ve been quiet all my life instances of overt racism or subtle microagressions because I didn’t want my queerness or my brownness to be thrust out into the openness. I saw my voice as a loud siren that would flag me down as an “other”.  Every time I held it in, every time I let those instances of racism pass, I felt like I was swallowing a toxic bollus that would tear apart my stomach and intestines. I swallowed and swallowed until the taste became comforting and I became desensitized to how harmful it was to me. Living and working in the outdoors has marked a turning point for me where I decided to spit up the toxic racism I was expected to swallow at the expense of a white person’s comfortability. Whenever someone called me by the name of the only other Latino male employee on campus, I would proudly and firmly correct them rather than smile and nod to avoid confrontation. I realized that softening the blow of their racism wasn’t my responsibility. I realized that when hiking in the wilderness not being acknowledged by hikers while my white peers got a smile and a nod was a situation in which I needed to vent rather than give them the benefit of the doubt of, “maybe they just didn’t see me.” I valued my body and mind too much to keep all of that in me, boiling building up pressure.

I am still on a journey of self-care and as a person of color in the outdoor sphere. I’m learning the things that will help me become successful in navigating this culture and integrate my own culture into it. If this self-reflection piece helps somebody else going through a similar struggle then I feel like my objective for writing this has been successful.

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Alejandro Granados is a Central Valley native. Lover of literature, language, and changing the face of the outdoors.


My Park is Yosemite

#MyParkIsYosemite

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My first time hiking Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park is certainly a special place, both in its physical beauty and grandeur but as well as in the imagination and mind of what we envision as majestic national parks. It is embedded in the mythology of the National Park Service with a rich history that includes the Buffalo soldiers, John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, and of course its role in being a precursor to the National Park Service by being protected by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 before the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.  Yosemite is also special in that it is a world-class destination so close to so many communities in the Central Valley of California and yet not many in those communities may always easily access it.

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CA Mini-Corps Outdoor Education Program Instructors training in Yosemite to provide outdoor education to Migrant students throughout CA.

Growing up in the Central Valley I would often hear about Yosemite, but it would be years before I would really get to discover its beauty. I recall as a college student finally entering the Yosemite Valley on a morning with light fog and emergent sunlight. It was magical. I would return to explore Tuolumne Meadows and Lambert Dome. Later, with a group of friends we scaled Half Dome, and returned several times to repeat that experience. Whether it was walking Mariposa Grove with park rangers as we trained Latino college students to be outdoor instructors for migrant students, or simply hiking the Panoramic trail with friends, Yosemite kept providing a diversity of experiences. It is that diversity that presents an opportunity—to welcome a diversity of the American public, from near and afar, to enjoy a diversity of experiences within the park.

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It is important to me, as a Latinx immigrant, a US Citizen, an English-Language Learner, and the first in my family to go to college, to be a role model of how our parks are for all—and the work we need to continue to advance in true inclusivity. I strive to exemplify how my cultura is important to me in these spaces, and how we create more inclusive environments to welcome all regardless of background. Yosemite welcomed me in its grandeur, and as a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador, I want to extend that invitation to others. We much to do but we also have much to celebrate, and regardless we start somewhere. Since that first time I wandered into Yosemite Valley, I have visited many other national parks and public lands and yet in many ways My Park Is Yosemite. It does not have to be yours or it can be, so long as you can see and feel yourself reflected in such a place.

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En este año que celebramos el centenario de nuestros parques nacionales,  vengan, encuentren su parque, están bienvenidos, es mi placer ser su embajador y guía.

This post is part of the #MyParkIsYosemite campaign. If your park is also Yosemite, join us! If you want to express your love for other parks or other public lands share that too! #Next100 #PublicLandsForAll #EncuentraTuParque

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José González is the Founder of Latino Outdoors. He is a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador and represents Latino Outdoors in several coalitions including the Latino Conservation Alliance and the Next 100 Coalition. He also serves on a National Park Service advisory committee and has been recognized with several honors, including the National Wildlife Federation, Grist Magazine, and The Murie Center.

To learn more about the Next 100 Coalition, check out this site and sign the petition.