09/22/17

“Yo Cuento Outdoors”~The Stories of Latino Outdoors. Part 1

What is Latino Outdoors?

I asked myself that very question a few years back. Fast-forward to now and I can tell you exactly what Latino Outdoors is and who the community of amazing leaders that help support this beautiful organization are.

José G. González is an educator, environmentalist, artist and the founder of Latino Outdoors.

This organization helps connect Cultura with the outdoors with a growing and inclusive vision for the future in conservation, the environment and often just plain recreation in open spaces.

Latino Outdoors is a Latino-led and volunteer-powered organization which has inspired many to celebrate their culture with the outdoors. Even though we have a focused celebration of the Latinx identity, everyone is welcome regardless of race, language, socio-economic background, and ethnicity! The support of these unique, amazing individuals who are our volunteer leaders and the passion they have for Tierra Madre (Mother Earth) is what I would like to share with you. Their voice, their story and what the outdoors means to them. I myself have been a volunteer for over two years and I can honestly tell you it has been nothing short of amazing.

It is an honor to be a part of sharing what makes us unique in our passion for what we do. During the month of Hispanic Heritage Month I will be highlighting the stories of us. Who is Latino Outdoors … keep reading!!!

“Yo Cuento Outside” Q & A with Carlos Jorge Miranda~Website Coordinator for LO

 

1.What are the earliest memories of you in the outdoors with a connection to Nature?

My earliest memories of being connected outdoors would be driving to Muir Woods in California and going to the beach most summers. Going to camp Mather outside of Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park is another treasured memory. This was a week long camp for families a few miles from the park entrance. During these trips I would spend lots of time with my uncles learning how to hike properly and fish very early in the morning on the Tuolumne River and American River in California.

Yosemite National Park (2005)

2.What is your story in relation to what you do now in the outdoor space?

I mentioned earlier I spent lots of time outdoors as a kid but as a young adult I would lose sight of that passion. In 2007 I went through a traumatic spinal injury that happened on the job, this would make it even more difficult to go outdoors and travel as a whole and as I was going through rehab I learned to modify any outdoor activities to accomodate my disability. I’ve been able yo camp again, hike and do light backpacking despite my injuries. This is one of the reasons I work with disabled students and show them the power of “Modified Dis-Ability”. I am a father of a 5 year old and I see now that education, outdoor conservation and diversity in education but also in our wild and public spaces is crucial to our and generations to come.

3.What makes the outdoors special to you?

It makes it a special place because it brings my thoughts to a neutral place, I am able to slow down and enjoy being on the moment. One of the disadvantages of living in San Francisco is the hustle and bustle, one of the advantages is trails are within miles.

4.How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the Outdoors and how do you “count” yourself afuera?

As a current student at The University of San Francisco in the Latino/o/X American Studies department, culture, history and legacy is at the forefront of what drives me as a student, father, spouse and educator. I feel I am able to share outdoor spaces with those that may have not been exposed to it but also don’t have the means of transportation.

Counting as an “Identified” person of Color, also as a larger than average tattooed guy from San Francisco’s Mission district I have come accustomed to the stares and have used that as an ice breaker to educate people on diversity and outdoor equity for those underrepresented in these spaces.

Photo credit-Veronica MIranda

5.How do you see this in others and the communities around you?

One of the things I do see in others in the LatinX community I live in is lack of resources, education and specialist who are of the same ethnic background to bring fourth the opportunity to experience even local outdoor spaces. This is the main reason I was excited to volunteer with Latino Outdoors and continue to work with them and I am now going on two years with them. I see the power in planting the seeds on the molecular level with those that know how to fertilize the soil in their own communities and that is what has made Latino Outdoors successful. They are also a wonderful team of volunteers and leadership roles.

6.Tell me why it is important to you to do what you do?

It matters because as a student, I love to educate and see that spark ignite in people of all ages. I love the memories that also come from hikes and walks from our elders who remind me that we come from the Tierra.

Photo Credit~Veronica Miranda

La Familia Miranda~Carlos Jorge, wife Veronica and son Mayuteo.

