Last month, on Giving Tuesday, we introduced Latino Outdoors to the Selk’bag community, and we’d like you to know more about why we chose to support this amazing group of people. We had the chance to interview Ariana Cano Gomez, a member of their Advisory Board, and she has such a great story. Her involvement with this community goes back to the days on which all she was looking for was a group of people she could identify with to share her passion for outdoor sports. It started with snowboarding and led her to discover so much more.
Ariana, how did you discover the Latino Outdoors Community?
I had been living in Vermont for a while, and one of the best words of advice someone gave me was to pick up a sport in the winter “It will make it bearable," they said. So I decided to start snowboarding. It got me through winter, but I kept wondering if I was the only Latinx in the Vermont mountains.
I then went on to work for an outdoor company, and I kept seeing how much of the outdoor industry is catered to white cis-men. I was frustrated, and it was exhausting. It was hard to be the one Latinx to talk about the experiences of being in the outdoors, I felt like I often had to lean into my whiteness to feel accepted in the outdoor spaces, which is an immense privilege I hold and recognize. This was ironic because it was always my upbringing in Venezuela what brought me closer to nature. It was the beauty of biodiversity and the power El Avila has on the city that showed me how important it is to care for our natural surroundings. I decided that I couldn’t be the only Latinx feeling this way, so I started googling and found Latino Outdoors.
They basically had outlined everything I had been thinking about. It was refreshing to see other people doing the same things I enjoyed doing. Even though Vermont doesn’t have an LO chapter, I have been able to meet some snowboarders out west who share the same sentiments and are working in the snow sports. I have met and made friends who share my love and passion.. I have learned from so many other stories of people’s goal to carve their own path in the outdoors and bring others along to feel welcomed in nature.
That’s beautiful. And what motivated you to get more involved with Latino Outdoors?
We don't have a big Latinx presence here in Vermont, yet the outdoors life was and is part of the Vermont identity. I vibe with that, and I wanted to help build systems and communities where we encourage others to feel validated, seen, and comfortable wherever people go. Being able to do that through LO is wonderful. We still have a lot of work to do and great potential for growth, and I am so excited to be part of that process. I am grateful to work alongside some of the most passionate, and energetic leaders in this field which makes our work all the more enjoyable and exciting.
What’s the greatest realization you’ve experienced so far?
We all have a lot of work to do. It has become even more evident how uncomfortable we are as a society to see change, and this includes social justice change. I believe that the issues that disproportionately affect Latinxs are just becoming front and center in the mainstream dialogues, and I’ve noticed people's discomfort about engaging in topics of inclusion. I don’t think this is specific to the Latinx community but any group that has been marginalized or forgotten for their existence. We are learning and growing and this is going to lead to a lot of mistakes and learning opportunities, and that is ok. We as a society need to acknowledge that we need change and that is probably going to be messy.
Change is a good thing, but it is a challenge for us to wrap our heads around. If we want to address systemic change and inclusion, we need everyone on board. Being Outdoors is not limited to one specific person and the more we see how it can look differently, the more comfortable we can get around the idea of the more, the merrier. I love seeing the work and all the events the volunteers put forward and seeing the results. It is absolutely refreshing.
Can you think of a very evident shift in a member’s life after becoming part of this LO?
Latino Outdoors is often an approachable way for people to try new things in a safe, new but familiar environment. Also, it is a great place to deepen their network. Through the stories we share, you get to find amazing people like a Latinx split boarder we found who does so much in marketing for the snow industry. As well as people getting out in nature with their families in a safe, accessible way. There really is something for everyone.Even though the community is so large and spread across the U.S there is still this sense of belonging and welcoming energy that makes anyone feel right at home whether it is their first outing or they have been part of the organization for many years.
What would you like more people to know about the Latino Outdoors community?
That we are here and that many Latinxs have been for a while, doing great things for the outdoors industry. Some of the most impactful environmentalists, adventurers, athletes, and outdoor community members are Latinxs. This shouldn’t feel like a new concept for us. This is just an opportunity for people to feel seen, supported, validated, and comfortable in their own skin enjoying something as simple as playing in nature.
We also aren’t a monolith, it is so refreshing to see that while we are all Latinx, we recreate differently. We may celebrate different things. We may speak different languages, yet we all have a shared community of cultura y familia. I would say that is one of the most beautiful things about our community.
In your opinion, what are the major reasons why the Latino Community need to be introduced to the Outdoors world?
The outdoors has immense power for the human experience, and no one should ever feel discouraged or limited to connect to that based on what their identity is. In fact, we should go above and beyond to make sure everyone who decides to approach these experiences can do it in a way that is comfortable to them. That should be priority number one for all players of this industry and really anyone who loves the outdoors. We should all take some time to be grateful for our natural spaces and find ways to make sure everyone has access to these experiences.
To know more about this amazing community and how to support them, please visit their website: https://latinooutdoors.org/ or follow them on Instagram.
Photo credits: Veronica Miranda
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