Latino Culture’s Indelible Stamp on America’s National Parks

Katherine RivardNPF Blog
View down the mountains and grasslands from the Peak Trail at Coronado National Memorial
Coronado National Memorial — National Park Service

Many national parks reflect America’s natural beauty. Others show another type of American beauty — the cultures and traditions of people from every walk of life. National parks honor our different experiences and united histories.

Latino culture is a vibrant part of this cultural mix. Over this next year, consider visiting some of these astounding spots preserving Latino culture.

Coronado National Memorial

Monsoon clouds build over the landscape.

Montezma Peak at Coronado National Memorial

NPS Photo / Katy Hooper

In 1540, the arrival of the entrada to "Tierra Nueva," led by commander and captain general Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, marked a period of cultural collapse and sparked an era of cultural fusion. Seeking gold and looking to expand Spanish territory, the expedition marked a dramatic cultural and biological exchange between the indigenous peoples of the region and the company of the armed expedition, comprised of Europeans, Aztec/Mexica allies, Franciscan priests, and servants and enslaved peoples. Take in the landscapes and imagine what those on the expedition were thinking as they sought gold near present-day Coronado National Memorial. Though there is no physical evidence of the expedition today, the park offers a sweeping view of the San Pedro River, widely regarded as the corridor the expedition party used on their path northward.

Stonewall National Monument

Front of the Stonewall Inn National Monument with rainbow flags blowing in the wind
NPS Photo / Timothy Schenck

Following what at first appeared to be a routine raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, crowds held their ground in demanding civil rights, refusing to disperse. The Stonewall Inn was popular with the African American and Latino LGBTQ+ community, and the crowd that gathered included many people of color. Over the next six days, thousands of people joined the resistance in an uprising that marked a significant turning point in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. Deepen your understanding of history as you learn more about the intersection of LGBTQ+, African American, and Latino experiences at Stonewall National Monument.

Chamizal National Memorial

Mural painted on a wall of different people at Chamizal National Memorial

"Nuestra Herencia," painted by muralist Carlos Flores, at Chamizal National Memorial

NPS Photo

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established the Rio Grande as the boundary between the United States and Mexico, but the river's naturally changing course threw this boundary into dispute over the years, with various treatries attempting to answer questions about using a river as a border. The ownership of Chamizal, privately owned Mexican land that had shifted north of the Rio Grande, remained in dispute for a century. On August 23, 1963, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Adolfo López Mateos signed the Chamizal Treaty, in which the United States returned much of the disputed land to Mexico. Both countries continued to work together in relocating four miles of the Rio Grande through a concrete lined channel, and Mexico transferred a piece of undisputed land to the United States, now protected as the Chamizal National Memorial. Experience cultural demonstrations and hands-on activities, peruse art galleries, or hit the trails in this park that honors culture, history, and friendship.

César E. Chávez National Monument

Stairs leading up to the Memorial Garden at Cesar E Chavez National Monument

Steps leading the Memorial Garden at César E. Chávez National Monument

NPS Photo

Farm workers in the fields and communities of California and beyond where subjected to difficult conditions and hardships for more than a century. César E. Chávez, a farm worker and community organizer who had seen the discrimination against his community first-hand, dedicated his life to the struggle for respect and dignity of America's farm workers. Establishing the National Farm Workers Assocation - later the United Farm Workers of America - in 1962, and working alongside Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong, Chávez and his team fought for better conditions for farmworkers by organizing boycotts. Joining forces with other reform movements, the farm worker movement gained support from millions of Americans, greatly improving living and working conditions. Reflect on the inspiring history of the United Farm Workers of America and the struggle for workers’ rights at César E. Chávez National Monument.

Then be ready to join in the celebration of Latino culture with the national park community by taking part in Latino Conservation Week: Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra. This annual July event encourages everyone, and especially the Latino community, to enjoy and explore public lands across the country. The event includes events across the country, from the District of Columbia to Wisconsin to California.

Our national parks have countless stories to tell and a vibrant tapestry of culture to be embraced. Be sure to learn more about our many national parks and the people they represent. Then #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque to experience it all firsthand and to add your own story to the mix!

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