GOOD

A Grassroots Organization Aims To Get More Latinos Active In The Great Outdoors

At Latino Outdoors, passion for conservation is fostering community.

Photo by Veronica Miranda, courtesy of Latino Outdoors.

A 2015 poll of registered Latino voters showed environmental issues near the top of their list of greatest concerns. Yet, when it came to finding an outdoor space that felt welcoming and inclusive, José G. González felt there was much more work to be done.


“I thought, if I’m feeling like this and searching for a community, there must be others like me,” he says. “And I wondered, if there are others like me, where are they? How do I find them?”

With that, Latino Outdoors was formed to answer those simple questions. The Latino-led nonprofit has grown from a California-based organization to an international volunteer movement and is wholly focused on its comprehensive strategic plan to connect people interested in enjoying and preserving the environment and working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education.

As part of this work, the group is focused on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors — providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, and professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement. By leading family campouts, hikes, climbing outings, and cleanups, the group is helping to create a safe and inclusive space for people to get outside and get active.

Photo by Carlos Jorge Miranda, courtesy of Latino Outdoors.

González encourages athletes of all ages and backgrounds to think about adding nature to their athletic pursuits: hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. A passionate public educator and environmentalist, he had become frustrated that he couldn’t find a central hub for like-minded nature enthusiasts. He bought the domain for what would become Latino Outdoors and wrote his first blog post.

“It’s a contradiction because we have a long history with conservation, and that’s why we say ‘estamos aqui’ — we are here,” he says. “And that’s why my story really resonated with people.”

González’s story particularly moved Richard Rojas Sr., a retired California State Parks District ranger and superintendent with more than 30 years of experience. Having gone camping as a teen, Rojas took a summer job at a state park in college and hasn’t looked back since.

“José had this vision to create a modern Sierra Club focused on Latino youth and families and love of the outdoors,” says Rojas, who now serves as chair of the Latino Outdoors advisory board. “And I knew how to navigate the bureaucracy.”

It was a match made in outdoor heaven. Externally, the state park system had been undergoing a process of renewal and needed guidance on how to move forward and reach new constituencies, among other issues.

Rojas believes Latino Outdoors can be a huge part of the solution in creating a brighter and more sustainable future at the state and national level, especially for the next generation of conservationists and athletes interested in using nature as a new source of inspiration.

“There’s rich opportunity in what I believe is the future in terms of public engagement with public agencies,” he says. “Creating access for people with disabilities, women of color in becoming a ranger, access to becoming a ranger; interacting with brands like Patagonia who are interested in growing their consumer constituency and diversity … and helping to support the next generation of environmental stewards at colleges and universities.”

Photo by Veronica Miranda, courtesy of Latino Outdoors.

A critical component of that engagement is sharing the experience with others.

Veronica and Carlos Miranda have been helping the organization at large do that. They’re both California natives, and Carlos first got involved with Latino Outdoors in 2016 while attending college, initially starting as a technology intern. He now serves as the national website and technology coordinator. His wife, Veronica, started attending hikes in 2017 before becoming the social media coordinator for the program, supporting the mission of inclusion in outdoor spaces through social media and the organization’s blog.

Perhaps most importantly, they’ve been able to share their experiences back at home too. Carlos says one of his most memorable moments as a child was driving through Mount Tamalpais in Northern California and going to Muir Woods or Stinson Beach. Now, he and Veronica get to share those memories — the sights, smells, and sounds — with their 6-year-old son.

“Being able to expose my son, Mayuteo, to the outdoors has been amazing,” says Veronica. “The look on his face when we explore a new open space is always filled with a smile. I think the best thing about experiencing the outdoors with my son is that we get to connect with the Earth and learn more about the ecosystems around us by observing what’s in the areas we visit. I try and teach him that it’s important that we leave the open spaces better than we found it so that other people can explore like we do.”

Sports
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health