“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 4

Originally posted on Fit Fun And

Author: Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

 

The stories continue from our amazing volunteers at LatinoOutdoors.

This week we have Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor in Los Angeles, CA. I met Laura a little over a year ago and her kindness and authenticity is what drew me to her. Here is Laura’s story on her connections to the Outdoors.

Laura Torres~Social Media Contributor Los Angeles, CA

What are your earliest memories with a connection to nature?

My earliest memory of the outdoors is connected to living in Georgia and having fruit trees, growing some veggies, and a pond within walking distance of our home. It was great to have access to fresh fruits, especially when they were used to make dessert! I would also feed fish in the pond throughout the year and go fishing once they were big. My mom cleaned them and cooked them. Food is very important in my family and I think the Latino Culture in general. There were only two other Latino families in our community at that time and that we knew, and sharing food is one way we bonded.

What is your story in the outdoor space?

My story is one of learning to connect with Nature wherever I am. Whether I am in a rural space or a sprawling city. I have spent most of my life in Los Angeles and know firsthand the benefits and needs of regular access to nature. Making time to connect to nature is a priority. I am fortunate to currently work as the Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. This allows me to connect with others in advocating for the protection of Natural Resources, increased access to the outdoors for everyone and increased representation of Latino Heritage in the National Park System. Volunteering with Latino Outdoors allows me to contribute to increased Latino Representation in the Outdoors and support other developing leaders on outings.

Photo credit- Laura Torres

What is it that makes the Outdoors so special to you?

It’s the place in which I feel most free, most at peace and humbled. I have a connection to the outdoors, as my place of grounding, my place of creativity, and my place of building memories with my partner. A place to reconnect with friends and family. Every day I am thinking of the need for supporting others in building their own unique connection to the outdoors.

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

I think about how my ancestors had a daily connection to the outdoors, that is far beyond my current connection. Nature is culturally and historically present in celebrations, survival and spiritual practice. By connecting with the outdoors I am active in strengthening my relationship and understanding of the earth. My Latinx identity goes beyond the snacks or clothes I wear when outdoors. It’s connected to supporting my community to have more access to the outdoors. “It’s connected to pushing my self to be in spaces that have predominantly been occupied by white males”. It is also about taking the time to learn about the native communities in an area I am enjoying and looking at the plants and researching on their multiple functions. I have much more to learn about my indigenous roots, while also learning how to take my nature adventures to the next level. It’s about making time to develop my relationship with the outdoors at my own pace and on my own terms. I started using Instagram to make sure I was being seen and that I could see others like myself in the outdoors. It was a way to connect and support each other. I think it is a great tool to feel empowered and have self-representation. I think it is working because I am starting to see mainstream media pay attention and acknowledge a need to include more diversity communities in our public lands and open spaces. I see myself “counting” as both a privilege and a responsibility. I have the privilege to have access to transportation to the great outdoors, having access to information and a basic understanding on how to prepare for the outdoors including securing permits when needed so that I can enjoy some truly magical places. I also have the responsibility to engage my representatives in issues of access to public lands and long term protection of natural resources.

Photo Credit-Laura Torres

How is this represented in the community around you?

I see that there is a growing interest in open spaces. many are starting their connection with the outdoors as a form of recreation and are willing to learn how they can not only bring others but also protect the local and national outdoor spaces. I am happy to see more meet-ups for hiking and seeing them expand. Among my friends, family and community I see an increase in yearly camping trips. I am also participating in conversations about the importance of more diversity regarding environmental education, health benefits and policy to keep our open spaces protected and accessible.

Why does what you do matter so much to you?

On a selfish note, I go kind of crazy when I don’t have regular access to nature, it’s my healthcare. I want access to nature in a fun and fulfilling way to be a given for my community. If I have children I want them to have beautiful, magical spaces to grow in and to have an opportunity to continue connecting with our heritage. It’s the best way to rest and refuel.

Photo credit-Laura Torres

Favorite hike to date and why?

My favorite hike was in Pinnacles National Park January 2016. It was my first over 3 mile solo hike in a new place. I usually hike with my friends or partner. This day I hiked a little over 6 miles in a trail that looped. This was on a whim while driving up to Pescadero to visit a friend that works on a farm. On the way up I took a detour. I had never visited the park before and only recently realized it existed. I thought this would be a great way to test my map skills and made sure I had my ten essentials and most importantly, checked in with my partner so he was aware of my location and hike. It felt great to know I had the freedom to be spontaneous. I was transitioning from one job to another and this was a great time to reflect and sow intentions for my career. This allowed time for myself and provided much increased confidence.

Favorite park and why?

My favorite place is Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is a magical place! It’s the place where my mother and I hiked together for the first time. It’s a beautiful place and knowing that I am getting a tiny glimpse of the beauty of my Mom’s home state fills me with pride. This deepened my connection with my Mother. When she agreed to go with me I felt she was showing me trust and openness to building a healthier relationship. The park is full of natural elements I love, a majestic view of mountains, water to take a dip in and relax and an interesting mix of plants including agaves and cacti. It is a place that reminds me of my ancestors and their connections to nature. Visiting Hierve el Agua was a long time desire I had. I was undocumented for over twenty years so when I finally gained legal status and went to visit in 2010 it was truly magical. 

