Spotlight Story

25 May 2022

Josie Gutierrez: USFS South Advisory Council Member leaves her Mark Beyond Hiking Trails

Category: Spotlight Story

San Antonio, Texas is home to an array of nature attractions. Latinos account for more than half of the city’s population, yet not many of them have experienced camping, kayaking, hiking, and other outdoor recreational activities, but Josie Gutierrez is changing that.

Gutierrez was born and raised in San Antonio, where she grew up watching her dad film and document the Latino culture. Her parents were a source of inspiration that encouraged her to pursue passions and career paths she never imagined following. Still, her early memories with her dad remind her of the significance of uniting communities and strengthening cultural and familial bonds.

“My dad is considered the first Chicano film maker,” said Gutierrez. “My dad always fought for his community and cultura.”

Her father’s first film, “Please, Don't Bury Me Alive!” was significant to the Chicano Movement of the 1970s. Even though Josie did not fully understand her dad’s film when she was younger, as she got older, she realized how important the Latino and Chicano culture were to her family history. She wanted to communicate that same message of unity through her work as a member of Hispanic Access' new USFS South Advisory Council and as a Latino Outdoors ambassador.

In 2015, after ending her career in the medical field, her interest in outdoor activities led her to Latino Outdoors. Gutierrez resonated with the organization’s mission to connect Latinos with nature, so she created a Facebook page to plan events for those that are eager to explore.

“I noticed there’s not a lot of [Latinos] that camp and hike”, said Gutierrez. “Once I found out there was more to explore, I was ready to do so and bring my family, friends and community along for the adventure.”

Hispanic Access Foundation, in partnership with the United States Forest Service Southern Region, created the Advisory Council to bring historically-excluded communities to the table on USFS decision-making and project funding decisions, making them more equitable. Gutierrez's leadership with Hispanic Access Foundation and Latino Outdoors have allowed her to connect with families and communicate that nature is home for everyone. Her role as an ambassador, allowed Gutierrez to organize outings and guide others as they experienced nature for the first time. Last year, Gutierrez received a $10,000 grant, and invited thirteen families on a camping trip. The funds were also used to provide camping equipment that the families could keep for future trips.

“I want them to know that there’s so much more to do outside, other than hiking," said Gutierrez. “To me, nature is like a book, and I want to open that book for them so they can start looking at all the different things that you can do outdoors."

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Josie Gutierrez, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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