I continue to tell the stories of Latino Outdoors because I know that as we continue to grow we continue our tales. Latino Outdoors has a vision. A world where all Latino communities enjoy nature as a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place – a world where the outdoors is a place to share and celebrate stories, knowledge, and culture, while growing leadership and an active community of Latino outdoor users, mentors, and stewards.
I am excited to share the story of our Wyoming Outings Leader~Asnoldo Benitez (Oz). Asnoldo was accepted to the Teton Science School Graduate Program this fall and he can’t wait to take what he learns there back into the community he works with in Colorado! I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand what a sweet, smart and genuine human he is. He is definitely a force of Nature! I am excited to see what more his future will bring. The story of Oz!
What are the earliest memories of you and the outdoors or a connection to nature?
My earliest memories of myself and nature include my grandmother “Trudy” Gertrude Placida (Valerio) Lucero. I want to include her full name because besides being my grandmother she was; a community connector, caregiver, parent of six, traveler and more. Before I was of school age, she would care for me during the day. We would walk to the park and along the ditch from her home in Aberdeen Idaho, she taught me to identify asparagus along the way. we would carry rocks and place them in the grass next to the cache of vegetation so we could easily revisit and harvest later. Grandma and I did these walks for the remainder of our time together till she passed in 2013. We didn’t mark asparagus with stones but looking back we did mark mile stones with stories and tea.
What is your story and how did you connect to doing what you do now in the outdoor space?
From one career to the next, I looked at the full trajectory of one and decided I wanted to live, work and play in the same industry. So from Engineering to Outdoor education I transitioned and my journey has been three years in the making. Beginning with volunteering and internships to see what I could offer the industry and what the industry could offer me. I found my way to currently attending a fellowship in a Masters program in Environmental Education at the Teton Science School in the Teton National Park!
What makes the outdoors special to you?
Learning what to eat and how makes the outdoors a special experience connecting to my root human identity – what flora and fauna I can enjoy. I connect via a question I ask myself: how would the elders have respectfully lived off this flora, fauna or fungi?
How do you celebrate the connections between a Latinx identity and the outdoors? How do you see yourself “counting” in the outdoors?
I celebrate with the trail-flare I decided to include in my outfit and the two languages I have always used to describe the outdoors. I see myself counting both as a male education and a POC in the outdoor industry both demographics are growing.
How do you see it in others and the community around you?
I see the connections between Latinx identity and the outdoors in our language, style of dress, references to Selena and other iconic figures. It’s the in-between time on the trail that identity and personality are most present. Honestly the rest of the time we are just tourist and enthusiast like everyone else – in awe of nature.
Why does what you do matter to you?
Besides being able to work a passion, what I do matters because as mammals with the biggest impact on the land we need to be more aware and manage that impact. By educating and sharing love and respect for the outdoors. I am helping grow the cohort of environmentalist who will lead the charge for the future generations in research, natural resource management, and recreation.
What would be on your outdoor bucket list?
My outdoor bucket list would be biking from North America to South America, like Andres Esparza. Visiting Alaska for a back packing trip and doing one if not all three of the long through hikes in North America.
What is your favorite outdoor experience to date?
My favorite outdoor experience was a 6 day back packing trip with friends in Glacier National Park with three back to back days of 20 miles, it was my first blister pop on the trail and I thought I broke my foot. My foot hurt so bad (ouch).
What keeps you motivated in the outdoors?
The thought that one day this continents full history will be shared and honored as the national treasure it is. So out front that no one can miss it. “No one person can do everything, but we can all do something”.
Muchas Gracias Asnoldo (Oz) for sharing your beautiful story with us. I especially loved hearing that your Abuela was the first memory of you and the outdoors. She connected you to the space that you have now embraced and this has become a huge part of what you are continuing to become, a role model to your friends, family and the LO community! Keep on being you and may your adventures be many and your tales be rich in nature.
Fitfunand … “Yo Cuento Outdoors”.
Southwest Ambassador~Josie Gutierrez