Finangi, organizadora comunitaria, comparte su historia de por que esta en la lucha por justicia del medio ambiente y construyendo a una comunidad poderosa.
To celebrate 14 years of Latino Advocacy Day, here are five stories from folks who went to LAD and are now working in political and social justice fields.
Stokes Poké partners with Conservation Colorado because we agree that the environment, economy, and social justice are inseparable.
At the intersection of nature and consumerism exists an economic opportunity. Companies can manipulate a nature lover’s identity into a costly pursuit of image. Pair that with pressure to show the most glamorous fraction of your life on social media, and the outdoor retail industry thrives. Yet, as the climate crisis continues to escalate and stolen lands receive long-overdue recognition, the once-idealized outdoor recreation industry is poised for criticism. To survive, outdoor recreation businesses and conservation organizations must reevaluate how they serve all people and the good of the planet. The question is: how do these considerations shape a new kind of Outdoor Retailer show event, and inclusive conservation?
I first commend the Outdoor Industry Alliance’s decision to move their annual trade show from Salt Lake City to Denver in 2018 to take a stand against Utah’s government officials support of the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument. This choice diverted the show’s $110 million annual economic impact to a city proud to value conservation, environmental respect, and equity.
But, even as places are selected for their environmental values, the environmental movement must look to who is uplifted and honored. Disproportionately, leadership and participation in environmental organizations and outdoor recreation has looked white and affluent. Although significant progress has been made in gender diversity in the field, the most powerful positions are scarcely held by women and people of color. In response to this historical inequity, I join many others to envision an inclusive environmental movement.
At Elevate Conservation: Outdoors for All, the tide of inclusive conservation rose at the hands of dedicated thought leaders who have created, are creating, and will continue to create new conservationist identities.
In the words of Native Women’s Wilderness founder and honoree Jaylyn Gough, “the outdoor industry is currently gleaning billions of dollars from stolen lands.” That means industry professionals and those who claim environmental identities must respect the history of the lands they occupy and enjoy. At Outdoors for All, the Denver Singers began the event with a blessing dance. They acknowledged that Denver is a meeting point for many tribal groups, and continues to be home to 60,000 indigenous people in the Denver metro area. I viewed this acknowledgement as deep recognition of relationship to place–more than a token gesture. In her speech, Gough urged attendees to ask ourselves, “whose land are you exploring?” I am searching for what is next for an environmental movement with a history of racism, eugenics, and displacement.
Speakers at the Outdoors for All event inspired the crowd with their work, action items, and callouts. In addition to Jaylyn Gough’s powerful message, Hopi Vice Chairman Clark Tenakhongva highlighted the collaborative work of Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Diné, and Ute tribes in the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition to protect 1.3 million acres of sacred tribal lands. Yesica Chavez, Student Coordinator at Environmental Learning for Kids, called upon organizational leaders to offer paid internships and jobs to underrepresented groups and enact equitable hiring practices. Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation, outlined three ways we can win on climate: honor culture, anchor our efforts in a place of authenticity, and live up to the responsibility that comes with privilege. I walked out of the event feeling represented and inspired, but with lingering questions about next steps.
My Jodo Shinshu Buddhist community in Honolulu taught me the importance of gratitude, which is central to my identity. I am privileged to never worry about going hungry, be a college graduate, and often claim my white or multiracial identities at my convenience. Now, I add that I am grateful to have paid work at Conservation Colorado for a cause I support deeply.
While I once found comfort in simply being grateful, the Elevate Conservation event was a powerful reminder that action follows appreciation.
For inspiration, I look to leaders in the Green 2.0 movement, including the visionaries of Protégete working to empower voices of Latinx communities. For suggestions about my own actions, I find a wealth of resources online that do not demand more education and emotional labor from leaders.
Work to shape inclusive conservation is real and necessary. Leaders who carve out space in a historically exclusive movement deserve recognition not only at events like Elevate Conservation: Outdoors for All, but every single day. This fight is not the sole responsibility of groups who have been historically excluded. Instead, it is a call to every conservationist, outdoor recreationist, or nature appreciator–especially executives within the field. We can answer this call by speaking out against discrimination, supporting inclusive organizations, and listening to underrepresented voices.
Your actions may be influenced by your own sources of power, but as Mustafa Santiago Ali reminded attendees: we all have the power to make change happen.
Protégete joined students and faculty at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) to investigate microscale particulate pollution in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea—two communities with a long history of environmental injustice.
We sat down with Promotores instructors and students to learn more about how the program helps Colorado’s communities, environment, and our future.
