Before we discuss some of the many inspiring Hispanic/Latinx individuals who have had huge impacts on environmental and conservation communities, we would like to highlight the fact that many individuals do not identify with the term “Hispanic”, as it finds its roots in American colonialism and racial prejudices. The term “Hispanic” technically refers to people who speak Spanish or have a background of speaking Spanish, while “Latinx” is a gender neutral term that refers to individuals of Latin American descent. Latinx is often viewed as being a more inclusive term than “Hispanic” because it includes individuals such as Brazilians, who speak Portuguese, as well as being a non-gendered term. While the month between September 15th and October 15th is technically called “Hispanic Heritage Month” within the United States, we have chosen to use the term “Latinx” instead of “Hispanic” to better acknowledge the Latinx community and the many cultures that the term encompasses beyond the confines of colonization. However, this choice was in no way made to tell individuals how they should personally identify themselves.
5 Latinx Environmentalists/Advocates Who are Making a Difference:
Raquel García-Álvarez grew up in Illinois and has become a hugely impactful member of the local environmental community. She is the Stewardship Program Coordinator and a steward at the Forest Preserves of Cook County and co-leads Latinx stewardship days on the public lands in Cook County. She is a strong advocate for racial equity within the Forest Preserves and co-founded the Environmentalists of Color (EOC), a “Chicago-based member driven catalyst for racial equity in the environmental field addressing the current and historical exclusion of BIPOC folks.”
Luis Cabrales grew up on the South Side of Chicago and started his conservation career in high school, when he joined the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps, which is part of the Student Conservation Association, where he removed invasive species and planted trees in his community. He then went on to participate in many Chicago-based environmental groups, and ended up co-founding the Southeast Youth Alliance (SYA) in 2018. This group’s mission is to support the local youth, help develop future community leaders, and “reimagine stewardship through engaging in conservation work while also engaging in dialogues surrounding its members’ place in nature and the burdens they have faced in their quest for environmental justice.”
José González is the founder of Latino Outdoors, a “Latinx-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education”, and a key figure that helped launch the Summit Seekers Initiative, an “international outdoor leadership training program designed to foster inclusion and engagement of communities or color with traditional outdoor recreation”.
Christiana Figueres was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Conventional on Climate Change from 2010-2016, and was a vital figure in the redevelopment and approval of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Since leaving the United Nations, she has continued to pursue her passion for mitigating climate change, supporting sustainable energy, and much more.
Fabian Garcia was a first-generation college student at UCLA who later went on to work for the U.S. Forest Service. Garcia now acts as a liaison between government agencies, non-government organizations, local businesses, and many education systems in the Los Angeles area. Garcia recognizes the importance of frequenting the outdoors, especially for children. In 2017, Latinx people made up 23% of under-18 individuals in the US, yet they make up only 5.8% of youth who participate in outdoor recreation. Garcia aims to change these numbers and help connect Latinx children with the outdoors.
Social Media Accounts to Follow: