The stories continue for “Yo Cuento Outdoors”! Next up … me : ).
In the last few months I highlighted some of the personal and inspiring stories of Latino Outdoors Volunteers and Leaders. They let us into their lives by sharing the first time they connected to an outdoor space and what it meant to them. One thing they all have in common is their love for La Madre Tierra.
Latino Outdoors is a unique Latino-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. As part of this work, they focus on expanding and amplifying the Latino experience in the outdoors; providing greater opportunities for leadership, mentorship, professional opportunities and serving as a platform for sharing cultural connections and narratives that are often overlooked by the traditional outdoor movement. It is a space for the community to be present, share their voices, and showcase how conservation roots have been ingrained in Latino cultura for generations.
LO is my familia and has been since 2015 when I became the Southwest Ambassador in San Antonio, Texas.
Hola, my name is Josie Gutierrez and here is my story.
What would be my earliest memories in the outdoors with a connection to Nature?
I guess this would be my first connection to the outdoors, learning how to walk on the grass at my abuelita’s house. My first adventure with the wind in my baby hair and a smile on my face, lol. I grew up in the 70’s and the outdoors for me was the place I connected with my friends and countless cousins. Rollerskating, biking, hide-n-seek, climbing trees, making up cheerleading routines and running around till dark were just a few of my favorites. Good times from sun up to sun down. This was my foundation and one that I will forever be grateful for.
I loved the outdoors and growing up we would go to local parks but it wasn’t until the age of twenty that a friend suggested we go to Garner State Park. I am always down for an adventure so off we went. I never expected that weekend to hug my soul the way it did. The most beautiful river flowed right through the park with endless trails to explore. This was to be my first adult connection to Nature “my happy Place“.
How do I connect what I do now in the Outdoor space?
Soon after that trip to Garner State Park I became a mother and my primary focus became that. To be the best Mom I could be and that meant I really had to grow up quickly to provide all I could for my daughter. Parks like Garner were but a dream as I had my second daughter a few years later. My partner and I bought a small house to raise our girls in and settled into our lives. The girls were getting older and since a real vacation was not in the budget I suggested Garner State Park. I called and found out it was totally within our means to camp out for the weekend. The only problem was gear. I don’t really remember where we found our first tents but we did. We loaded up the family truck and off we went, into the Texas Hill Country.
This park became a yearly tradition for many years. We were happy there and that’s all that mattered. We would tube down the river for hours and enjoyed the time with the girls and the nephew and nieces that we sort of adopted as our tribe for these adventures.
The girls got older and these trips to the park became non existent. High school and sports took over then graduation and college came soon after. The kids no longer needed Mom and Dad as much and we now had more time for ourselves. I took up running to shed a few pounds and that meant running outside at different parks around the city. I felt happiest outside and I knew I needed more. Social media was the tool for the next chapter in my life.
I meet a local Latina blogger who inspired me to start my own blog. I started Fitfunand.com – Fitness, fun and life! Because life is too short for regrets and what a great way to share information and success. The need to explore my city and share outdoor recreation led me to some amazing opportunities. I was ready for more but wasn’t sure what was next. Then along came Latino Outdoors. I felt totally labeled in the best way possible! Two words that connected me instantly. Their Instagram and Twitter pages were full of Latinos being highlighted in nature. I tagged myself in more than a few pictures and was excited to show support from Texas.
A few weeks later, I get a message from LO in regards to becoming an Ambassador in Texas. Totally shocked and a call or two later, I was officially announced the new Southwest Ambassador. What would this mean and how would this change my life? LO was growing as well and I had no connections to any Nature groups in town. They connected me to my local REI store and their Outdoor Programs and Outreach~Jeanette.
I cannot begin to tell you how many connections and people all over the city of San Antonio she helped put me in contact with. I will forever be grateful to her for wanting to see LO be a force in Texas. Lucky me, a female Latina who knows every outdoor group in and around her city. With her continued help and support I have been able to build a solid foundation. Our Texas group is continuing to grow with at least one outdoor event a month. Hiking, bird watching, kayaking, camping and much more.
I have found myself on a trail with endless possibilities and no way out. Just the way it should be : ).
What makes the outdoors special to me and do I have a favorite hike?
It is special in the way the wind plays with my hair, the way the sun lights the trails, the way the river hugs me as I swim, the music the birds make as I explore and the feeling of being present in the most purest way possible.
My favorite hike to date would be walking along the Santa Elena Canyon Trail at Big Bend National Park in Texas with my family this year. This was a little more special because we have a granddaughter now who shared this adventure with us as well. Three generations making moments.
It has only been in the past few years with LO that I have given myself space to grow in the outdoors and to feel more comfortable and vulnerable. These past few years have taught me that I am capable of more than I ever imagined. Latino Outdoors is a platform to share our stories and let our voices be heard. In a full circle kind of a way I know this was where I was meant to be.
Love what you live!
Josie~Southwest Program Coordinator