Our Best Revenge: Ecuador’s Feminist Movement & What They’re Up Against

hey folks, I wrote about the feminist movement in Ecuador and Marcha de las Putas, the country’s response to Slut Walk, for Bitch Media:

click on image to read article in full

click on image to read article in full

and in case you missed it, Everywhere All The Time was profiled in Feministing

click on image to read article in full

click on image to read article in full

Next time I post, it’ll probably be from my new temporary home, NYC. If you’re there and wanna network or have a drink or something, get at me.

¿Home?

Primero The First: big thanks to Juliana Britto Schwartz at Feministing for profiling my shit in her article, Women of color travel too. Check it out.

the past month has been pretty fucking intense. I lost my health insurance, my house, and I turned 27. I took a few trips around the country and scoured the city for a new place to live. I’ve had frustrating appointments with the social insurance plan and my private insurance company and fights with previous landlords and roommates. and I’m done. after another year here, I’m throwing in the towel and trying somewhere else. I’m leaving quito and going back to nyc. I’m extremely sad about this turn of events but feel that it’s the only (and best) decision for me right now.

so my question is, what the fuck is home? in the past 6 years i’ve moved back and forth between these two cities maybe 4 times, and I can never really tell whether I’m going home or leaving home. as james baldwin wrote in giovanni’s room, “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” Ecuador has been home for me even before I ever got here, but Quito and I have always been at odds. living here has been a constant struggle since day one and it’s been pretty fucking impossible to find my footing here. something would come through, then I’d receive a blow in another arena. it’s been absolutely draining.

I’m taking all of this as a sign that I don’t belong in this city. I tried though – that I did – and I’ll always come back (my future trips back are already planned.) but it’s time to bounce. now I’ve got two weeks to say goodbye and maybe try to kinda prepare for the culture shock awaiting me back “home.”

here are some shots I took on my recent trips to the cloud forest. I will fucking miss this country.

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We Are Everywhere – Imagining Diverse Travel Communities #Dispatch: Nomadness

Dispatches: Conversations with Writers of Color on Race, Place & Adventure is a series of interviews with travel writers and personalities of color where we discuss navigating the writing industry and the globe as people of color. Read previous #Dispatches here and get involved here.

Photo by Pete Monsanto

Photo by Pete Monsanto

In September 2011 Evita Robinson created the Nomadness Travel Tribe, an online social community for travelers who have the similarity of an urban background and were looking for likeminded travelers to connect with around the world. Based on the success of her business, Evie was named one of Clutch Magazine’s “11 Black Women Inspiring Us To Travel”, and the Tribe’s first ever NomadnessX group trip to Panama was featured in the July 2012 Issue of Ebony Magazine.  She now serves as a keynote speaker, crowdfunding consultant, and continues her love of travel photography and seeing the world with Nomadness.

Bani Amor: Tell us about yourself. What do you do and why do you do it?

Evita Robinson:  I’m the creator of the Nomadness Travel Tribe. A Crowdfunding Guru of sorts. International Dweller. Why? Passion. I have been lucky enough to recognize and accept the responsibility associated with my purpose in life.

Bani:  How did Nomadness come about?

Evita:  Nomadness started as a blog and video web series of me traveling around the world. Nomadness TV was the first time people heard the brand name. This was back in Feb. 2010 during the last two months of me living in Niigata, Japan. The Tribe came about in September 2011 as an answer to a problem I was having in not finding a diverse travel community I wanted to engage with on the internet. No one in my immediate network and family traveled like me, so it was hard finding people I could relate to in the travel lifestyle.

Bani:  And you were like, why not start my own?

Evita:  Exactly. I’m like that with everything in life. If it isn’t what I want or need, I do it myself.

Bani:  I think we’re living in this age now where creators of color have the tools and access to be able to start brands, social networks and projects themselves and are getting these big audiences because of it. There’s definitely entrepreneurial spirit there but it’s also kind of radical, to create spaces for ourselves where they don’t exist, and should.

