Dear Latinx Outdoors Community of volunteers, supporters, and true believers (comic book reference):
As I recently announced publicly, I am ending my tenure as Latino Outdoors Executive Director with the start of the new year. While I will remain as Founder and still help the organization and community in very strategic ways in an Emeritus role with strategic advice and support, this is an appropriate time to share some gratitude as the seasons change and the year ends amidst the holidays, the dias festivos.
Maybe you’ve celebrated Dia De Las Velitas, some Posadas or Parrandas, or simply enjoyed a tamaleada or some pasteles with family. You may have an Año Viejo celebration or looking forward past el Año Nuevo to El Dia De Los Reyes Magos. Maybe you celebrate in other unique ways with the Spirit of Prayer, Song and Dance.
For me, I remember as kid in Mexico, growing up in my small rural hometown, going into the hills, al monte, to look for “gallitos”, moss, and other natural decorations we would put on our “Christmas tree” and decorate the Nativity scene–the whole set up was very different than the pine Christmas tree I would come to encounter in the US. And there was no “Santa Claus” for me, only “el niño Dios” to bring us presents.
Either way, this time is one for family, community, reflection, tradition, and plenty of cultura in different fashions. I also welcome you continue to enjoy time outdoors to express gratitude for this past year and blessings for the new one–in the Gregorian calendar at least.
With that in mind, I invite you into some reflection of what we have accomplished with Latino Outdoors over the past three years– from an idea to a team of outstanding volunteers and leaders adding an important voice and representation of our comunidad in the outdoors. We have gone from a name to a community of sought-out leaders. We have gone from a blog post to a team that connects more of our communities with nature, the outdoors, and our public lands. We have gone from one hike in California, to many in several states, up to a celebration with the White House. When I started this journey, I entered “Latino Outdoors” into an online search and found little with no central hub. Now, that same search brings up amazing volunteer leaders representative of the diverse leadership we have been asking of in this movement, both inside of and outside of this organization. It has not been easy. There have been plenty of failures, setbacks, learning, struggle, and things that we simply were not ready for. But there have also been plenty of blessings, opportunities, and things we accomplished beyond what we thought we could do.
It has been quite a journey, and there are no regrets.
And there is so much more to come! New teams will be joining us this coming year as we have strengthened our process to grow and address the strong interest from several communities. And to sustain this work and help us reach more communities, I am asking for your help: If you believe in what we have built and what more we can do, please contribute with a donation. We have not always asked our community directly and much of our work has either been completely volunteer-powered or supported with some limited grants. But we are ready to do more and we are going to show it in 2018 as we continue to develop as an organization that can support a community, movement, and network. We now have an infrastructure of volunteer leadership to support. We have a national team of coordinators ready to bring on board new regions. And we have series of trainings to elevate the work of our current leaders and many partners to work with. Lastly, we also have a community of leaders of color in the outdoors that we want to connect and support as they expand the narrative of a more inclusive and diverse outdoors. Each and every dollar you provide will support all of that.
Remember, none of this existed. There was no Latino Outdoors. There were no teams taking communities outdoors in places like Seattle Wa, San Rafael CA, Modesto CA, San Antonio TX, New York City NY, Denver CO, Washington DC, and many more. And we kept getting asked “When is Latino Outdoors coming to my community?” With your support we’ll be able to say “this year!”. If you can envision that, together we can make it happen. This truly is the work of a community and whether you can give $5 you would spend on a premium coffee as an individual, or give us over $1,000 as an institution looking for an organization to invest in with the potential we have—all of it makes a difference.
As one small token of appreciation for the support you can provide, we have a surprise for you!
All donations will be acknowledged with a note from me but any donation over $250 will get a personalized token from me.
I’m excited for what we can do together, and it starts with saying “vamos!”
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! (I’ve always found humor in that line)
I want you to know I don’t just think of myself and Latino Outdoors as an organization. I also think about the community and movement as a whole. I can’t list a list long enough of all the people I’ve been blessed to meet and the organizations they’ve built up. And using the oft-used-but-truly-appropriate example of the “cup of coffee”, I am asking you to think of how you invest what you do and what you can. Our volunteers invest immensely with their time and passion, but many of us also can with the few dollars we have to purchase everyday simple luxuries.