I love sharing these stories. Thank you Laura for not only being a beautiful friend but for also believing that you can and doing so as well. You are smart, sweet and inspiring Chica and I can’t wait for your next Texas trip.

Fitfunand … Afuera!


How Cesar Chavez Inspired My Journey to Environmentalism

By Laura Torres

 

As we recognize Cesar Chavez Day today, I find myself reflecting on how Chavez’s life and teachings influenced my own life, and shaped my perspective of what it means to be an environmentalist.

In 1997, I transitioned from elementary to middle school. Beyond the superficial changes, (from collecting Lisa Frank stickers and wearing a lot of pink to wearing only dark colors, crazy hoop earrings and way too much eyeliner, and lipstick too) my mind was also transforming.

My English teacher Mr. Duenas, thankfully, recognized that many of my classmates were experiencing similar evolutions.  He was patient and understanding with his squirrely class, and treated us with respect. He became our advocate when he made it his mission to teach us about our Mexican-American history. I was immediately drawn to Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the many leaders associated with the farmworkers’ struggles. I also gained a new appreciation and understanding for what it meant to be a leader

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Learning about Cesar Chavez, I gained an understanding of what it looks like when communities like mine take a stand for their own health and wellness. The 1990’s was a difficult time for my community of Boyle Heights and I was familiar with struggle. As I learned about the violence Cesar Chavez and other farmers faced, I felt angry. However, I became inspired when I learned about his organizing. Upon understanding the story of the grape strike, I felt hopeful to know that people can make an impact and demand a life with dignity. And I felt empowered to know that I too could improve conditions in my own community.

Aside from the grape strike and hunger strikes that he is primarily known for, Chavez was concerned about the damage that humans cause to the earth. In learning about his life and the early work of the United Farm Workers, it is clear Cesar Chavez was creating a movement that was about much more than labor rights. He had a vision of a better quality of life for the poor, one in which the environment was healthy, too.

He was frustrated by the lack of awareness of threats to the planet, stating, “It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.”

I began to question the conditions in my community. Chavez’s fight for a life with dignity made me see that my family experienced so many of the same struggles of working in painful conditions for low pay. This stuck with me through my college years, where I learned about how communities of color are the most affected by pollution. I thought of Boyle Heights, where I grew up, which is surrounded by freeways and adjacent to factories. I thought of the cement-covered LA River, and of the difficulties my community faces in accessing healthy food and open green space. Chavez’s analysis of power and his dedication to organizing made me feel the responsibility to organize and look at power structures in my own life. And this was the dawn of my professional career as an organizer; I want to know that I am active in reminding my community that we have power when we organize.

Cesar Chavez once said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” This comment has stayed with me through my career, from my years as an education-focused organizer to present day.

I learned a lot in my time working with parents in my previous positions as a parent advocate, community organizer, and project manager for community gardens. Many of the parents I worked with were immigrants from Latin America, and I distinctly recall a nostalgia for the nature of their homeland. They shared how they raised their own food and grew up playing outdoors. Many lamented that their children would not experience a childhood in the hills, bonding with animals or simply being able to breathe fresh air. As I became friends with some of them on social media, they would marvel at my pictures of hikes. They were shocked that I could access the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains.  They had only known the San Gabriels as a faraway background or the Santa Monica Mountains as a place in which they worked for rich people but had no idea that they were public lands. I found myself spending time chatting with them about self-care by eating healthy food and the importance of spending time outdoors.  I saw the opportunity to connect our conversations on food to the legacy of Cesar Chavez.

Chavez was an environmentalist who grew organic food and incorporated hikes, meditation and prayer into his daily life. His connection to nature and his regular hikes were the self-care, which provided him with strength to continue to advocate for a life with dignity. His close connection to the land and tremendous respect for nature is a reminder that the word ‘environmentalist’ takes many shapes. Being an environmentalist goes deeper than knowing where the closest organic co-op is, or staying up to date on the latest eco-trends. It’s about having respect for the environment and a willingness to care for nature in our everyday lives.

In my own life, I seek time outdoors to clear my head, to relieve the stress of city life, and to rekindle my sense of adventure. I have come to believe that access to natural spaces is essential for improving one’s quality of life. I experienced the benefits of spending time in nature in my own life, and began to share it with friends
and family. I officially  joined Latino Outdoors as a volunteer in 2015 as I felt need to increase the representations of Latinos, and, more specifically, Latinas in the outdoors. Joining Latino Outdoors has helped me embrace my culture and connect with some amazing people. Being a part of this group reminds me of Cesar Chavez outlook, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures”.
Access to nature has become a major part of my career, through advocating for an expanded Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that would reach more Los Angeles-area communities and foster stronger connections to nature. I have no doubt that increased access to nature is beneficial for LA. I am grateful to combine my passion for conservation and preservation of history in my work.