Muchas Gracias to Carlos for sharing what makes him and what he does special to his own family and Latino Outdoors. I am so honored to call him my friend and he really is a special soul and stories like his are what we will be sharing with you during Hispanic Heritage Month. Let your story be told and may you be inspired by some of our Outdoor Familia and stay tuned for another story!
Southwest Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Josie Gutierrez
12/2/16

Latino Outdoors in Texas: Opt Outside/Vamos Outdoors

                 

 Will you go OUT with me?

Friedrich Wilderness Park

This year Latino Outdoors in Texas joined in on the movement … #OptOutside & #ViernesVerde!

Last year REI the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer made the brilliant decision to close all of their stores (143 to be exact) and pay it’s 12,000 employees on the biggest shopping day of the year (Black Friday)! They basically said Opt Outside! Hike, bike, snowboard, camp, kayak … just go!  Well you don’t have to tell me twice : ).

                      On black Friday in Texas, we went Hiking!

Friedrich Wilderness Park

With some grant funding fom REI I knew exactly where I wanted to go for our 1st annual event in Texas. With over 10 miles of Hiking Trails Friedrich Wilderness Park in San Antonio,Texas was the chosen destination.

Friedrich Wilderness Park Facts:

  • The park was developed with a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and was dedicated on August 31, 1978.
  • The park is in the transition zone between the flat South Texas region and the Texas Hill Country.
  • It is internationally known for bird watching, with nesting sites for two federal listed endangered species of birds: the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler.
  • Handicapped accessible trails.
  • No Fires and no smoking.
  • To protect the endangered species … Pedestrians only! (no pets)

Friedrich Wilderness Park

It’s moments like this. In Nature we Nuture the soul.

 

The weather was perfect, the smiles were endless and the talks on the trails were heartfelt. You could sense the confidence building! We had a wonderful guide Nicole who shared her wealth of knowledge on the plants and wildlife at Friedrich.

Friedrich Wilderness Park

  Latino Outdoors In Texas.

 

I wanted the 1st Annual Vamos Outdoors/Opt Ouside event to be successful. I wanted my group to be inspired and excited to be outdoors. The event was to share and showcase the beauty that is nature. Hiking locally and finding a great park to get lost in together was just the start for us. We made memories and then captured it on canvas. Art in the park : ).  

 

Latino Outdoors at Friedrich Park

The importance of the day was spending quality time Outside and we did just that! In San Antonio we represented proudly and fearlessly.

A park, a picnic, some painting, and for dessert … Pan dulce (sweet bread)!

Latino Outdoors at Friedrich Park

Fitfunand … Take a hike : ))!!

Friedrich Wilderness Park

 

10/16/16

Estamos Aqui Documentary: Latino Outdoors at The White House

Latino Outdoors at the White House

                “Estamos Aqui: We are here”.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to join Latino Outdoors at the White House for a very special screening of “Estamos Aqui~A Celebration of Nature y Cultura”. This film was directed by award winning filmmaker, guest speaker and founder of The Nature Kids Institute Mr. Kenny Ballentine. Estamos Aqui is co-produced by Kenny Ballentine and Jose Gonzalez. Gonzales is the founder of Latino Outdoors and a member of the Latino Conservation Alliance.

The Latino population is the fastest growing American demographic. They are also among the most under-represented groups in conservation, outdoor recreation, and environmental education organizations – Latino Outdoors.

 

What are the causes and consequences of this divide? What are the challenges and opportunities? Latino families and individuals from all over the United States are already connecting with their history, their culture and their communities. In the Estamos Aqui documentary you get to meet these inspiring people, hear their stories and discover how our connection to nature simultaneously makes us unique and brings us together.

 

Estamos Aqui Documentary: Latino Outdoors at The White House  -  FitFunAnd.com

Familia- Latino Outdoors

The film would not only make it’s premiere at The White House but during Hispanic Heritage Month. To recognize and celebrate the contributions and the importance of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and highlight our heritage and culture as we diversify the Outdoors. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us all. The mission and goals of Latino Outdoors to be visible with top-level conservation leaders as well as members of Congress is exceptional. The film was beautiful and it made me proud to be a part of this story. The story of Latinos and the relationships we are building with Nature and not leaving our Culture at the entrance of a trail but making it part of the journey.

