Blog

19 November 2021

Transformational Experiences


Written by: Veronica Cuyun


As I navigate the last few days of my internship I started to reflect on the transformational experiences I had here. I want to highlight the most meaningful experiences through identity searching and conversations surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

From the beginning of my internship, I was thankfully introduced to who I consider a Mentor, Liliana Calderón who works for the Migratory Birds and Habitat Program. Liliana connected me to an interviewer from External Affairs who wanted to capture voices from the Latinx community for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. During the interview I chose the questions I wanted to talk about: “How does your cultural background inform your perspective on the outdoors and wildlife conservation?” and “What is a barrier to outdoor access in your cultural community?”. 

These questions made me think deeper about my identity, and what better way of understanding than talking to my parents and their stories of growing up in Colombia and Guatemala. I picked up the phone to rediscover my parent’s childhood. It was amazing to hear how my parents spent their time outdoors. Little did I know my father grew up in Santiago Atitlán near mountains in Guatemala directly spending most of his time outdoors and learning from the indigenous people who have been there for centuries. My mother describes growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia, and found peace in the outdoors feeding wild red-footed tortoises. My parents experience made me realize that nature was never too far away. Nature means something completely different to me now learning about my cultural history. 

The second question led me to think about visible and invisible barriers that the Latinx and other historically excluded groups experience. Growing up in Miami the most obvious reasons were transportation issues. There were not many options to reach nationally known parks like the Everglades. Another issue is the idea of what experiencing the outdoors looks like such as hiking, and camping. These were activities I never grew up doing. Most recently I attended a “Daycation” event in a city park where a Latinx family described feelings of inadequacy because they cannot afford camping gear. Others found out about their neighborhood park through this event with no prior knowledge about this natural space. I have heard the same thought processes before from my own family. We need to be including historically excluded communities in the conversation and ask questions of their thoughts if their willing to express them. Basing educational programming on community wants and needs is what I envision as the future of conservation. 

Daycation Event at Nadaka Nature Park in Portland, OR

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: Portland Regional Office

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