When my Tia told me to save the jars that our yogurt came in as reusable containers, little did I know she was teaching me to recycle. Walking beside her on our homestead in eastern Oregon in the spring, burning dead and dry grass to promote new growth and redirect the fires that would inevitably come in the summer, I was learning stewardship of the land where our family had planted roots in the United States. It was my responsibility to watch over the countless livestock and pets that ran rampant over our 40 acres on the side of the Blue Mountains so Tia could water her nectarine, peach and apricot trees and multiple vegetable gardens. On our little property in eastern Oregon is where I saw my first cedar waxwing, badger, harem of elk and curious mountain lion. This is where my love for nature was born.
My Tia taught us how to tend to the land that we were lucky to walk upon. She instilled love for the environment that we were the first of our family to see. I did not realize that my connection with the earth was my connection to the family I'd never had the opportunity to meet. Though I had never met my Guatemalan family face-to-face or been to the country where my mother or Tia came from, my Tia demonstrated how our people work with what they have to care for the land, and my relationship with my family was cultivated through mimicking their relationship with nature. My Tia devoted her time to teach me how to honor the principles of our people all the while, lighting the way for my future.
To be informed and involved in the preservation of land, water and wildlife issues is a privilege that I now hold because of the passion for the environment that my Tia cultivated in me when I was young. It is a privilege that I hold because of the decision my living ancestors made to abandon everything they had known for the promise of a better future for our entire family. Not only am I to succeed in this new country, but I do so while carrying my family legacy and our traditions with me. Though Latinx representation may not be as prevalent as others, through my presence in the colonial concept of conservation, I aim to amplify environmentalism and how this concept has always been a part of my culture.
This year, I am excited to have built a relationship with the Hispanic Access Foundation and contributed to Latino Conservation Week 2020, harnessing the Latino passion for the outdoors. To see the Latinx community prevalent in spaces that have previously not been welcoming to us and to witness my community refusing to remain invisible despite the hatred that is palpable in society today is a beautiful act of rebellion that I am proud to be a part of.
Recognizing that in the fight for conservation, systemic racism affects how everyone shows up. To bring justice into the movement beyond the lands and species we protect is to acknowledge and advance the dismantling of oppression and exclusion that our environmental movement was built upon. It is my hope that the intersectionality of my passion for the environment and loyalty to my culture and people be recognized as a holistic concept and not a battling duality.