“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories Of Latino Outdoors. Part 3

Originally Posted on: http://www.fitfunand.com/uncategorized/yo-cuento-outdoorsthe-stories-latino-outdoors/

Author: Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez

It’s a wondrous thing how the wild calms the spirit within us. The “feels” we get when we know we are right where we are supposed to be. This then turns into what more can I explore, what more can I do and then how can I share this with others. The “feels” become so much more that it becomes part of your existence. For some it leads to a career in the outdoors and for some just a personal joy to share with others. Latino Outdoors has allowed more opportunities for us to experience and share what we love to do and in the process we have become a family. My pleasure to introduce New Mexico Coordinator~Gabe Vasquez.

What is the story of Gabe and the connection you have to the outdoors?

Well, it actually goes back to the story of when I first experienced the outdoors. When my family and I first got to Caballo Lake in New Mexico we threw our lines in the water and it wasn’t long before a Game & Fish officer came to check on our licenses. Because it was our first time fishing and we were from Mexico, we didn’t realize we needed a license. The officer claimed he couldn’t understand what my Dad was saying, so he called Border Patrol. Border Patrol detained my Dad that afternoon at a county jail in Truth or Consequences. They released him several hours later because he had not done anything wrong. Despite that harrasement, my dad told me to stay strong and that the outdoors were a place for everyone. We got our fishing licenses that afternoon and went back to the river. Since then, I’ve tried to spread the same message … the outdoors are for everyone.

How did this connection to the outdoors connect you more with Nature?

Fishing with my Dad and brother. I grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, an industrialized border city. There weren’t many places to play outdoors and we lived in the inner city, so we were mostly surrounded by concrete. So when my Dad took me and my brother fishing as young kids, it meant a lot. My whole world changed. He took us to southern New Mexico, to a place called Caballo Lake, about two hours north of Juarez. We camped by the Rio Grande, fished for catfish and went to sleep counting the stars. I had never seen the stars that bright in my life.

What is it about the outdoors that make it special for you?

It’s a place of healing, a place of reflection, and also the world’s biggest classroom. The outdoors teaches us that we can’t just take, we have to give, it teaches us about balance and equality. We’re all the same on the trail–nature doesn’t judge–it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what color you are, gender or sexuality, we are all having the same experience outdoors.

How do you celebrate the connection between a Latinx identity and the outdoors and how do you see yourself “counting” afuera?

I helped start a youth outdoor recreation and education program in my community to help Latinx youth and people better understand their history on this land, in southern New Mexico. we celebrate our history here, not just as Latino’s but as Mestizos, as people with mixed indigenous blood, roots and beliefs. We count here because we’ve been on this land for thousands of years, we’re not outsiders here.

How do you see it in others and in the community around you?

In the world of outdoor recreation and environmental advocacy, there is a pretty homogeneous community that dominates both spaces. Much of that has to do with wealth, the people most prone to go outdoors or become advocates for their environment are people who have had the time to have the opportunities to experience recreation outdoors. We’re changing that one person at a time every time we get a new young person of color on the trail, we create more balance in those spaces.

Why does what you do matter to you?

Because it helps me find meaning in life and it connects me spiritually to the creation and his creation. Working and volunteering as an outdoor advocate is what makes me happy, and my parents always said to do what makes me happy. They were right … nothing compares!

Describe your perfect day?

