Her educational journey began at the University of Puerto Rico, where she pursued a degree in anthropology with a specialization in archaeology. She later ventured to University College London for her Master's in Public Archaeology. These academic pursuits ignited her passion for understanding and preserving cultural heritage, particularly the rich heritage of her homeland. Currently, she serves as a public archaeologist with the Florida Public Archaeology Network, where she focuses on making archaeology accessible to the public, both in person and digitally.
After connecting with the Hispanic Access Foundation, Natalie’s journey took an exciting turn. She currently works as an active member of the Latino Climate Council, contributing her expertise to initiatives such as the 2023 Environmental Policy Toolkit and the COP28 Factsheet in collaboration with other experts in the Hispanic Access Foundation’s network.
One of her significant contributions is the chapter titled “Latino Heritage at Risk”, within the 2023 Environmental Policy Toolkit. In this chapter, Natalie emphasizes the importance of not separating natural and cultural heritage, highlighting that heritage comes in various forms, from tangible archaeological sites to intangible cultural traditions. She advocates that heritage plays a pivotal role in helping communities recover and regain a sense of normalcy after natural disasters, making it an integral part of climate solutions. “Heritage is not something we should worry about separately; it provides opportunities to help people heal.”
Building on the toolkit, Natalie and her colleagues worked on a factsheet that delves deeper into the impact of climate change on Latino heritage. They explore the concept of heritage from various angles, addressing its role in community healing and recovery, the influence of colonialism, and the need for comprehensive research and guidelines.
“We realized that there is little to no work on the impact of climate change on Latino cultural places of significance. This factsheet will fill that gap.”
It is set to be presented at the COP 28 conference in Dubai, a global platform for discussing climate change and environmental policies. It will also be made available on the Hispanic Access Foundation's website, ensuring that valuable information on heritage conservation and climate justice reaches a wider audience.
Natalie's leadership in conservation is deeply personal. She emphasizes the importance of intersectionality, inclusivity, and equality in environmental and climate justice movements. Her vision of leadership in conservation involves actively engaging with local communities, giving voice to marginalized groups, and confronting the uncomfortable aspects of history.
“Leadership in conservation means advocating for the rights and well-being of all, with a strong focus on racial equity, gender rights, indigenous communities, LGBTQI+ individuals, refugees, and people with disabilities.”
Her work with the Hispanic Access Foundation is helping bridge gaps and promote a more inclusive and equitable approach to heritage conservation and climate action.
“Heritage is not just a part of the past; it's a vital element of our future.”