Celebrating Latino Conservation Week
Launched by the Hispanic Access Foundation in 2014, Latino Conservation Week is an annual event that invites everyone, especially those in the Latinx community, to embark on an adventure at a national park or public land site. Latino Conservation Week offers endless opportunities for exploring national parks, including educational and cultural events, community service projects, recreational programs, and more. And of course, there’s always the option of visiting your nearest national park for a hike, swim, picnic, or other outdoor activity.
When planning your Latino Conservation Week celebrations, we hope you’ll consider visiting one of the NPS sites specifically established to protect and interpret nationally significant places and stories associated with Latino heritage. We encourage you to explore — either in-person or virtually — the following destinations:
Cabrillo National Monument
In 1542, the voyage of European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo culminated at what we know today as San Diego Bay in southern California. He anchored his boat at Point Loma's east shore, near the location that would one day become designated as Cabrillo National Monument. Today, the monument tells the story of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and how his interactions with the area’s indigenous peoples, including the Kumeyaay tribe, would go on to shape the complex history of the area. The monument teaches visitors about the impact of the “conquistadors” on North America and how voyages like those of Cabrillo played a role in the early 1900s “encomienda” (labor) system.
The National Park Foundation supports service corps programs at Cabrillo National Monument, a joint effort with the California Conservation Corps, which brings teams of young adults to the site to accomplish critical maintenance and natural resource projects. The California Conservation Corps has helped to restore miles of trails at the site, including the Coastal Trail, Bayside Trail, and Military History Trail. Service corps members also rehabilitated “social trails,” unofficial trails forged by hikers walking off an established trail. Over 250,000 visitors traverse these “social trails” each year while exploring protected tide pools and admiring the stunning views of San Diego. The rehabilitation of these trails enhances visitor safety while restoring precious wildlife habitat, mitigating storm damage, and increasing the monument’s resilience to extreme weather. NPF is proud to continue our support of the California Conservation Corps by providing another year of funding in 2021.
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail commemorates the route traveled by another European explorer after landing in North America: Spanish Captain Juan Bautista de Anza. The trail spans 1,200 miles, starting in Nogales, Arizona and ending in the San Francisco Bay Area. It offers travelers the opportunity to learn about the three main elements of the Spanish plan for the colonization of its northern frontier: presidios (military forts), missions (religious centers), and pueblos (civilian towns). The trail also commemorates the history and culture of the area’s tribal communities, including the Quechan, Ohlone, O'odham, Tongva, and more.
With so many rich histories and cultures to explore, it’s important that people of all abilities can enjoy the trail. For this reason, NPF and partners supported the creation of a more physically accessible section of the Anza Trail near several historic and cultural sites. A three-mile section of the trail located along the Santa Cruz River in Southern Arizona has been transformed into an accessible exhibit with hands-on, interactive elements that tell the history of the Historic Anza Expedition. Once complete, this area will have an interactive outdoor space with a tactile archway entrance, musical and artistic elements, new seating, an outdoor classroom, and more.
Tumacácori National Historical Park
Located in the Arizona’s Santa Cruz River valley, Tumacácori National Historical Park preserves the ancient structures of three mission communities established by the Spanish. It was here that European Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, settlers, and soldiers first interacted with the O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people. The original mission was established by Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino and his party after arriving from the south via New Spain's West Coast corridor. They established Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori on the Santa Cruz River's east bank, followed by Mission San Gabriel 15 miles upriver only a day later. They were in the territory of the O'odham people — called the Pima by the Spanish — with whom they would have a turbulent relationship for the next hundred years.
Within the multifaceted history found at the site, there are countless stories that have yet to be told. In order to uncover these stories, NPF helped to place a historical research intern at Tumacácori National Historical Park, who created a guided walking tour that examines the influence of indigenous women who lived in Tumacácori Missions during the Spanish Colonial era, and how they contributed to the culture of the Mexican, Tohono O’odham, and Yaqui communities that exist today.
The intern meticulously analyzed records written by the Spanish missionaries that inhabited the Tumacácori Mission site from 1687-1848. Her research, which involved translating very old Spanish dialects, sheds new light on records written exclusively by men who oftentimes painted the women as passive and without value. As a result of this project, future visitors to the site will benefit from a new perspective on a lesser known herstory, in which women are the main characters. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the important role played by women within the missions, particularly in mediating cultural, religious, and ethnic tensions between the Spanish and local Indigenous people. This project is part of NPF’s Women in Parks Initiative, which provides funding to projects and programs that help NPS tell the stories of women in national parks.
Grand Teton and Joshua Tree National Parks
Latino Conservation Week is also a time to commemorate the specific experiences of the Latinx community and their contributions to the conservation field. An important example is Latinx service corps crews, which come to national parks across the country to accomplish important natural and cultural restoration work. Latinx crews are one of several single-identity service corps crews supported by NPF, including LGBTQ+, American Sign Language, Women, and Native American crews, which help people feel safe and comfortable as they explore parks and possible career paths. In 2019, NPF funding helped Groundwork USA send an all-Latina crew to Grand Teton National Park where they worked with the Western Center for Historic Preservation to install the foundations for a new observation deck for the historic Bar BC Dude Ranch, a site on the National Register of Historic Places. These women dug the foundation of the observation deck, installed joists, leveled using a laser level, and constructed 23 custom window and door shutters.
Visitors to Grand Teton can explore the Bar BC Dude Ranch, which opened in 1912 as a destination for “dudes” who were willing to pay extra for a “quainter” cattle ranching experience (minus the laboriousness of real cattle ranching work). During the Bar BC Ranch’s first summer, only six “dudes” visited, but it eventually became Jackson Hole’s most famous dude ranch. For many years, the ranch’s clientele enjoyed costume parties, performances, literary discussions, and other offerings. Today, many of the ranch buildings remain situated along the western bank of the Snake River and offer the same sense of the solitude and wilderness that past visitors enjoyed.
In fall 2021, NPF will help support another Latinx crew: Great Basin Institute’s Latinx Desert Resource crew, which is part of the Nevada Conservation Corps. The Latinx Desert Resource crew will spend five weeks at Joshua Tree National Park completing resource conservation, preservation, and management for the park, including removing graffiti from Barker Dam and Lost Horse Mine, as well as restoring nearby cultural landscape features under the guidance of a historic preservation specialist.
Initiatives like these are supported by the National Park Foundation's Latino Heritage Fund program, which provides funding for projects that safeguard and enhance national park sites that honor Latinx history and culture. Join us in our commitment to protecting these historic sites for future generations by donating today.
Endnote: In this blog post, NPF uses the language Latino and Latinx interchangeably. While the intent is to honor inclusivity and be representative of various ways that people identify, we recognize that this language does not account for all identities. We also recognize the importance and need of specificity in reference to distinct communities.