When I first learned about organizing and the potency of speaking truth to power, one person leaped to the forefront of my mind: Cesar Chavez.
“Quiero [ver] más respeto por el medio ambiente y las comunidades que viven en ese entorno. La gente está siendo aprovechada. Tenemos que tratar de cambiar. Salir y sondear y hablar con los políticos, esa es una solución “.
– Dominique Lemus, Youth Promotora
La comunidad latina de Colorado, que comprende aproximadamente el 21 por ciento de la población total del estado, es una de las más grandes de la nación. Los latinos han sido históricamente subrepresentados en la política y, con demasiada frecuencia, son ignorados, si no involuntariamente, perjudicados por el movimiento conservacionista. Esta injusticia histórica inspiró el desarrollo del programa Promotores en 2014, que reconoce la importancia de la participación de los latinos en el compromiso cívico al trabajar con las comunidades para proporcionar los recursos, el conocimiento y las habilidades de liderazgo necesarias para crear soluciones comunitarias sostenibles.
Hasta la fecha, Protégete ha graduado más de 150 Promotores. Nos reunimos con los instructores y estudiantes de Promotores para aprender más sobre cómo el programa ayuda a las comunidades, el ambiente y el futuro de Colorado.
Cultivando habilidades de defensa y activismo en comunidades latinas
Noe Orgaz y Patricia Ferrero son dos de los jóvenes instructores Promotores de Protégete. Cada semana, los organizadores de Protégete se reúnen con unos 20 estudiantes para discutir los problemas actuales que afectan a sus comunidades y colaborar en la creación de soluciones.
“Nuestro objetivo es lograr que los estudiantes hablen sobre temas ambientales y cuenten sus historias de manera efectiva”, dijo Orgaz.
Como facilitador, el objetivo de Orgaz abarca más que llegar a la comunidad: se trata de “no solo capacitar a los jóvenes, sino también lograr que se movilicen”.
Ayudar a los estudiantes a movilizar a sus comunidades es especialmente importante, teniendo en cuenta el hecho de que las comunidades latinas, que sufren impactos desproporcionados debido a la contaminación, suelen estar insuficientemente representadas en la formulación de políticas.
“Muchos se sienten privados de sus derechos porque los recursos no se proporcionan en su idioma o por la historia de la marginación sistémica”, dijo Ferrero. Explicó que “tener un programa centrado intencionalmente en los aspectos culturales de la comunidad garantiza que los miembros de la comunidad se sientan seguros y bienvenidos en espacios tradicionalmente poco acogedores”.
Relacionando la salud de nuestro medio ambiente con la salud o nuestras familias
Cuando se les preguntó por qué decidieron involucrarse con Protégete, los Promotores actuales mencionaron a sus familias como su principal preocupación.
“La conservación significa preservar y mantener lo que es más importante para usted. Y eso es familia “, dijo Alexsandra Ruiz-Ortiz. “La calidad del aire es un problema ambiental que es realmente importante para mí. Mi sobrino y yo tenemos asma debido a la mala calidad del aire. Antes de hacer cualquier ejercicio … tengo que tomar mi inhalador. Para mi sobrino, cuando se le hace cosquillas durante mucho tiempo, comienza a tener sibilancias “.
Los latinos sufren de asma, que se ve agravada por la contaminación del aire, a tasas mucho más altas que las de otros grupos demográficos. Un niño latino tiene 40 por ciento más probabilidades de morir de asma que los niños blancos no latinos.
Al mismo tiempo, el 66 por ciento de los latinos en los Estados Unidos vive en áreas que
caen por debajo de las normas de calidad del aire de la EPA.
Jordi Hernández agregó: “Ya sea que la gente se dé cuenta o no, van a estar respirando [aire contaminado] y va a causar algunas interrupciones en la salud”. Necesitamos aprender cómo hacer algo sobre los problemas que nos interesan. Los promotores nos están ayudando a hacer eso “.
Elevando las voces latinas
Además de informarse sobre los problemas locales de justicia ambiental, los Promotores ayudan a los estudiantes a convertirse en la próxima generación de líderes.
“[Los promotores] permiten que una persona esté activa”, dijo Orgaz. “Estas son personas que pueden hablar continuamente con los medios de comunicación sobre los problemas que enfrentan, que pueden educar continuamente a los demás. Luego, cuando [su comunidad los necesite] para declarar o actuar, estarán listos “.