Evita:  I agree with that. I also think we are fulfilling many needs that mainstream media simply isn’t.

Photo by Pete Rivera

Photo by Pete Rivera

Bani:  Why do you think mainstream travel media lacks so much diversity? Were you surprised that Nomadness took off and became what it is today then?

Evita:  I think mainstream media is full of fear and grossly out of touch with how diverse the world truly is right now, especially for millenials. Fear in that they are scared to do something different and ‘outside the box’ for them. The world is changing and the risks are being taken by people who approach the industry with nothing to lose. These companies are shook to put it all on the line.

Nomadness surprised me in that I simply didn’t know what I was creating. Didn’t know I was going to be doing trips, have an online store, do an RV Tour, build a conference, have 9000 members…I didn’t know this was what was being created.

Bani:  Word. So I heard you just signed a deal with Issa Rae Productions. Can you tell us more about that?

Evita:  Yea we signed a few months back. It’s a distribution deal so they can broadcast out travel web series ‘The Nomadness Project’ on her Youtube Channel. Issa’s a really great supporter of ours and vice versa. We’ve been having meet ups around the States for her book tour this month. She’s met so many of us.

Bani:  That’s so awesome! So what’s in store for the future?

Evita:  September 2015 kicking ass with our new #NMDN ALTERnative Travel Conference in NYC. Continuing to galavant around the world with the Tribe to show that we are everywhere, and we do this – our way. Strategic partnerships with other innovators and influencers that truly get the concept of pushing the envelope (i.e. Issa Rae). Our own travel television series breaking stereotypes on who travelers are. Moving off of Facebook and creating our own platform that, in itself, is unlike anyone else in our sector.

Bani:  Why is it important to break the stereotype of what a traveler looks like, who they are?

Evita:  Because it is currently invalid. There is a whole, large section of the story missing. Ours.

Bani:  Are there obstacles in the way for folks trying to rectify that?

Evita:  I mean…generic red tape but honestly that depends on which route you are trying to take. Mine involves unique avenues because I have specific goals for Nomadness and myself. But that is going to be something that varies across the board.

Bani:  Well it seems like you’ve been able to avoid a lot of bs, and that’s great.

Evita:  Can’t say I avoid it. We just don’t showcase it. Telling me ‘no’ is the same as telling me ‘yes’. I don’t hear ‘no’. Maybe ‘not now’, but not ‘no’. I also don’t take ‘no’ personally. I am told ‘no’ wayyyyyyy more than I am ever told ‘yes’. That comes with the territory. Fail better. It means you are actually taking chances.

Bani:  Fail better. My new new year’s resolution!

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Photo by Kali Blocker

Evita:  A ‘no’ has just never had the power to stop me. I could hear ‘no’ on Monday, and so many dope ‘yes’s’ pop up on Wednesday and Friday, no one remembers the beginning of the week.

Bani:  Last question: do you think it’s important for poc to have our own travel spaces? Why or why not?

Evita:  I think it’s important for people of color to be an actual part of the conversation more than anything. We haven’t been, so we have had no choice but to create our own spaces. And yes, it is important, because it’s ours. Too many times we give up ownership of our culture and talents too freely. Having something that is ours is so important. I also like that you use the term ‘people of color’ because that’s just it. We are an array. One of the things I love about Nomadness, that differentiates us in this ‘black travel movement’, is that we are representative of all people of color, not just black. We scale about 80% African-American beautifully, but we also have Latino(a), Native American, Caucasian, Asian, Pacific Islanders, the list goes on and on. We more accurately depict the world we live in and travel through.

Bani: And that’s what’s so refreshing about it. Any last thoughts you’d like to add? (btw, an egg account on Twitter wanted me to ask you why Nomadness is elitist!)

Evita: Nomadness isn’t elitist and I addressed this in the #NMDN chat about membership. People frequently misconstrue us having requirements as being elitist. Your job has requirements. I would think your friendships and relationships have to meet personal requirements of yours. Every social media platform you are on have requirements you have to abide by. Nomadness is no different. You have to have one 1 passport stamp to get in. That’s lightweight.

