Leading the Latinx Community Outdoors
All across the country, there is a movement underway to get Latino families outside and connected to nature. At the forefront is Latino Outdoors, an organization that is working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education for the next generation and beyond.
Uniquely Latino-led, Latino Outdoors “is a space for the [Latinx] community to be present, share their voices, and showcase how conservation roots have been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations.”
José González, founder of Latino Outdoors, recognized the need for this type of movement when he started the organization in 2013. “I didn’t want to leave my culture at the trailhead,” notes González. Despite being the fastest growing demographic in the United States, the Latinx community makes up only ten percent of National Park Service visitation every year.
Since its founding, Latino Outdoors has laid the groundwork for a full-scale environmental revolution; through its national volunteer network of leaders in conservation and outdoor education, the organization is creating access to recreational opportunities, youth mentorship and experiential activities, and partnership with other organizations for supplemental education.
Most members first get engaged with Latino Outdoors through events that are held in cities across the country. A new team in New York City recently held a film night and indoor rock climbing for young people.
Their West Coast teams, which include hubs based in Seattle, San Francisco, Humboldt, Sacramento/Modesto, and Los Angeles, continue to be the organization’s stronghold, and hold regular outings for their members all year long.
The team based out of Denver, CO has continued to lead the way in partnering with peer organizations like Brown Girls Climb, Outdoor Afro, and Natives Outdoors – they joined forces most recently on an ice climbing event.
Teams in San Antonio, Portland, Las Cruces, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Washington, D.C. are similarly making waves with their own opportunities to get outside.
In 2013, the first ever Latino Outdoors event was a wellness walk for families at Point Reyes National Seashore, and national parks have been a living laboratory for the Latino Outdoors model ever since.
Most recently, Latino Outdoors was one of five national organizations that launched the Summit Seekers initiative, with support from the National Park Foundation, to understand how cross-sector organizations can better collaborate to engage new and underrepresented communities in the enjoyment and stewardship of our national parks and the outdoors.
Given his role as a key developer of the Summit Seekers project, González noted that it started as an idea – not just for a new program but to help define what national park partnerships could look like for the next 100 years. Of particular importance for the success of the initiative was the “emphasis on the holistic experience of being a leader, with others, for national parks.”
As it plans for the future in its new strategic plan, “Latino Outdoors 2020: Connecting Cultura and Community with the Outdoors," Latino Outdoors envisions being able to continue providing families with transformational experiences in nature and ensure that Latinos have an active presence in the outdoors and conservation movements. It will no doubt remain a leading example of what it means to connect people to extraordinary places in the second century of America's national parks.