Al brindarles a los estudiantes una plataforma, experiencia práctica y los recursos para tener éxito, el programa Promotores ayuda a elevar las voces latinas. A través de estas oportunidades, ya sea testificando en la Comisión de Control de Calidad del Aire en nombre de las reglas de automóviles limpios o tocando puertas para los líderes a favor de la conservación, los promotores preparan a sus estudiantes para que se conviertan en defensores de la comunidad.
“Al ver lo motivados y emocionados que estaban [nuestros Promotores] acerca de [testificar], me sentí realmente orgulloso de lo mucho que pueden hacer los estudiantes y los latinos cuando se les brinda la oportunidad”, dijo Ferrero.
Elva Parga compartió que el programa Promotores la ayudó a encontrar una manera de ayudar a su comunidad en general. “Siempre he ayudado un poco aquí y allá, pero nunca he estado tan involucrado”, dijo. “Siempre he sido la persona que [mira a otros] y los anima, pero ahora soy la que está sentada en el micrófono hablando con representantes, diciéndoles lo que quiero que hagan. Eso es algo que nunca pensé que haría “.
Mirando hacia el futuro
Aunque todavía es relativamente nuevo, el programa Promotores continúa evolucionando en su capacidad y potencial.
“Todavía no sabemos todo el potencial de este programa. Definitivamente, siempre está creciendo y vamos a seguir expandiéndonos “, dijo Orgaz. “Mi visión para los Promotores es que una vez que una persona se gradúa, ellos son los que enseñan la clase”.
“Podemos comenzar con Promotores en una escuela secundaria y terminar ayudando a alguien a ser elegido como miembro del consejo de la ciudad o trabajar en el Capitolio estatal y darse cuenta del potencial [completo] que tienen”, dijo Ferrero. Ella apunta a brindar esas oportunidades “porque muchos estudiantes no se dan cuenta de que eso es algo que pueden lograr”.
Los estudiantes están de acuerdo. Concluyó Parga: “Siento que [el programa de Promotores de Protégete] me está preparando para pelear batallas más grandes en el futuro”.
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the United States’ Hispanic population by creating Hispanic Heritage Week. The week was later expanded to a month by President Reagan in 1988, and it stretches from September 15 to October 15 every year to celebrate the heritage of the diverse Hispanic populations in the U.S.
Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the Americans of Mexican, Spanish, Caribbean and Central and South American descent. Within that month, there are seven independence days for Hispanic and Latin American countries along with other important dates.
Hispanics and Latinx people make up about 17 percent of the United States and 21 percent of Colorado. Cultural influences can be seen in all aspects of society, from regional cuisine and art to political and environmental movements. In a highly divisive and partisan time, one thing is clear: Americans that identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx are vital to shaping the cultural and political future of our country.
Confused about the difference between the identifiers “Hispanic” and “Latinx?” Check out this video that explains the difference between the terms before discussing the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month.
What is your background and how do you identify?
Juan Pérez Sáez, Protégete Organizing Manager
I was born and raised in Panama. Both of my parents are school teachers, and they were both the first generation to go to school. I’m the first person who came to the U.S. and the only person in my family who has a passport.
Issamar Pichardo, Protégete Community Organizer
I identify as Mexican — even though sometimes when I go to Mexico they’re like, “You have an accent in Spanish,” and here I have an accent in English. My family has immigrated back and forth: my grandparents are from Mexico, and my mom was born in Chicago and then went back to Mexico. I was born in Chihuahua, and then we moved again, here to Colorado, when I was 8 years old.
Noé Orgaz, Protégete Community Organizer
I’m first generation Mexican-American. My mom is from Acapulco, Guerrero. We grew up in East LA, which has a majority Latino/Hispanic community that’s predominantly Mexican. I identify as Chicano, but in the context of Hispanic or Latino, I tend to lean towards Latino.
Victoria Torrez, Pueblo Community Organizer
My dad’s side of the family comes from Chihuahua, Mexico, and they came out to Pueblo, Colorado to work in the steel mill. My family still identifies as Hispanic, but personally, I like LatinX. I tried to explain to them that it’s problematic to use Hispanic because it’s “of Spanish.”
Finangi Manganez, Protégete Community Organizer
I was born in Venezuela. All my family was born in Venezuela. I came here to Colorado at 20 years old. I’m Latina and very proud of it.
Do you have a specific tradition the you connect with or that is your favorite?
The Day of the Dead, which in the US is from October 31 to November 2, is the tradition that I identify with the most. It’s an Aztec tradition where you honor the dead, and you present offerings to say, “We remember you, and you’re always going to be present with us.” It’s a tradition that was incorporated into Catholicism since the Aztecs wouldn’t give it up!
