How Kendrick Lamar’s Words are My Park Story

"The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it. Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city. While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive.” –Kendrick Lamar, Mortal Man
August 10, 2016Juan TellesNPF Blog

My work inspires passionate flames, so I must speak from my inner caterpillar. The humble insect known as “El Tigre,” was able to cross bridges created by many, many mentors and friends. In some marvelous way, the caterpillar connected with those individuals and thus, it was able to find nature as a means of self-identity and survival.

Juan Telles wearing the Latino Outdoors flag on his back

To translate, I came from a poor, urban neighborhood. Having been raised in a single-parent household, I was lucky if I even got to leave the apartment complex as a youth; subsequently, the call of the wild was lost in the excuses constructed from my situation. Money, transportation, and the knowledge of these places were obstacles that stood between me and finding my park. A connection to la tierra, the earth, was only possible once my basic needs were met.

Man smiling with Yosemite Valley in the back

Juan Telles at Yosemite National Park

As an adult, through the mentors and friends I mentioned earlier, I found Latino Outdoors, my parks, and my calling.

A man and a child on a beach at Kirby Cove with a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the back

Telles with his son at Kirby Cove in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

My first adventure in a national park was at Yosemite National Park where I hiked the Four Mile Trail. It was the perfect first experience to challenge a newbie, like myself. Since then I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail, explored Redwood National Park, visited Grand Teton, and, my personal favorite, been camping with my five-year-old son at Kirby Cove in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Nature is simple and allows me to connect to the space around me, and mostly importantly, nature facilitates a deeper connection to myself. I always express myself with gratefulness. When I am outside, I feel thankful for the wind, the ground I stand upon, and the flowing waters that we use for agriculture, enjoy in recreation, and study in ecosystems.

In our parks, no breath is taken for granted. Every sight is majestic. Life and diversity matters.

Three men and a woman smiling at the camera with a marina in the back

The value of life needs to be represented in every institution throughout our nation. I feel inspired to connect my community to the work of the Natural Leaders Network and Latino Outdoors because they are leaders for inclusion and equity.

These organizations have invested in me, and it is my duty to use the tools I have been equipped with and reinvest them within others. I know that when a community is truly empowered, they go outside, and they do it together. Our work is to amplify the message, “aquí estamos, we are here” and create greater accessibility to more natural spaces.

My favorite part about working with Latino Outdoors is the freedom to create and act upon my dreams.

Currently, I am working on developing an outdoor recreation center for my community that will inspire individuals to get outside in simple and grand, adventurous ways. I hope to spread the idea that we own these parks, go adventure in your backyard!


Juan Telles is one of Latino Outdoors’ regional coordinators for the California Central Valley and Natural Leader. He lives and works out of Modesto, California. He strives to expand upon his own personal adventures by developing relationships and taking simple actions that evolve into huge movements. 

He is excited to support LO by using his strengths to increase member and participant engagement, heading efforts for public outreach, and taking families outside of their neighborhoods by coordinating outdoor events in the Central Valley.

To follow his adventures and connect, you can find him on Instagram and Twitter as @onetelles or read his blog and featured posts at LatinoOutdoors.org.


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