Blog

22 September 2023

Looking towards the future of land conservation and celebration!


Written by: Alesha Weiland


A major highlight of my intern experience was attending the Latino Conservation Week (LCW) Festival at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, MN in mid-July. What a year to be able to attend such a festivity as it was LCW’s tenth anniversary. I had the opportunity to meet other Hispanic Access Foundation peers from across the country, meet my MANO mentor Yashira in person and hear her inspiring presentation about the importance of LCW and how much it has grown in the past 10 years. To hear a presentation at a major Wildlife Refuge in Spanish was a wonderful thing to witness.


In true Latino fashion, this vibrant, colorful event was a full-fledged celebration that included food, art, music, and dance, representing many different cultures within the Latino community. The event also hosted over 13 different organizations from around the Minneapolis/St Paul and surrounding areas supporting Hispanic communities, many specifically encouraging stewardship and connection to the land.

Whomever you are, I believe if you trace your ancestry back far enough, you are guaranteed to discover meaningful cultural connections to land. As humans, we all depend on natural resources to survive. Yet the inclusion of diverse voices in matters of wilderness and land conservation have long been missing from the conversation. Our Hispanic and Indigenous communities with their rich connection to the land through their history and familial ties are especially relevant for this conversation in America today.  

Attending the LCW festival helped challenge my perspective about how people typically recreate and connect with our public lands and the types of programs that are usually offered at them. Conservation plays an obvious role in how many people celebrate and live their lives, so why couldn’t we have a sunset, salsa dancing soiree along the river in a refuge? Or a fond farewell picnic with bilingual storytelling as we bid adieu to our beloved Monarch Butterflies during their fall migration? The themes of food, family, outdoors, art, and fun are universal, making the possibilities endless.

As we share our varied experiences, we can identify values that connect us regardless of our origins and it becomes easier to recognize the common thread we all weave. With this understanding we can better represent all the communities we serve, telling the full story of America while moving forward in solving conservation challenges that all of humanity as a collective will continue to face. It’s very important to remember that nature holds no prejudices, we are all part of nature and not separate from it, and everyone needs to be welcome at her table.

 

 

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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