The teachings of Cesar Chavez, by way of Mr. Duenas, had a profound impact on my life that continue to present themselves each day. Cesar Chavez is an example of someone who committed himself to organizing for an improved quality of life, while keeping his cultural practices and connecting with the environment. I am inspired to do the same as I work to connect Angelinos to public lands and preserve the great legacy of Cesar Chavez, at Cesar Chavez National Monument, and to expand his and the farmworkers’ story through sites across California and Arizona. Like Cesar Chavez, I am an environmentalist, because I believe it’s an essential part of living a better quality of life. On Cesar Chavez Day and each day forward, I will work to advocate for fair representation in our National Park System and speak up for opportunities to share the stories of Cesar Chavez and the many people who helped shape our country’s shared history. Si se puede!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Georgina Miranda on Choosing Adventure

Banff, Canada. Happiest outside and visiting a part of Canada that was high on my bucket list.

My story…slowly but surely there is more comfort in telling it. I’ve had more joy in wild places, living in a tent for weeks/months at a time, being cold, having trouble breathing, and being stripped from modern day comforts- than within my city comforts. It’s here, without distractions, and without competition, but the one with myself that I connect to a part of myself that can easily get lost in the day to day.

When I think of fuel, fuel to go after dreams, I always think of my time on big mountains. It’s our inner fuel, fire, grit that keeps us going, that gives us the endurance that releases the smiles, even in times of suffering and discomfort. These mountains have taught me so much; they’ve helped me reveal to myself how strong I can be. They’ve taught me focus. They’ve taught me to block out noise. They’ve validated I do not fit in a box and that I do not need to conform to who I “should be”, but rather encouraged me to “just be.”

These experiences have redefined my reality-the girl that couldn’t run a mile 8 years ago can climb hella big mountains now and ski! Yes, I said hella 🙂 Here I stand today having climbed in 6 of the 7 continents and aiming to complete the Explorer Grand Slam by then end of 2017, a feat that approximately only 50 people have completed globally (7 summits and skiing the last degree of the North and South Pole).

Backcountry skiing in Tahoe, thrill seeking smiles!

I’m your unlikely mountaineer and athlete, but that’s been the best part of the journey. Doing things that are unlikely is part of the fun of the adventure and personal growth.

I grew up in LA and was brought up a “city girl” by my Nicaraguan mother and El Salvadorian father. I am the first in my immediate family to not only graduate from college, but also get a master’s degree. I was taught education was my ticket to a different life, not mountains and nature. In reality both were critical to my ticket to a different life. While I am super grateful that I got my “adventure” side from my dad, “adventure” was not a priority or something that was necessarily encouraged growing up.  It somehow always seemed to find me though, more so in my mid-twenties, thank goodness for that!

I often say adventure changes lives; and, I truly believe it, because it changed mine. I have climbed a lot of other “mountains” in my lifetime, from growing up with a manic depressive mother, surviving a painful divorce, breaking trail in the tech and outdoor industry, and climbing the biggest mountain of all: starting a company. In choosing adventure, I was able to heal from a lot of these experiences and also developed this awesome grit to power through the toughest of challenges in life. My prescription to the blues is a nature dose, which is far better than any antidepressant hands down!

It’s all of these factors that ultimately inspired me to start Altitude Seven, an adventure lifestyle media platform that helps a global community of women adventurers and travelers discover the best outdoor and adventure travel products, experiences, stories, and inspiration all in one place. The company’s brand was created for a new generation of outdoor, adventurous, and globetrotting women, with a mission: To Inspire and Equip Women to Live Adventurous, Bold, and Worldly Lives. It is spreading the global message for women to #ChooseAdventure. Inspiration struck atop of Denali in 2010 and the first iteration of Altitude Seven came to life in 2014.

Mt. Everest 2013 charity climb for International Medical Corps and raising awareness against gender-based violence. It had taken me 6 years to get to this point after a failed attempt in 2011 having to turn around due to hypoxia. Dreams come true if you never give up on them.

While the “shrink it and pink it” struggle is real in the outdoor industry (don’t worry, none of that in our store), there is a bigger issue, which is that the current “face of adventure” is not a true representation of all us badass ladies getting after it out there globally. Guess what? Women make up 50% of outdoor recreation participation and leading the way in terms of solo travel. Yet we still lack visibility across most media channels. When it comes to women of color and diverse body types, our representation is basically invisible. We are changing the face of adventure and committed to elevating the presence and visibility of women in adventure/action sports/travel media.

It’s been a crazy 8 years and my life has done a 180 in more ways than one. I am so grateful to discovering a love for adventure and setting new limits for myself beyond anything I “should have ever been.” It’s my mission now to share that gift with others.

 

“I climb big mountains everyday, just not always in crampons. Changing the face of adventure and tech has been the biggest climb of all!”

Georgina is the Founder of Altitude Seven, an adventure lifestyle media platform that helps a global community of women adventurers and travelers discover the best outdoor and adventure travel products, experiences, stories, and inspiration all in one place. She is a purpose driven entrepreneur, adventurer, speaker, and consultant. She has scaled the highest peak on 6 of the 7 continents and aiming to complete the Explorer Grand Slam in 2017. She’s an advocate for empowering women globally and loves pushing past personal limits and inspiring others to do the same. To learn more about Miranda, visit: GeorginaMiranda.com