Bani: Agreed.

Evita: Last thoughts are just that we are excited and amped like all hell to get this year in gear. So many amazing things are happening and we look forward to going for it full throttle. We appreciate all the support from the inside and outside the group.

Bani: Word. I think it’ll be a truly incredible year for y’all, and thanks for making it all possible!

Disrupting the Dominant Voice of Travel Writing #Dispatch: Brian Kamanzi

Dispatches: Conversations with Writers of Color on Race, Place & Adventure is a series of interviews with travelers and travel writers of color where we discuss navigating the writing industry and the globe as people of color. Read previous #Dispatches here and get involved here

Images courtesy of Brian Kamanzi

Images courtesy of Brian Kamanzi

Brian Kamanzi is a Cape Town-based spoken word poet and engineer by trade committed to the social upliftment of his fellow people. He is a budding Pan-Africanist eager to make contributions to the movement and form cross-cultural connections with others in the struggle. Follow his writing online and on Twitter @BrianlKamanzi.

Bani Amor:  Tell us about yourself. How would you describe your work, your identities, and how they interact?

Brian Kamanzi:  My name is Brian Ihirwe Kamanzi, I grew up in town called Mthatha in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. My father is a patriotic Ugandan national and my mother is a South African Indian. My identities lie tied in between that of my parents. I feel an affinity for Uganda; I see myself in the people. At the same time, just by looking at me, you can see that India is represented from the tones of my skin to the darkness of my eyes that I have inherited from my beautiful mother. I have struggled between these identities.

Growing up I never felt like I had ownership of the South African identity. I still have difficulty claiming it for my own to this day. I feel like the gift of my ancestry has shown me just how arbitrary national borders are. I am an African – emphatically so. My work, through writing and  spoken word is an effort to assert myself in a world that denies me.

I write to seize control. I write because I see my story, my feelings tied with those who are denied in their own ways. I hope for my work to form part of a broader project. A Pan-African project that will give voice to the former souls who were denied that choice.

Bani:  Writing, in that sense, is kind of an aggressive act, don’t you think? I think Didion said that. I definitely think of my writing in that context, however, voices that have been historically silenced might not think like that. I think it’s something writers of color try to balance in a way

Brian:  Without question. This is an act of aggression. This is an acutely political act. I can no longer be silenced. I take great strength from the strong people all over the world who share their stories everyday. We needn’t be overlooked any longer. I have to believe that. You know?

Bani:  Def. Marginalized writers tend to have these internalized voices in their heads, the Dominant Voice, doubting that they even have the right to write. Does that make sense?

Brian: Oh yes. That rings so true. In fact I feel that pressure from other marginalised voices as well. There is a sense that you’re not good enough if you’re not a budding Toni Morrison. There is so much doubt. One is afraid to speak about Africa if you haven’t read all the major authors. It’s silencing and it’s a battle to look past it.

There is a fear that we are not good enough and I can’t deny that I don’t feel it but again I take so much strength from seeing the ordinary folk who express themselves through writing. The internet has really been such a gift for that.

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Bani: I struggle a lot with self-doubt and my work and it’s a real killer. You’re about to put pen to page and then this invisible hand stops you. All writers/creators deal with this, but for multiply-marginalized folks, it’s epidemic. Finding work that speaks to me (not at me) is like panning for gold. And what I don’t find in books, I see in social media. It’s rejuvenating.

Brian:  I feel very much the same. There is a raw sense that these are people’s emotions. Virtually unedited. Live. If not alive.  It’s incredibly affirming. It also gives the words so much dimension. I mean take your writing for example. I can only dream of Ecuador but to read your piece and to have an interaction with you about your work is amazing. It makes me feeling like I can reach you. It makes me feel like indeed we are connected. Those subtle everyday thoughts from folks on widely different contexts show us that in fact maybe we aren’t all that different.

