Latino Conservation Week highlights the contributions of Latinos in caring for the environment, while encouraging the community’s culture of stewardship. Here’s how NPCA supports Latino engagement every day.
Growing up in Los Angeles as a first-generation American of Mexican-Salvadoran-Latino descent, my connection to nature was nurtured through the limited green spaces available in my community.
From the native plant and food garden at my high school to the popular Ballona Creek Bike Path near my neighborhood, I found spaces where I could take a break from the urban landscape and immerse myself in the beauty of nature. These experiences helped me develop my love for the environment and a desire to protect it and share it with everyone. This sentiment is not unique to me; it is shared by many Latinos across the U.S.
Environmental injustice is a critical issue that disproportionately affects marginalized communities. In Los Angeles, Latino neighborhoods often bear the brunt of pollution and environmental hazards, which can lead to serious health problems. Despite these hurdles, the Latino community plays an important role in the environmental movement.
For many of us, our heritage and values foster a deep respect for the land and a sense of stewardship. Many traditional practices and teachings within our communities emphasize the interconnectedness between people and the natural world. This bond drives our commitment to environmental conservation and motivates us to protect and preserve our planet.
This is why I wasn’t surprised to read that a study by GreenLatinos revealed 92% of Latino voters support the protection of national parks and public lands. This strong environmental awareness has driven Latinos to be at the forefront of advocacy efforts, fighting for environmental justice and sustainability.
An important initiative that highlights the contributions of Latinos in caring for the environment is Latino Conservation Week. This annual celebration, organized by the Hispanic Access Foundation since 2014, aims to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship within the Latino community. The week provides a platform to showcase the diverse voices, experiences and contributions of Latinos to the environmental movement.
The National Park Service and its partners support Latino Conservation Week with special in-park and virtual events across the country to engage Latinos and promote outdoor recreation, conservation and environmental education. From guided hikes to community clean-ups, these activities nurture a sense of connection to the natural world and encourage Latinos to become active participants in conservation efforts.
The Park Service also offers ways we all can celebrate this special heritage, not just this week but every week — such as learning more about the Latino relationship with public lands.
As an outreach manager for NPCA in Los Angeles, I get to work directly with communities to promote environmental awareness, advocate for equitable access to national parks and engage Latinos in the preservation of our cultural heritage. My work has allowed me to collaborate with many local organizations led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color such as the Budding Artist program for pre-K children and their families in under-resourced communities, and with community volunteers such as those involved in NPCA’s LA Young Leaders Council.
Just this past June I was able to work with the city of San Fernando to bring the Las Palmas Senior Club to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. When the 29 participants got off the bus to meet me there, I was greeted by so many smiling and familiar faces. Half of the group had attended a civic engagement workshop I led in 2022. Many of them shared with me how they miss being so close to open spaces like they were back in their native country and how they feel revitalized during trips like this.
Two weeks later, I went back to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — this time with Budding Artist and families from South Central Los Angeles who had never visited their local mountains. We spent the day creating art with nature and getting to experience all that our beautiful Santa Monica Mountains have to offer. I couldn’t help but see myself in the faces of the little ones who joined us.
National parks hold significant cultural and historical importance for Latinos. From the cultural significance of sites like César Chávez National Monument to the ancient ruins of Mesa Verde National Park, these spaces offer an opportunity for us to celebrate our diverse heritage and connect with our ancestral roots.
As a Latina, I love celebrating the enthusiasm and resilience of my community. Despite the challenges we encounter, there is a sense of happiness and determination that moves us forward. It is crucial to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of Latinos in the environmental movement. Latinos have made significant strides in various sectors, from sustainable agriculture to renewable energy initiatives.
I’m so happy that through initiatives like Latino Conservation Week and organizations like NPCA, my community can celebrate our contributions, amplify our voices and work together toward a more sustainable and equitable future.