This week marks Latino Conservation Week (LCW), an initiative of Hispanic Access Foundation. It was created “to support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources.”
During this week, community, nonprofit, faith-based, and government organizations and agencies hold events throughout the country to promote conservation efforts in their communities, and provide an opportunity for Latinos to show their support for permanently protecting our land, water, and air. Activities include hiking and camping, community roundtables, film screenings and much more.
Cover Photo: Jamie Cabral, Green Latinos Summit 2016
LoaTree recently caught up with Graciela Cabello, who is organizing an outing on behalf of Santa Barbara County Trails Council (and is also part of the LoaTree team), to learn more about LCW. She will be leading a Trails and Tacos hike in Santa Barbara, CA this coming Saturday, July 22nd, to celebrate LCW in collaboration with REI.
LoaTree: Tell us why this campaign is important
Graciela: Latino Conservation Week is an opportunity to organize as a community around conservation and outdoor recreation, while highlighting the cultural and historical connections we share with our public lands. Latinos care deeply about the environment, yet there is still a recognized need for more Latino participation in public lands advocacy and stewardship. If we can provide more opportunities for recreation while discussing some of the current issues facing the conservation movement, we can better engage our community and be more inclusive in those efforts. Sometimes all it takes is an invitation.
LoaTree: What is your connection to public lands locally?
Graciela: I grew up in Santa Barbara and city parks played a significant role in my upbringing. Coming from a large family, we often used parks as a space to gather for celebrations like birthdays, graduations, first communions, and in some cases quinceañeras took place in a park community room.
As a kid, my family would camp at Red Rock in the Santa Ynez Mountains, and our summer trips were more like unofficial family reunions where I would see all my relatives, and play in the river all weekend with cousins. The adults would spend much of the weekend cooking, barbecuing, and relaxing. It was the best of times and I have fond memories of the bonds that were formed during those trips, and the positive impact that having access to such a space had on my childhood.
As I got older I started to get connected to some of the hiking trails in our local mountains, and began exploring different beaches. The common motivation through it all has been the social and health aspect these activities provide, but it was those early experiences of being outdoors that provided a foundation for my identity and belonging in nature. Exploring a trail at Cold Springs might not have seemed as intimidating when I related it to playing in the creek at Oak Park. Camping in a National Park wasn’t a completely foreign experience when I had some familiarity with camping in my local mountains.
LoaTree: Tell us more about the Trails and Tacos hike coming up this Saturday, 7/22/17.
Graciela: We’re going to be doing a moderate 3.5 mile hike in the foothills above Santa Barbara before returning as a group and sharing conversation – and tacos. It is one of the most popular trails amongst the hiking community in Santa Barbara, yet I repeatedly hear from folks who grew up here that they have never visited.
Why tacos? Food is very social, and in Latino culture, it’s also very much tied to our identity. It’s deeply rooted in our history and connects us – the same way nature and land does. Those two parallels are important to recognize in order for the conservation movement to be relevant for future generations.
The hike will take place Saturday 7/22/17, 9AM-1PM. For more detailed location information and to RSVP, contact Graciela at Graciela@sbtrails.org or 805-203-6679.
When looking at the environmental movement as a whole, our public lands play a vital role in fighting climate change, sustaining strong ecosystems, and supporting healthy communities. Unfortunately, many communities are commonly excluded from the ‘conservation conversation,’ including communities of color.
As the Department of the Interior currently moves to review all designations of National Monuments greater than 100,000 acres created since 1996, and calls for the Antiquities Act to be amended to give Congress and states the right to block the president from declaring new National Monuments, it is imperative that the mainstream conservation movement does more to be more inclusive in its approach to conservation.
Mainstream conservation groups should work to ensure that diverse communities have a voice in important decision making processes and experiences that enhance the conservation ethos. A number of steps must be taken to enhance the environmental movement’s approach to protecting and enhancing our natural resources, and an easy way to start is to get into the great outdoors with a non-traditional partner, be it an individual or organization, to begin planting seeds for deeper and more significant change.