Bani:  Yup. I didn’t really care about social media until I (recently) realized how much it’s used as a tool for cross-cultural communication, allowing us to engage in conversation with other disenfranchised people, and allowing us to organize across our differences.

Brian:  I really agree on the social media front, the amount of intersectional feminists on Twitter for example is phenomenal and I really enjoy their engagements online. There is so much scope for cross-cultural dialogue.

Bani: I wanted to talk about your creative influences, folks – whether in print or not – who have helped you “find your voice.”

Brian: When it comes to creative writing, there are two figures that really gave me the strength to assert myself – Malcolm X and Steve Biko. Particularly Malcolm. His confidence, tactfulness and almost rhythmic way of speaking & writing leaves me smiling and with a fire in my chest. A fire that makes me want to raise my voice. Be productive.

With Poetry, Mama Maya Angelou is such a muse. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings hit me in places I never knew existed. Talking about Pan-African feminism, Minna Salami who is also a blogger and a writer has been such a great affirmative find as well. Straight talking, direct in a way that makes me feel like she’s talking to me. Encouraging me to do better. It’s amazing.

Bani: Mami handed me her copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 13…and the rest is history.

Brian:  Haha what an age to read his words! Malcolm is one of those figures that makes you feel uneasy about the way things are. It feels more real. Uncomfortable but closer to the truth.

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Bani:  Let’s get into travel writing. What are your thoughts on the genre?

Brian: I think that particularly in our generation, where things have opened up globally, somewhat, there is a feeling that we are now allowed to dream and have wanderlust for far away spaces and places. Unfortunately many of the stories that, personally, I’ve been fed, are told by travellers who don’t know a thing about my experience. They don’t have the capacity to experience Ghana or India the way that I do. So many stories in travel writing speak from a place of abject objectivity where all else in front of his gaze is granted colour and is sexually exoticised at his will for his aesthetic function.

I see the need for a shift and it is definitely happening. A shift that allows a more diverse array of writers to share their experiences of different contexts that doesn’t feel…let me call it “colonial.”

There is almost an invisible hierarchy of experiences. One goes to Europe for the “culture” and one goes to Africa to self-actualise in Nature. I don’t see myself in either experience. I have no desire to conquer the savanna with trophies of lions. At the same time I see no reason to hail the cultures of Europe above the great multitude that are in front of me right here. At home.

I love reading travel writing, though when it’s done through an appreciative lens. There is really nothing more satisfying than imagining far away lands and different ways of life. It sets the mind on fire. Everyone should be able to experience that. And the next generation of travel writers will open up the doors for experiences that dominant voices will never be able to hear until they check themselves.

Bani:  You touched on the ‘marketing of place’, how we’re sold these concepts of places – Europe=culture, Africa=nature, etc. Travel writing has been and continues to be the way this marketing – branding, really – gets out to the masses. How do we disrupt that tradition? I’m very much a part of the movement trying to get more people of color to share their travel experiences, but how do we do so in a way that is not so colonialist as the genre generally is?

Brian: I think it’s a fundamental problem. When we frame our travel stories as products to be marketed in a conscious manner we are commodifying each others experiences. When writers of colour engage in travel writing we have to resist the trap of emulating the existing trends. As I understand it the goal is not to colour code the status quo – it’s to change it.

The problem is that the broader tourism industry feeds off limited harmful, frankly colonial, perceptions of cultures because at the moment economic and political capital is still very much tied along those lines. Travel writing from writers of colour then must surely act disruptively in that space. We are fighting against the very exploitation of our identities. For many of us we are fighting for a right to exist in the globalised world beyond the exotic tourist depictions that our nations now represent. Travel writers of colour must write to protect spaces like Thailand. Like Zanzibar. Spaces that become overrun by wealthy white folk from across the globe who run off to the 3rd world whenever the exchange rate is low.

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Bani:  Word, word, word. So we’re gonna wrap up. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Brian:  Well in closing I’d like to mention the need for coalitions. I think we need to forge strategic connections across the globe and open our homes to one another to break the cycles that are really not working in our favour. In this the age of information there are really all the means and opportunities in the world.