Yeah, I’m not the big donor that can drop over $5,000 on a donation. I’m not that privileged. But I am privileged enough so that if I want to grab a coffee at a specialty shop I don’t think twice about it. If I go out to the movies it doesn’t stress out my budget. Not everyone can do that. And it adds up. So I’m also walking the walk and here is who I am giving to this year:
- Center for Whole Communities— because their work is truly transformational and Ginny is inspirational.
- Center for Diversity and the Environment— because they were one of the original inspirations for me and if they don’t’ make it, then what are we even doing. Queta deserves the support.
- Bay Nature–because they are local to me and I appreciate their vision–what a vision Malcolm and David had.
- Committee For Green Foothills— because they have an outstanding leader who should be a model to others. If you don’t know Megan, you should.
- Children & Nature Network— because they invested in Juan and they first welcomed me into the community. Rich, Sarah, Avery, Amy, and all.
- National Wildlife Federation- California–because if I’m going to invest in animal advocacy, I trust Beth.
- Outdoor Afro— because I’m going to trust Rue in sharing with us #BlackLoveForNature.
- Out There Adventures— because we have so many organizations we need to invest in this space and I’m starting with Elyse.
This year I’ve also given to these orgs because I need to support Raza when I can–
- Radio Bilingue–because I was able to follow Hugo around for a year and I believed I could do something like Latino Outdoors. And look at what he built.
- Digital Nest— because Jacob is making it happen, the way I envision it can be done.
- Latino Community Foundation–because that is an indefatigable team, and Masha has not given up on me.
- Ciencia Puerto Rico— because they’ve persisted in #CommunicatingCiencia. And if you don’t know already, I’m a #LatinoNerd.
- Americas Latino Eco Festival— because Irene has a dream, and it’s worth supporting.
- Green Latinos— because they’re continuing this idea of a network and community that we’ve had. We’ve built what needed to exist.
- Hispanic Access Foundation— because Maite is inspirational, and oh so very strategic.
- Azul– because Marce is a grassroots fighter and look at her success.
- Hispanic Federation–because they have built an institution.
- HECHO— because once I finally got to know who was there, I saw how complimentary our work is. And the 5 aforementioned orgs, together we created the Latino Conservation Alliance.
- Tierra Y Libertad Organization–because this is as grassroots as it gets and I’m all about #CholosOutdoors.
- Futuro Media Group–because Maria Hinojosa. And representation in media matters.
Dignidad Rebelde–not a non-profit but I gave to the recovery of one of the founders from cancer. They are the continuing to define the next iteration of the Chicano arts movement.
And lastly, I gave to this cohort for a Latino non-profit accelerator supported by the Latino Community Foundation and I made a statement that investing in each other to start was a statement of commitment:
- Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
- One Day At A Time
- Chicana Latina Foundation
- Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth:
- Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)
- Street Level Health Project
- Fathers and Families of San Joaquin
- Faith in the Valley
- El Quinto Sol de America
And finally, I gave to the campaigns of Beto O’Rourke and Gabe Vasquez. Because Gabe has a bright future in policy if he seeks it, and Beto represents what can be accomplished in Texas. We can all accomplish changes in our respective spaces.
All in all there are so many individuals, organizations, and communities to support. I know I’m leaving too many unmentioned, some aren’t set up to receive donations, and my few dollars only go a short way, but guess what, if we all give together, well you know how that works….
If you’ve got the privilege, how are you spending that specialty coffee money? (Still support your local coffee shops, but you know what I mean).
Because it’s really the intention, that counts for a lot. So, what do you intend?
And lastly, a very personal note:
Every year it continues to be more true for me…that more and more I cannot tell how exactly what the upcoming years will look like. Like uncertainty has been increasing for me. But I’m embracing the changes, the challenges of attachments and letting go, and the ever-growing space for growth. You’ll see more of me in some spaces and less in others. I’ll offer help and still not know how to always reach out for it. I’ll struggle with depression and anxiety as I offer comfort and guidance to those that ask. I’ll work on being a spiritual being having a human experience. Balancing all the possibilities of ideas with the reality of what I can get done. If you haven’t lost faith in me, I hope we’ll maintain a connection, or reconnect. Here’s to 2018.
Gracias for the consideration, pa’ delante y con mucha gratitud, respeto y admiración:
Founder, Latino Outdoors