Much has been said and written about Latinos in the environment lately. From the coverage and content, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a nascent phenomenon, but Latinos’ environmental advocacy has long been the subject of misunderstandings.
Starting from the erroneous idea that Latinos didn’t care about the environment – to the belief that our advocacy is newly emerging, respect for Pachamama (Mother Earth) is a core value in our Latino communities. Sometimes it stems from direct interaction with nature in our daily life, sometimes from a common sense approach not to waste, or appreciation for a special place. From reusable bags and cloth napkins to line drying laundry, common sense conservation has been a part of our daily lives for a long time.
In the United States, Latino environmental advocacy has been instrumental in securing historic wins. In 1969, San Francisco lawyer Ralph Abascal brought a suit on behalf of six migrant farm workers that resulted in the banning of harmful pesticide DDT. Throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Latino environmental advocates from New York to New Mexico and California took on issues like contaminated groundwater, toxic incinerators, nuclear waste and pesticides, organizing to protect public health in their neighborhoods.
It is natural that as Latino political power builds and is recognized in our country, the understanding becomes more nuanced about the issues we care about. A recent article on Al Jazeera America accurately portrayed us as an electorate that places environmental protection at the top of our priority list, and the near constant stream of polling confirms this.
So why still the disconnect and misunderstandings? In a world where we continually strive to make the most of non profit shoe string budgets, investments in leadership development, long term organizing and power building for authentic Latino environmental organizations is difficult to come by. So we continue operating in different spheres – and grassroots groups with deep community ties but scant resources and networks find themselves unable to access decision making arenas that would benefit immensely from inclusive and expansive opinions in determining policies for all.
This is where La Madre Tierra comes in– this effort strives to celebrate and honor the more than 40 years of environmental Latino leadership in the US, to amplify and connect grassroots Latino conservation voices, to highlight efforts that would benefit from added resources and collaborations, and more importantly, to empower more Latino activists by sharing our continued successes in the field.
This summer we crisscrossed the American West, meeting people, connecting and collecting stories and building comunidad. We’re excited to collaborate with Latino Rebels to amplify this even further: Every week, we’ll bring you a new interview with Latinos leading trailblazing conservation efforts and we hope you will share your stories and journeys too. We’re just getting started and while this is an exciting project, it is by no means complete. We’re looking for your input. We’re looking for your ideas, your stories and your experiences to create an inclusive timeline that accurately honors our collective work and fosters collaboration towards a cleaner, healthier environment for us all.
Eco-rebeldes, we’re looking to meeting you all soon.
¡Bienvenidos y adelante!