Happy Latino Conservation Week, hosted by Hispanic Access Foundation!

Throughout this week hundreds of thousands of Latinos across the country are gathering in-person or virtually for hikes, camping trips, community roundtables, film screenings, and more. In doing so, Hispanic Access Foundation and dozens of partner organizations (including CLF!) help connect Latinos to their public lands and waters, and celebrate Latino advocacy for the outdoors.

Jessica Godinez, Conservation Program Associate with Hispanic Access Foundation, and Sendy Barrows, Conservation Program Assistant with the Council of Mexican Federations in North America (in the Coachella Valley), took time out of their busy week to share their perspectives on Latino Conservation Week. Thank you, Jessica and Sendy, for your leadership to make the outdoors more accessible and equitable!

What's unique about Latino Conservation Week this year?

Jessica: This year we’re highlighting a different aspect and goal of Latino Conservation Week each day, including #DiversityOutdoors (today!) and #YoCuento: Learning from our Elders (tomorrow, Saturday 7/24). Additionally, this is the first year we've had a completely hybrid set of events with in-person and virtual options nationwide.

It's not unique to this year, but perhaps my favorite aspect of Latino Conservation Week is the way we elevate the Latino community's voice and presence in the conservation movement and in outdoor spaces. Through this week, we can come together in community and highlight the efforts and achievements of Latino communities across the country, bringing visibility to community leaders that are often underrepresented in these spaces.

Sendy: This week COFEM is hosting two Latino Conservation Week events, including one tomorrow (Saturday 7/24). We’re leading a bilingual, guided hike at Whitewater Preserve (just north of Palm Springs) followed by a roundtable discussion. Come join us! Check out our Instagram page (@cofemcv) to learn more and sign up.

Today’s theme is #DiversifyOutdoors. What is one way we can make nature more accessible to people with diverse backgrounds, identities, and abilities?

Jessica: In order to make the outdoors accessible to all identities and abilities, it's important to work with those communities to really learn about the barriers they face to participating in outdoor recreation, stewardship, and conservation efforts.

Often the biggest barriers are the ones we don't think to consider. For example, my Mexican family loves to reunite at local parks for cookouts, but we end up pushing all the tables together to accomodate all of us. Parks that have picnic tables nailed or screwed into the ground instantly creates an unwelcoming space. In addition to barriers of access like the type of space available, accessible language, and accurate representation of different identities in these spaces, it's also important to address safety. We can do our part in creating an accessible outdoors by creating a welcoming environment, that is safe and free of judgement, for all identities and abilities to recreate in their own way.

Sendy: Representation is an essential factor when it comes to #DiversifyOutdoors. People can help diversify the outdoors by supporting organizations that are intentionally inclusive in their hiring practices and advocacy. Distinguishing between inclusive organizations and those involved in “performative” activism (or, organizations that aren’t making meaningful change) requires some work, but here are three questions that I find helpful to consider:

  1. Are the organization's job and board openings publicly posted so that everyone interested can know about them and apply?
  2. What percentage of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and staff with disabilities have leadership positions within the organization?
  3. Is the organization publicly speaking out against racism and providing a safe space for their employees to express their concerns and ideas of how the organization can be more inclusive?

What is your favorite memory of spending time on California Desert public lands (or on any public lands)?

Jessica: I've only had the pleasure of visiting California a few times in my life, but I hold fond memories of spending time with my loved ones at local parks in the Sacramento area where my family lives. We went kayaking and spent the rest of our time laughing, cooking, eating, and enjoying each other's company. No matter where I've been - California, Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico, and many other beautiful states, my favorite memories are on public lands, surrounded by comunidad y familia.

Jessica (Hispanic Access Foundation) kayaking with family on Lake Natoma near Sacramento, CA.

Jessica exploring Canyonlands National Park, UT.

Sendy: One of my favorite memories has to be from last year while hiking on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail near the Coachella Valley. I am a naturalist, and I enjoy photographing the flora and fauna I find along the trail, but that was the first time I got to hold a Blainville's Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii)!

Sendy Barrows (COFEM) hold a Blainville’s Horned Lizard while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail near the Coachella Valley, CA.

Latino Conservation Week runs through Sunday 7/25. Find a virtual or in-person event near you: https://latinoconservationweek.com/events/2021-events.

About
Maricela is a native of Southern California and CLF's California Program Associate Director