For example, Africans and Latin Americans have so much shared history. We need to arrange more opportunities for us to meet and exchange stories. We need more deliberate attempts to speak to one another. To engage with one another. To welcome one another as the family that we are.

That’s my hope for this generation of writers. Let’s see how things unfold.

Ecuador Time is Like…Whatever

hey peeps, so unless you’ve stumbled onto this blog for the first time today it’s news to no one that i’m an Ecuadorian-American living in Ecuador and have been for the last few years. my latest for Paste Travel – Ecuador Time is Like…Whatever – is about adapting to life here on some of those first days. check it, share it, shout it from the rooftops. click on the image to read the article in full.

click on image to read article in full

click on image to read article in full

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Ten Travel Bloggers of Color You Should Follow

hola people, my article on travel bloggers of color (ok, it’s technically a listicle) went up on Paste Magazine the other day and I urge y’all to check out every single blog on the list. subscribe to their sites, bookmark them, share them, follow them on twitter, send them a donation, comment on their posts, you get the pic. just support them and show them love. click on the image to read the full article.

Click on the image to read the full article

Click on the image to read the full article

The Grand Canyon on Acid and What’s What in Quito

hey people, thanks to everyone who participated in Outbounding’s discussion on race and travel writing last week, even the ones who were annoying as hell. faithful readers of this site will probably recognize my old piece The Grand Canyon on Acid (about drugs, birthdays and backpacking) which was finally published on Paste Travel the other day. on the front page today is my destination article on Quito, Weekend Layover. most of you know that service writing is def not my style, but talking about where to eat and what to do in Quito is so easy for me that i said what the hell, lemme sell out. mama’s got bills to pay. click on the images to read the articles in full and share them if ya like.

click on the image to read full article

click on the image to read full article

click on image to read full article

click on image to read full article

The privilege of place: diversity and cultural representation in travel writing

Hey folks. Yesterday, a discussion on race, place, power and privilege and how they affect travel writing started on Outdbounding.org. I’m one of the panelists in the discussion and I have *lots to say* so I’d like to hear y’alls thoughts, questions and opinions. Start an account – it’s ridiculously quick and tell us what you think. Click here to read and join in the convo.

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Panelists

 

Stranger in the Industry: Message to the Great White Travel Writing World

2015 has so far opened a door of opportunities. I received word that a piece I wrote on struggling with gender identity while on the road in South America made it into Brooklyn Boihood‘s forthcoming anthology Outside the XY: Queer Brown Masculinity. It will be available in print and some of it online by summer. I’m also taking part in an Outbounding.org‘s (liked reddit but for travel writing) discussion with some other dope folks of color on privilege, language, and the poc travel movement. Finally, I’ve been asked to join a Google Hangout on travel writing (more info forthcoming) which you could stream on All Digitocracy. But not all of the news has been good.

With new opporunities come new microaggressions. So I lashed out on Twitter and Storified it for the first time. Feel free to share far and wide. Read the original Storify post here.

 

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What did you think? Share your thoughts below. Sharing links are below too, or share the original Storify post here. If you consider yourself an ally feel free to donate via the Paypal button on your right hand side or directly to heyitsbani@gmail.com.

 

Remembering A Forgotten Language #Dispatch: Latino Outdoors

Dispatches: Conversations with Writers of Color on Race, Place & Adventure is a series of interviews with travelers and travel writers of color where we discuss navigating the writing industry and the globe as people of color. Read previous #Dispatches here and get involved here

Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of José G. González

José G. González a.k.a the “Green Chicano” is an educator, environmentalist, artist and the founder of Latino Outdoors, an organization which serves as a storytelling platform for defining the ambicultural identity connecting Latino communities and the outdoors, among many other functions. Latino Outdoors exists to connect cultura with the outdoors.

Bani Amor:  Tell us about yourself. How would you describe your work?