Here is a link to the speakers and panel that occurred right before the screening. Enjoy!

Latino Outdoors Panel & Speakers

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Latino Outdoors at The White House!

 

The opportunity also included a tour of the East Wing at The White House and WOW! The rooms are rich in history and we took it all in. We individually absorbed the day and how special it was. It’s not everyday that these moments happen. The smiles were endless and the energy was amazing.

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Once we actually made it pass all security checkpoints we were allowed to do a self-guided tour of The East Wing. Welcome to The White House! We were allowed to take pictures with our cell phones and off we went. Exploring the East Wing was a surreal experience for us all. The wing had a Green room, a Blue room, a Red room and the opulence and history was definitely felt as we walked the corridors.

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The East Wing has nine rooms and as you exit you have a great photo op under The United States Seal.

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In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined that my love of Nature would have blessed me with a beautiful Outdoor Family and a trip with them to The White House. I recently celebrated one year as Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Southwest. We are volunteers, active stewards and advocates for natural spaces. The importance of sharing our stories and empowering the next generation of Latino leadership in the outdoors is evident in this organization.

Dream. Believe. Achieve. 

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 Fitfunand … Estamos Aqui: The White House with Latino Outdoors.

09/10/16
Hike n Bike through San Antonio Missions Historic Park - FitFunAnd.com

#Sunday Funday: Hike ‘n Bike through the San Antonio Missions Historic Park.

The National Park Service celebrated 100 years of service on August 25th, 2016 and we were all invited to join in on the fun. In Texas a few friends and I attended a red carpet event at a local theater to watch a screening of the National Parks Adventure IMAX film. If you haven’t already seen it I would highly suggest it!

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I am honored to represent my community as the Ambassador for Latino Outdoors~Southwest. This platform allows me to creatively explore the outdoors and highlight the beauty of Texas parks. Lucky me!

I had an amazing opportunity to not just join a celebration but put one together. I had been in contact with Tiara the Outdoor leader in San Antonio for Outdoor Afro and we thought it would be a fantastic idea to join our groups for the Centennial. These two organizations are changing the faces of conservation. A diverse set of people exploring, sharing and showcasing their love for the outdoors.

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Tiara and I thought it would be a great idea to do a Hike ‘n Bike along the beautiful river connecting our Missions.

Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission San Francisco de la Espada are about a 3 mile round trip down the San Antonio River. Two groups, two parks and some cool peeps : ). The group was amazing and the weather was perfect!

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I am inspired and happiest the most outside exploring and it was even more special because we honored the Centennial. We hiked and biked to our destinations with smiles on our faces. A sweet thank you to San Antonio B-cycle who offered our group a 50% discount to rent the bikes located at the Missions. Find your park they said and together we did just that.

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Sunday Funday Hike n’ Bike

I wasn’t done yet! There was just one more event left for me and that was to run the NPS 100th Birthday Virtual 5k/10k/half. A virtual race is basically your pace, your race, your chosen destination. You register on line and a portion of the fee goes to the specified race and in my case, the National Park Foundation. When you complete your race you turn in your time and a couple of weeks later you receive a medal in the mail. The medal for this particular race was a Ranger Hat and you can see why this was a no brainer : ).

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I decided to run the 10k (6.2) miles over to the beautiful Mission Concepción. This stone church was dedicated in 1755, and appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It stands proudly as the oldest unrestored stone church in America. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away. A perfect place to reflect on what once was and what is now.

Just because the celebration has ended doesn’t mean the party is over! Head over to National Parks and be inspired to discover these amazing open spaces. Now go on and get lost, anywhere is a good place to start!

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FitfunandNPS Centennial!

 

 

 

07/31/16

#Latino Conservation Week: Inks Lake State Park, Texas.

The Latino passion for the Outdoors was in full swing. A week showcasing our fearless spirits and beautiful selves engaging, experiencing and advocating for the great Outdoors.

