“Tesoros de Texas”~ Latino Outdoors San Antonio.

Tesoros de Texas” are Texas treasures we have decided to highlight from our group once a month. These amazing individuals are you!! The gente from our Latino Outdoors San Antonio community. You have participated, engaged, brought your families and most importantly, believed in yourself at many of our outings. In doing so you have inspired us to continue this work we genuinely care about. We are building a strong foundation so that we can become successful, sustainable and educated in conservation and the environment.

Last year we hosted nine events, five campouts, two tabling events and kayaked twice in and around our beautiful city and Texas State Parks. We explored, shared our cultura and renewed our souls in the wild.

We thought we would start our “Tesoros de Texas” series with a couple that has been with us from the very first LO San Antonio campout in 2017. They are Texas treasures no doubt and have even stepped in as volunteers and mentors for our group. They were like familia from day one. You cannot help but adore their adventurous spirit in the outdoors as they share this life as husband and wife : ).

Nosotros los gustaría presentarte Lissette y Pedro Cantu!!

What are some of your first nature related memories?

Pedro ~ As a native Dallasite, my earliest memories of being afuera revolve around a move from the City to rural Dallas County at the age of five years old. While this may sound a little strange when referring to Dallas, please keep in mind that First: this was a long time ago 🙂 and second that the community that we moved to was a quarter mile from the East Fork of the Trinity River. The city park was half a block away and either side of the park were thousands of acres of river bottoms, creeks, natural springs, sloughs, gravel pits, and ranch lands.

At the age of five, I had a whole year to discover the park, creeks and surrounding area before I had to walk the two miles to school. Uphill both ways, naturally 🙂 I discovered very quickly that the wildlife and birds were much more active as the sun was rising and my siblings less active (sleeping). I had mi mundo all to myself.  I was fascinated by the flying squirrels, hognose snakes, alligator snapping turtles, fish and what we called ‘crawdads’. I could leave the house at the crack of dawn and be back by midmorning in time to have breakfast with everyone after doing plenty of exploring.

Once I started school, mi mundo afuera expanded. I would always take the route through the woods when possible so that I could look for box turtles in the grasslands and softshell turtles in the creeks. I also discovered that many of my schoolmates were the children of the ranchers and farmers in the area. So when we would ‘camp’ in the backyard on weekends, the nearest fence was likely to be barbed wire and be hundreds of acres away. The sound of coyotes at night was the norm, not the exception.

Mis memorias afuera incluyen a México, from the time that I can recall, we would spend summers in either Guadalupe N.L. or near Reynosa. My paternal Familia has a homestead belonging to my immediate family totaling 880 hectares on the banks of the Rio dating to 1866. I say, immediate family, because the original place is much, much larger.

This place es magico, many of the community residents are second, third and fourth cousins, todos somos ‘primos’. The buildings are all adobe, with dirt floors and we had to chase the chickens out of the vigas when we arrived to spend the summers. In a place with no running water and no electricity, we had the best time ‘camping’ for three whole months. This was a ‘nuevo mundo’ with tortoises, tunas, pitayas and lots of fishing. Bathing was either jumping in the river with a bar of soap or using the water caught in a 55-gallon drum by the home-made gutters catching the heavy morning dew.

Guadalupe was another thing, Mi abuelita lived near El Cerro de La Silla that was also an aventura. We had La Pastora, El Bosque and of course El Cerro to explore. You have to travel through each of these areas to climb El Cerro and we spent plenty of time there. La Pastora and it’s beautiful rio of running water, cypress trees, and swimming holes was always inviting. There is a network of stone-lined pools that were built by the indigenous peoples that always offered an excellent way to cool off. Two of the pools had become filled with sediment and were home to gigante Elephant Ear plants that we would use as umbrellas if it rained. But the best part of the sediment pools was that they were overflowing with frogs. ‘Buelita never tired of fixing ancas de rana for supper when we came back from the Cerro.

Lissette ~ I grew up in Mexico City, a big urban city, and every weekend my parents would take us out of the city to the mountains with other families and friends. We would all play afuera and have picnics while enjoying the trees and nature. My parents loved hiking, that is the way they met, their courtship time was spent hiking with friends. Once they were married and had kids they took us all hiking.

How much of yourselves do you devote to nature and does this play into your work/community?

Pedro ~ My move to San Antonio prompted my signing up for the Master Naturalist program, after moving here I quickly found out that although I was still in Texas, there were many fascinating things that I was not familiar with. The Edwards Aquifer, karst, huisache and tons of native plants. I proposed to become intimately familiar with my new home by signing up and participating in the Eco-environment of San Antonio.

As the Director of the Physical Plant for the Oblate School of Theology, I take the stewardship of sixty-six acres of property that includes an organic garden, a pollinator garden, and meditation gardens. We also have water rights on the property and have to report our water usage to and abide by the regulations of the Edwards Aquifer Authority. I work hard to maintain a balance between the cultured landscape and the use of native plants where possible. My love of the outdoors extends to protecting the wildlife on the property which including raccoons, possums, hawks, great horned owls, squirrels and yes, being gentle in the removal of skunks when needed.

My devotion to nature includes participating in forums, groups removing invasive plants, park planning committees, served as a board member of the Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Garland, TX and serving as the Environmental Liaison for the Wilshire Neighborhood Association

Lissette ~ I work as a Community Health Worker, my focus is to help improve the communities health, I strongly believe that a way to help people be more healthy is showing them love for nature and the outdoors,  I do my best to bring families and kids to the outdoors by taking them hiking, biking and exercising outdoors when possible. Sadly nowadays we spend to much time inside on the screen. Kids do better when they are outside.

What is your favorite “juntos”hike and what park was it?

Hiking is our favorite activity because it can be “spur of the moment” and we take every opportunity to do so while traveling, on vacation or while at home.

Lissette’s parents

While we have hiked some incredible places in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, our favorite hike remains Friedrich Wilderness Park  in San Antonio. It is close, convenient and a beautiful preservation of nature near the city.

How do you both continue to stay inspired and inspire people around you?

We stay inspired by taking every opportunity to be afuera and to be mindful while being afuera, of the beauty around us. We take every opportunity to motivate family, friends, and neighbors to spend time outdoors and to point out the beauty of nature around us.

Thank you both so much for sharing your story and for always being kind, compassionate, sweet, humble and silly : ). Let’s continue to blaze these trails we explore and let people know … estamos aqui!