A perfect day outside is sitting in silence at the top of a mountain in Mesilla Valley, watching and listening to the wildlife and seeing the clouds roll in. I think about how many other generations before us have sat on the same spot and observed the same beauty?
What has been your favorite hike?
My favorite hike to date was hiking Tonuco Mountains with my girlfriend. Tonuco Mountains is a sacred site dotted with petroglyphs and full of rich, rare earth minerals. We hiked for about nine miles that day in the middle of the fall, bushwhacking through mesquite, devils thorn and cacti to get to the very top, where an old mine shaft exists. After the sixth mile we looked at each other and wanted to turn back every 10 minutes or so, but we kept going, because getting to the top was just as important for both of us. the views of the Organ Mountains at the very top paid off. We will both never forget that hike.
Do you have any traditions outside?
I try and follow in the footsteps of those who came before us, not just indigenous communities and people, but my own father, grandfather, and ancestors. I remember them when I hike, hunt, and fish. It makes the experience sacred for me. Of course, after every hike a need a cold beer to reflect on the outing!
A huge thank you to Gabe for allowing us to share more about what a genuine and legit soul he is. Gabe is that guy you just want to know more about. His kind heart is evident from the moment you meet him. May your journeys be many my friend and keep being an inspiration to many. How lucky is New mexico and Latino Outdoors : ).
For more info about Las Cruces, New Mexico and what is happening afuera check out … Nuestra Tierra.
Josie Gutierrez ~ Southwest Ambassador

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. 


#VamosOutdoors in the South Bay con Jennifer Adams

Joining Jennifer, our LO Coordinator in the SF Bay Area South Bay, on a family nature hike you may not know the lineage and heritage she carries in her blood and with every step. But that becomes very clear once you have a conversation with her mom—and you learn about the strength and resiliency she carries, as well as the connection to nature and the outdoors at an early age.

Jennifer is a biology student—a major she chose to learn more about the natural world and share that passion with others. And it also connects with whyy she was interested in volunteering for Latino Outdoors:

 “I know so many people that don’t engage in outdoors activities because it’s not a focus in our culture. I am bilingual, and would love to get the chance to engage our youth and hope to inspire them to pursue a career helping our planet and enjoying nature.”

On a recent community hike with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, she reminded me of the first LO hike she joined—one I had set up with Santa Clara County Parks so she could see what we were trying to do with our “Familias Outdoors” idea with Latino Outdoors. Basically, “what does it look like to invite families that otherwise may not engage in outdoor activities due to a host of real or perceived barriers? And what happens when the barriers are tackled?”

This was back in September 27, 2015 and it was a powerful reminder of the work that our volunteers do not just in the San Francisco Bay Area, but throughout the state and in other parts of the country.

That day we were led by a Latino ranger, Fernando Elias, who was at times more excited than us to share what he did and where he worked. He was diligent, prepared, patient, and overall conveyed a sense of pride to be of service to la comunidad. As someone that had been peppering ideas throughout the Bay Area, I was hoping this would be one of several outings that could happen in the South Bay and Peninsula but I needed help—I needed a team that could make it happen for the long run. Into that idea and desire stepped in Jennifer that day, excited, observant, and eager to help.

Jennifer reminded me how that day we were powerfully impacted by families coming to visit a park that most of them had never visited before—in fact, it could be easy to get lost in getting there. But once there, the magic of nature and the experience of being outdoors led the rest of the way. The Santa Clara County Parks ranger shared “all the cool stuff” in a ranger vehicle and he brought out pelts for the kids to touch and wonder where they came from. Then we were off on a hike where he paused and shared information about the landscape as a naturalist. And it was there that a mother shared with us how impactful this outing was—that it had been quite some time since she and her kids had been out and simply enjoyed being together outside since the passing of her husband. That it was special to see her kids smile and play in this setting because they had been through a difficult time.

To be honest I had forgotten about that moment, but it came rushing back to me when Jennifer reminded me—and it reminded me of so many other similar moments with families on other Latino Outdoors outings. The power of nature, familia, y cultura coming together.  And here we were in 2017, sitting at a table at Pichetti preserve, with Jennifer’s family, with her mom sharing how special it was to be here with her daughter, and sharing her life story of what brought her to the us, and how she became a more resilient woman.

I could only sit there with pride—and again reminded of the power of nature, familia, and cultura coming together, and the leadership of Latino Outdoors volunteers helping to continue to drive this forward and making it happen.

Jose Gonzalez is the Founder and Executive Director of Latino Outdoors. He also doodles, thinks, and helps other organizations with diversity, equity, and inclusion work in the outdoors.