equitable society where communities of color are liberated from disproportionate environmental burdens, free to breathe fresh air, drink pure water, access clean transportation and enjoy our majestic public lands, ocean, and waters.” The National Summit had roughly 200 Latino/a/e-identifying individuals in attendance from very prominent organizations like Latino Outdoors, The Wilderness Society, Earth Justice, and Audubon, to name a few. It was the first time in my career I was able to be in a space that not only reflected my passions as an individual but also to be surrounded by so many people who share a similar heritage/cultural history as me.
Early in the Summit, I was able to meet the founder of Latino Outdoors – José González– in person! It was my first time meeting him not on the screen and he was very kind. For those that don’t know, in my spare time outside of my River Conservation Fellowship, I co-lead a local team of Latino Outdoors based in Western Massachusetts. It was very cool and empowering to meet national staff from Latino Outdoors that I had only connected with online before. It was especially inspiring to meet José this year because we are celebrating 10 years as an organization of getting folks outside and rewriting the traditional outdoor narrative. I was also able to connect with some other Latino Outdoors leaders from Texas who predominately work in wildlife conservation. I felt so seen in my passion for conservation and all things outdoors.
One story that stuck out to me the most from my time there was given by the founder of Mujeres de la Tierra, a community organization based in Los Angeles. They organized many programs for and with the support of the community. One was outings to a local beach in Malibu. Some of the community members they were bringing had never been to the beach before despite living so close to it because they were under the impression that all the beaches were privately owned, which is not true. They were able to take people from the ages of school kids to older individuals to the beach for the first time. Another story they told was about an art piece they create, “Diablo de la Basura” or “Trash Demon”. They told a story about women from the community coming to the founder of the organization and complaining about the trash littering the streets and sidewalks. The founder said, “did it rain trash last night?” The women were confused and said, “Of course not”. The founder asked again, “did a garbage truck come and dump trash in the street?” The women again said “No.” The founder then told the women that it was the community that was causing the littering problem and that there was no little trash demon coming at night and dumping trash all along the streets and sidewalks. So, they created a very tall sculpture of a trash demon made of trash that they use in parades and such, but the catch is, in the middle, there is a mirror. The mirror is there to show the community that there is no trash demon and that we are responsible for keeping our communities clean. It stuck with me because of its very specific culturally appropriate environmental messaging.
Overall, I was so inspired and honored to have been able to be around such incredible folks from across the country. However, I believe I was the only person in attendance representing a federal agency in some facet or another. It was a bit disappointing not being able to connect with Latino/e/s from other agencies or even throughout NPS. It has given me a push to explore interagency connections I can make through employee resource groups.