CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF LATINO CONSERVATION WEEK WITH LATINO OUTDOORS

In 2023, we’re thrilled to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Latino Outdoors *and* Latino Conservation Week.

Latino Conservation Week: Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra (LCW) is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation and was created to support the Latinx community in getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources. That’s the official overview. To me, LCW is a week-long celebration of conservation, cultura, and comunidad.

Two people walking through the woods, smiling; one pointing up towards the sky Image via Vero Miranda

At Latino Outdoors (LO), it’s safe to say that we celebrate conservation, cultura, and comunidad every day of the year. That’s who we are. Our small but mighty staff works daily to connect youth and families to the outdoors, often leading with a reminder that conservation is a part of our culture—whether it’s preventing wasteful use and reusing materials (who amongst us hasn’t had the bag, the shirt, the food storage container that has been used and reused long beyond its original purpose). Conservation also runs in our veins and manifests in the act of maintaining and passing on a deep connection to nature and working the land, whether by choice or by necessity. We aren’t new to nature and the outdoors. Caring for the planet is part of who we are; it’s part of our values. In fact, last year the Pew Research Center released a study that stated that most Latinx people in U.S. say that global climate change is an important concern(Opens in a new window). We call that conservation cultura.

We also celebrate our culture every day at Latino Outdoors. Through our Yo Cuento storytelling program, we share stories from across Latinx experiences and proudly serve as a platform to share the outdoor experiences of others through our social media accounts and growing YouTube channel(Opens in a new window). Whether we celebrate that culture through blog posts, videos, music, podcasts, dance or other forms, storytelling is one of the ways we work to create a world where the outdoors is a place to share and celebrate stories, knowledge and culture while growing leadership and an active community of Latino outdoor users, mentors and stewards.

A group of people standing in very shallow water holding a large LQBTQIA+ flag, and two people holding small flags Image via Michael Ocasio

In addition to celebrating conservation and cultura every day, we also proudly engage in the work of building community and working within the many diverse Latinx communities across the country, each one with unique dialects, expressions, tastes, histories and heritage. With over 20 regions, ranging from Boston, Denver, Missoula, and Washington D.C. to Arkansas, San Antonio, Los Angeles and beyond, our volunteer leaders don’t just invite their communities on LO outings like hiking, kayaking, stewardship projects, bird watching or climbing, they also work within those communities to identify barriers and connect them to the local resources to help overcome them. Most of us are from intentionally marginalized communities, immigrant communities and front-line communities, so we don’t just plan a hike—we plan our hikes with lived experiences and a deep first-hand understanding of the urgent need to connect our communities to nature, breakdown barriers and fight for equitable access to the outdoors. Like many communities of color, the communities we collaborate with and are a part of live with the daily impacts of environmental injustice, of redlining practices, of social injustice, of generational traumas, with the impacts of racism, prejudice and intolerance.

A group of people standing on a riverbank of rocks wearing kayaking gear and life jackets, with kayaks on the ground around them Image via Vero Miranda

Connecting children, families, early career professionals, students and individuals to nature isn’t just a matter of enjoying the view—though we do enjoy the view—it is a matter of physical and mental health and healing. It’s a matter of providing space within these open spaces where we can break into Spanish and English, share stories of abuelas and tíos y tías, comida y casa, stories of immigration and migration, stories that allow us to be ourselves, to celebrate ourselves and to know that we are part of a larger community. We also work in community with other organizations—the collaborations which allow us to reach a larger audience, to share our mission and vision and connect our people to opportunities and experiences they might miss out on otherwise. Latino Outdoors couldn’t do what we do without the strength of our relationships and the ties to the communities we’re a part of.

So, when I talk about celebrating conservation, cultura and comunidad, you could say it’s part of our DNA.

A close up of a child coloring a page, with markers next to them Image via Latino Outdoors

Still, there’s something incredible and unique about LCW. In the past few years, it has grown its nationwide presence with shout-outs and acknowledgments from National Geographic, the Department of Interior, California State Parks and Latinx policymakers like Senator Alex Padilla. With our partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, LCW2022 is planned to feature over 100 in-person activities throughout the week in collaboration with local community-based organizations, national brands, government agencies and nonprofits while, at the same time, LO will also be celebrating with videos, art, virtual panels and more. Thanks to the behind-the-scenes work of incredible organizers at the Hispanic Access Foundation and our team at LO, this year’s LCW promises to be an incredible week featuring panels, videos, events, the Latino Conservation Week photo contest, and our annual LCW Achievement Awards.

Inspired by #BlackBirdersWeek, and in part by #NationalParkWeek, Latino Conservation Week has been celebrating with daily themes for four years. Themes and topics of focus this year will include #LCW2023KickOff, #RecreateResponsibly, #AguaEsVida, #AdvocacyAfuera, #ConservationCultura, #ComunidadYFamilia and #YoCuento.

All are invited to join the celebration regardless of background or heritage, because as much as Latino Conservation Week is about nuestra gente, it’s also a celebration of the work we all do in the name of protecting our planet, being good stewards, opening doors of opportunity and establishing lifelong connections to nature and the outdoors—whether that’s a patch of grass in Brooklyn and Los Angeles or a vista overlooking the Rocky Mountains.

Two people walking along a trail in the forest, wearing orange day packs Image via Vero Miranda

For my part, I’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Latino Conservation Week by attending hikes highlighting the importance of national monuments and protecting public lands and remembering those childhood memories of my Papá, as a brand new immigrant from Mexico, taking my Hermano and me fishing in Colorado for the first time, or memories from more recent years of my Mamá and our recent experiences kayaking and exploring urban parks in Los Angeles where she summed up the work of conservation with a simple sentence and powerful reminder (as only familia and comunidad can remind us): “es tu parque cuídalo.”

It’s your park, take care of it.

If you’d like to be a part of the Latino Conservation Week celebration, visit LatinoConservationWeek.com(Opens in a new window) and follow the hashtag #LCW2023 or #LatinoConservationWeek on social media. Join us for this week of conservation, cultura, and comunidad. Nos vemos pronto.

A large group of people near the water's edge posing and holding a Latino Outdoors flag and an LQBTQIA+ flag Image via Michael Ocasio

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Christian La Mont is the Program Manager for LO’s storytelling, communications, and advocacy program, Yo Cuento.

Latino Outdoors works to inspire, connect and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and embrace cultura y familia as part of the outdoor narrative, ensuring our history, heritage and leadership are valued and represented. Check out our website!(Opens in a new window)

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