José G. González:  I would say I’m Mexican by birth, Chicano by identity, Latino by culture and Hispanic by census count. An educator by training, illustrator by interest, and conservationist by pursuit. I’m very much a mestizo and ambicultural in many ways.

What that looks like now with the Green Chicano identity and Latino Outdoors is to work on the storytelling of what these identities mean/look like and what they say about carrying these identities in relation to outdoor spaces, nature, and conservation.

So when I’m admiring the beauty of Grand Tetons National Park, I’m also thinking about the history and culture of the space in relation to who’s there, who’s not, and why that may be. I look at natural spaces with the eyes of a naturalist, artist, and historian.

Bani:  Amazing. How did Latino Outdoors come about?

José:  Latino Outdoors came about with several threads. During college I was an instructor for an outdoor program specifically for migrant students in CA, mostly Latino and English Language Learners. As a teaching team we traveled throughout the state and saw all these amazing outdoors spaces, from the desert to the redwoods, and I noticed how rare this “work” was in terms of the instructors, the students, and the places we were working. I thought, “Why aren’t there more programs like this?!” Basically, where are all the Latino outdoor professionals in this field and how they connect? How do they know about each other? Because I wasn’t finding them.

That experience further connected me to the outdoors and after teaching for a few years I went to get a Masters in Natural Resources & Environment. And the question was, where are the Latino-led and Latino-serving organizations in the environment and the outdoors? Especially those that are not framed solely around environmental justice. It was then that an instructor from the same migrant outdoor program asked, “José, I want to pursue this as a career, who do I talk to? Who do I connect with?” And I didn’t have a great answer for him, I didn’t have a community to connect with. And it made me think of visiting all these state parks and national parks and remembering how awesome they were but how much of a privileged opportunity they were in many ways/cases.

Lastly, I was asking people to tell me where to find this unicorn of an organization and they would tell me, “Great idea, tell us too!” So I thought, well, let’s do it!. Because there are a lot of stories, travelers, and programs that I know are doing great work, but we don’t really exist in a community or are connecting with a shared identity.

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Bani:  What do y’all do?

José:  We center around 4 things. First, the professional community. We want to identify, connect, and amplify the leadership infrastructure of individuals that exist with this identity. They bring their culture on the trailhead and they use it in positive ways to connect their work as conservationists/outdoorspeople with the community. I’ve found many that say, “I’m the only one doing this work…” and I want to say “You’re not, let’s exist and collaborate in community. Let me share with others the awesome stuff you do.” 

This community is a precious resource that allows us to get to the other three things. 2) The youth. Beyond just getting youth outdoors, we want to show them that there are role models and possible mentors in this field for them so that they can follow in this work knowing that their culture is an asset and that it’s valued in this field. We’re also finding that youth in their 20’s are the ones that naturally want to connect with Latino Outdoors, that they are looking for ways to have their culture be positively represented in the outdoor experiences they already enjoy. 

3) Family. We want to showcase the value of family and community-oriented outdoor experiences because it connects parents with their kids and it naturally taps into how many other communities like to enjoy the outdoors beyond the solitary backpacker. We do this through day hikes, outings, and other events partnering with parks and conservation orgs.

4) Storytelling – we wrap this all together by finding ways to say, “Yo cuento” – to show what the story looks like as a Latino/a in relation to the outdoors – and how diverse that is in terms of identity and experiences. We have “Xicano in the Wilderness,” “Chicano in the Cascadias,” “Chasquimom,” and so forth – people identifying in many ways but highlighting their culture in the outdoors. We’re doing this through interviews, narratives, social media, and just starting with video.

Bani:  Awesome. What are some strategies you’ve found effective in inspiring urban-dwelling Latinos to care about conservation issues and to also get out into the outdoors?

José:  Good question. The “urban Latino millennial” is one demographic that is high on many lists for parks and open spaces. Which is no surprise, since they like to be out in a group with a social experience. It can be shared through social media or at least documented with a smart phone. But we know that it’s also a matter of how the outdoors in your community is viewed and supported. How your local park is a connection to outdoors farther way.