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Inks Lake State Park, Texas

Latino Conservation Week took place July 16 to July 24 2016.  This Nationwide initiative provided an opportunity for Latinos to come together and to demonstrate their passion for the outdoors, both for enjoyment and preservation. Highlighting our lands and the spirit that stirs the Latino souls. Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra!

In its third year, the week as grown to more than 100 events nationwide!

I had an opportunity to host an event at Inks Lake State Park. A hill country gem perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Because the lake’s level usually stays constant, you can play here year-round. This would be the place to perfect our kayaking and canoeing skills.

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July 23rd was the day to gather new friends and old friends at Inks’s Lake State Park in honor of Latino Conservation Week. Many of us had no clue what our journey to the final destination aptly named Devil’s Watering Hole would include. The name alone should have scared off my tribe, LOL. Devil’s Watering Hole is a place where many daredevils take a plunge from the cliffs into a deep sink hole, YIKES! No worries, it really is a pretty safe place.

I couldn’t wait to get into the water to try the kayak and listening to the nervous chatter and laughter around me I knew I wasn’t the only one!

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I am extremely happy that my group trusted me in guiding them to a location that I just knew would take us out of our comfort zone but in the greatest way. We engaged, we explored and we even walked a little taller exiting our kayaks & canoes. Every day is a chance to be greater than the day before. Mission accomplished for Latino Outdoors Southwest!

A special thanks to Sean D. Jones our Park Ranger Interpreter, Jasmine Scott with Texas Parks & Wildlife and to the sweet volunteer Allicia. Jasmine was my first point of contact and was excited to hear about the initiative and the event and even volunteered to come in on her day off to be with us, wow!

Exploring every chance we get. Mountains, Hills, Rivers, Lakes, Trails … here we come, Latino Outdoors.

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Fitfunand … Afuera!

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07/19/16

#TexasParks: Take a Hike Y’all!

I love Texas where just about any road trip leads you to a nearby river, lake or spring. The Texas heat can get pretty brutal so a park with water to dive, dip or swim, is a must for me. Thank you Texas for having some amazing watering holes!

The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. This centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship in America’s parks which will engage communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

We have all been invited to Find Your Park on a national level and to explore programs in our own backyard.

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My “backyard” is the Texas Hill Country. Texas is my state, born and raised!  A 25-county region of Central Texas and South Texas. The Hill Country reaches into portions of the two metropolitan areas, especially in San Antonio’s northern suburbs and the western half of Travis County, ending southwest of Downtown Austin.

A perfect road trip would include family, friends, hills, river fun and if i’m really lucky a winery or two : ).

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Dry Comal Creek

I do have some favorite parks that made the “must visit because Josie said” list : )! These beautiful outdoor parks are in no particular order because each park is unique in what is has to offer. Local Parks, State Parks, National Parks or the ever popular Texas watering holes. I am happy to share some of these outdoor gems with you, because after all … Sharing is caring! 

Texas Parks

Garner State Park

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Pedernales State Park

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Guadalupe River State Park

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Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

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Hamilton Pool Preserve

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San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Texas

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Mission San Jose

Krause Springs

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Comal Springs & Landa Park

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Mitchell Lake Audubon

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Big Bend National Park Texas

 

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Texas parks have my heart. I am never disappointed but I would be if I hadn’t wandered. Big Bend was the biggest and definitely the most challenging for me so far in terms of the terrain but it left me wanting more. I know in my heart I will be going back and I will set no boundaries for the open spaces that nurture my soul and make me smile ear to ear : ). The more I discover the more I uncover … my happy place, Outdoors!

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Big Bend National Park Texas

Latino Outdoors ~ Josie Southwest Ambassador

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Malibu Creek State Park – California

Take the Pledge to Take Care of Texas and receive a FREE Texas Parks & Wildlife State Park Guide and a FREE sticker!

Free Texas Hill Country PassportVisit 18 or more of the 24 Hill Country destinations. Have your passport stamped at each location and then win tickets, outdoor adventures, tours and more.

Join us in Celebrating Latino Conservation Week at Inks Lake State Park.

For additional information email Josie@latinooutdoors.org

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Fitfunand … Parks!!