“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

Finding Time to Play Afuera: By Lylianna Allala

 

griphoist

Working on a trail crew for the United States Forest Service based out of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Ranger District in North Bend, WA, circa 2009.

I’m not sure if being the oldest of four or being raised with a mezcla of Midwestern/Tejan@/Mexican@ work ethic or just being a plain old human being is a factor in this but, it’s easy for me to get carried away with “work”. “Work” looks different for everybody. For me, I lead with my heart and my work is driven by my passion for social justice, environmental justice, and equity. I love getting young people outdoors! I love fostering community for people of color who care about environmental issues. I am passionate about working towards gender equity. I care deeply about my family; blood and chosen and I love being outside!

Maybe this will resonate for you too. Because my heart drives my work, many times I can get caught up in the grind of preparing for presentations, coordinating meetings, working on organizational change strategies, representing organizations that I work or volunteer for at events, etc. Perhaps being involved in heart work facilitates a faster burnout process if one ignores self-care. By burnout I mean the feeling of exhaustion and frustration that can occur when dealing with an overload of work with effects of neglecting one’s own needs. I come home tired and a little cranky. I don’t sleep as much as I’d like. My diet mostly consists of convenience foods; for me, tortilla chips and salsa. I feel like I never have enough time to do anything well and I rarely have time to play.

Mtrainier

Summer 2015 at Mt. Rainier National Park cheesing out on nature.

In order for me to care for others and give my very best, I need to find time to take care of myself. As I sit and reflect on the things that contribute to fostering balance and inner quietude, I think of the tall conifers swaying in the wind during a walk today through Kubota Gardens with my husband and dog. Ripples of water radiating outwards from a spot in the pond where a bufflehead abruptly vanishes underwater and resurfaces as it feeds underwater. Or, the feeling of warm sunshine on my face while lying on the pebbled shore of Lake Wenatchee last weekend alongside my best girlfriends reveling in each other’s presence in silence underneath the peak of Dirty Face. I can almost smell the cool sweet breeze carrying the scent of Nootka Rose and other wildflowers while hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Starting out in the environmental field in my twenties brings memories of hard physical labor, exhaustion, and joy. The feeling of sore muscles after a day of trail building or invasive plant removal brought me a sense of satisfaction. The mud and sweat streaked on my face, the spiders and twigs in my hair and soil under my fingernails made me happy. As did a hot shower at the end of the day! I realize that time in nature is what I need to be whole.

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My grandmother Maria Irma Rodriguez or Gramma Mema.

When I think about the moments where I have been the happiest they center on being outdoors. Even as a child the memories that bring a sense of calm or home for me include walking through my grandma’s garden as she taught me the names of the flowers she planted; peony, marigold, tulip, geranium, black-eyed Susan. Reading books on a blanket lain out in my parent’s backyard, my toes buried in the lush green grass of our lawn. Swinging on the branches of the willow tree in our yard with my brother Louie, seeing who could swing the farthest. When I close my eyes and think back on these memories, I remember joy, giddiness, and a shared feeling of energy and peace. With this sense of calm comes a connection with the world, with myself, and with my heritage.

My Gramma Yolanda taught me the difference between a perennial and a biennial plant. My Gramma Mema taught me to always have Sábila (Aloe Vera) and Manzanilla (Chamomile) in my house. Sábila to sooth burns, bug bites, and skin irritations. Manzanilla to aid with sleep, assuage the symptoms of cough or fever, or to ward of nightmares. My Grampa Luis and Grampa Chável taught me the virtue of hard work outdoors with my hands through the examples they set working outdoors from sun up to sun down to provide for their families. My family has always had ties and connections to the land y cuando estoy afuera, me siento como que estoy con my familia, mis antepasados. I feel that I am reconnected with myself.

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Sunset at the Granite Mountain fire lookout in Washington.

Lylianna Allala

Seattle Ambassador

lylianna@latinooutdoors.org