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People can identify with a well-known national park farther away and not know they have a fantastic national wildlife refuge nearby. So one thing is to just go, let the place speak for itself and show each other how accessible all these places are. Then once we’re there, we have the programming be flexible so that we learn as much from the community as we want to share. So it’s a not a lecture about the outdoors or a class in conservation.

I may say it’s like learning English if you only know Spanish. We don’t want you to not know or use Spanish and have it be replaced by English. Same with the outdoors. What is the language you already know about these experiences? Tell us! and we’ll share “new words” to add to that. It makes it challenging, exciting, fun, and so rewarding.

Bani:  That’s amazing. Using that analogy of language-learning, I think that it’s more like remembering a language that we were taught to forget. For me, communities of color being separated from nature is a part of the process of colonialism.

José:  Exactamente! That can be hard for many people and there is a lot of anger and hurt that sometimes comes out, but I keep my hand out to people to say, I understand. Especially if you are “Latino” and you have a history of colonizer and colonized. Many public lands in the Southwest used to be land grants that were taken away from Hispanos and Chicanos. But those lands themselves were carved up from indigenous communities.

Bani:  I wonder how Latinos in the U.S. can connect to the outdoors while also confronting our place as both settlers on indigenous land and displaced mestizos from our own lands across Latin America.

José:  It’s both a complex and simple process but it takes time and understanding. I find that people, and especially young people love to connect to their culture. Especially in college when they take a Chicano studies class or the like and they say, “Wait, how come nobody told me about this?!” I use that frame to share how there are many reasons to be proud of our history, and especially with our traditions and heritage of conservation and the outdoors.

We have it, but often need to rediscover it, and much of it comes from our indigenous roots. So we elevate that as much as it was torn from us or as it has been forgotten. But a reality is that so many of us are mestizo and that has been a process too. Indigenismo did not just happen. People looked into their history and said, wait, there is a lot to culture and tradition here that we tried to get away from thinking that just European values were the way to civilization. 

Bani:  Yup, it goes back to education. We’re kind of forced in this country to adhere to the popular immigrant narrative – we came here for a better life, etc. – instead of learning how we were really, a lot of the times, displaced politically and ecologically. 

José:  So I say, are you proud to be Mexica? Did you know they strived to be a zero-waste society? Yeah.

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Bani:  You came up with this word, “culturaleza.”

José:  Yeah, that’s another example of mestizaje. Connecting cultura and naturaleza to show that the separation of people and environment is one frame and often one that alienates many of the communities that many conservation organizations want to reach. One perfect example is food. Food is a cultural trait that is with us all the time from when mom and grandma made tamales and nopales at home and when we’re looking for the right taqueria.

So if we’re having an outing in the outdoors, instead of me just saying “I’ll bring the sandwiches, or let me run to Trader Joe’s” (which I do anyways, jaja) we try to ask people to make it a potluck and they love bringing something they like and want to share. Some favorite memories of mine are having nopales, tostadas, and mole in the sequoias with moms that love to cook that at home.

Bani:  That’s what’s up. 

José:  People have asked, why “Latino Outdoors”? Isn’t that exclusive? Or, isn’t that giving in to a colonized identity? I say that I intend for it to be an INCLUSIVE starting connective point. It’s to bring in communities and people that maybe we haven’t reached out to let alone just expect them to join in and be valued in this space. And we are open to all “shades” of Latino including those that stress nationality, or being Chicano, Hispano, and so forth. Because one thing that can connect us besides often having shared Spanish/Spanglish language is that we also have a connection to land and space in our roots, and that is important.

Bani:  Word. 

José:  Ah, and to make sure we are kind to each other, because in some of these beautiful spaces are ugly human experiences. Very short: while visiting Grand Tetons National Park, we once stopped at a small town for ice cream and I was given one of the worst looks of “You’re not welcome here” that sticks to me to this day. So yeah. 

Bani:  I know that look very well. Our presence in natural spaces is radical. 

José:  Bien dicho.