My dad wasn’t encouraged to celebrate traditions — or even speak Spanish — growing up. His parents didn’t want my dad or his siblings to draw attention to themselves; they wanted them to fit in. One of the few things that we still hang onto is that we make tamales at Christmas time. It’s still — and always has been — my favorite thing ever. I think it’s because it was something that I could identify with my LatinX roots.
New Years is big for us. Five minutes before midnight, you make wishes for the next year. We eat 12 grapes, and for every single grape, you have to make a wish. If you want to travel in the next year, you have to leave your house and take a walk. Even my daughters do it with us!
Why is conservation-focused work important to you?
I practice Native tradition. Naturally, Native tradition practitioners are protectors of the environment. You’re expected to understand that you have a sacred relationship with the land, air, water, and the elements. It’s not just a rock or a plant or a tree: those things have life in them; they have spirits — and we should acknowledge and protect that. That’s why environmental work is important to me: it’s a fundamental aspect of the tradition I practice.
After the 2013 flash floods in Weld County, I focused my undergraduate research on understanding how Latino populations respond to and recover from natural disasters. We found barriers, such as language and legal status, that prevented Latinos from accessing FEMA Funds. Overall, the government wasn’t supportive.
Why is it important to engage Latinx people in environmental work, and how can that be done successfully?
This is our way to change things, from politics to public health. Communities need to know about the policies that impact them so that when they turn on the TV with their families, they understand the process that led to that change. We need the information to be active citizens.
It should be important for everyone. When we talk about conservation, environmental justice, and natural resources, it shouldn’t instantly become a political issue. It’s a human rights issue. We all deserve the right to breathe clean air. We shouldn’t have to be wealthy or white to live in a place with clean air. The way that we make the conservation movement more diverse and inclusive is by working to improve access for everyone. Then perhaps then everyone will join the fight.
For some, it’s a hard truth to grasp; for others, it’s an everyday reality.
Latinx communities are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of climate change, air pollution, and environmental hazards. They’re more likely to get asthma and to live near industrial activity that causes smog. That’s why Latinx communities are more likely to be concerned about environmental threats and are, in fact, leading the charge to advance conservation.
At Conservation Colorado, our Protégete program helps Latinx communities and leaders to build a more powerful, influential voice in the fight against climate change in hopes of a healthy future. We sat down with Noe Orgaz, the Protégete community organizer for Denver, to talk about his experiences growing up in Los Angeles and to explore what inspired him to professionally engage with Latinx communities through conservation advocacy.
What is Latinx Conservation Week? Why is this celebration important?
Latinx Conservation Week is an opportunity for the Latinx community to address conservation issues and bring awareness to the environmental issues that impact the Latinx community. We talk about how we can conserve, work toward a future that thrives, and possibly mitigate a lot of the effects of climate change we’re dealing with today.
Where did you grow up, and what was the environment like there? How did you interact with the resources around you?
I grew up in Los Angeles, California. The environment that I grew up in was a lot of asphalt and concrete. The area that I remember most is my grandmother’s house. Her backyard was adjacent to the LA River, with huge trees that I remember climbing on.
My parents didn’t feel safe drinking water out of the faucet so we always had to boil it in order to cook with it or simply drink it. We were worried it would be contaminated and make us sick. That’s one of the reasons I’m passionate about conservation today. Through my own life and the lives of other people experiencing oppression, I’ve seen the impact of environmental injustice.
In your work, in your professional experience, what are the most pressing conservation issues that face Colorado’s Latinx community?
One of the more prevalent issues right now that Latinxs are dealing with is the air quality in their communities. A lot of folks live near highways or near areas where there is construction. We’re seeing a lot of children get asthma from breathing polluted air in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods.
One of the bills we worked on this legislative session — the school setbacks bill — really got me thinking about the air pollution that kids like mine are experiencing. The bill was trying to increase the distance between schools and oil and gas drilling. It’s really troubling to know that there are communities that have oil rigs right by their football fields or playgrounds.
The idea of young people getting an education and breathing in the pollution from drilling and fracking — not to mention the risks of spills, explosions, and fires — it just doesn’t sit right by me. It’s definitely something that should be addressed — we need to make it safer for people to get a basic education.
When I think about my own children, I think about how many oil companies are drilling next to schools serving low-income families and Latinx youth, and that makes me want to work hard to change it.
Why is this celebration of Latinx Conservation Week important?
Latinx Conservation Week is important because it is an opportunity and a timeframe for people to be able to address the issues that most impact the Latinx community — but this should be something that goes on on a regular basis, an everyday basis. Every day should be like Latinx Conservation Week.