Latinas Outdoors

In our

most recent

 backpacking adventure to

Yosemite National Park

, we had the honor of taking almost all new hikers.  In particular Dixie, a graduating high school senior and Vanessa, our newest youth leader, both from our Spanish-speaking church.  We had done a few training day hikes but this was the ladies first time backpacking.

I originally was not going to go on this trip, but in the days before leaving we decided that I would go along with our toddlers.  Dixie and Vanessa were so relieved that I was going with them  that Vanessa even said, "I'm so happy, I don't know how we were going to do it without you...".

The ladies....

Those words stayed with me over the next few days and I also recently read

Hiking Along: Backpacking: Is It Just a Male Sport?

.  I realized how important it was to Vanessa and Dixie that I went not only because I'm an "Outdoorsy" woman but the only Latina they knew that truly loves the outdoors.

Where are the Latinas?

One question that I have wondered in the last few years being outdoors, is "Where are the Latinos?".  Not even in particular, Latinas in the outdoors but Latinos in general?  I live in one of the most diverse places in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost every ethnicity in the world and it's still very difficult to find Latinos more yet, Latinas outdoors.  Here are a three aspects that might hinder Latinas to venture outdoors:

  • Traditional Roles:  The Latin culture usually maintains the "traditional roles" especially in 1st and 2nd generation Latinos.  Husbands work (white and blue collar) and wives stay home with the children and with that comes many obstacles that might prevent Latinas to even entertaining the thought going outdoors.  First time mothers might be very cautious or even afraid to take their children for example camping or hiking as a family, nevertheless by themselves.  I have nothing against traditional roles, I actually chose to leave my career to be a Stay-At-Home Mother but even I had reservations about taking my child outdoors when I first became a mother.
  • Pre-Conceived Notions:  The Latin culture has many mythical creatures and undocumented "medical tips" usually given by grandmothers and mothers to daughters.  One of my favorite medical tip is "Le entro el aire" (The air hit him/her) which "causes" sickness.  My son was a couple months old when I took him to an outdoor event, and I was very worried about the wind but he proceeded to sleep for 14 hours straight for the first time in his life.  I put that one to rest in my mind and actually encourage mothers to take babies and children outside. Some are legitimate concerns, for example when I visited my grandmother in Peru she was very worried of us catching a "jungle" disease during our jungle tour/hike deep in the Amazon jungle.
  • Another pre-conceived notion are mythical creatures in the outdoors, which differ from country to country in Latin America.  My parents never tried to scare me with mythical creatures but I know a lot of my Latino friend's parents who did.  To read more about Latin mythical creatures, read Rena Payan's Overcoming My Fear of "El Cuycuy".
  • "Machismo": Dictionary.com describes "machismo" as "a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity".  Machismo is an exaggeration of traditional roles that many Latinos might live through during their lives and if the patriarch of the family (father, husband or brother) doesn't like the outdoors, the family might not enjoy or even have the chance to explore the outdoors.  Machismo is indirectly related to the idea that Traditional Roles stop Latinas from being outdoors.  Machismo can certainly come from husbands, fathers and brothers but it doesn't necessarily need to come from Latino men.  Machismo is ingrained in the Latin culture and an outdoorsy Latina might be looked down upon from other women as well as Latino men.  Discouragement to enjoy the outdoors might even come from within oneself, if all someone has heard is "those things are for men". 

In honor of these great Latinas who put these aspects aside and attended the Graduating Senior Backpacking Trip, here is a little honor on each one on them!

Dixie at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Dixie

, graduated high school this school year, the eldest daughter of four girls and a very strong hiker!  We nicknamed her the "Task Master", even though she was dealing with altitude sickness and nausea she somehow found the energy in her tiny body to not only hike but to keep the whole group at a good hiking pace.  After she got sick on some difficult switchbacks she just ate some trail mix and finished the hike with gusto!

Vanessa at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Vanessa

, our newest church youth leader and current college student survived not only one bear encounter but TWO bear encounters!  Vanessa learned to control her fear during her second bear encounter at camp on our second day backpacking.  My husband told her that there was a bear behind her and after she realized it was not a joke she carefully walked away while he loudly clapped and said "Go Away Bear!".  Not letting fear over take her in this bear encounter will be something she will never forget and can apply it to the rest of her life!

Mountain Baby in Yosemite

Sophia

, the littlest Latina (well half Latina) in the group! She continually teaches me and others that dirt does not hurt and there's nothing wrong with getting dirty.  Sophia was a little trooper on this trail that hardly sees toddlers and she had lots of dirt to play with!

Chasqui Mom - Melissa

This trip really did push me to my limits even for this so claimed "Chasqui Mom".  It was a hard hike due to the heat and somewhat difficulty of the trail but I knew I had to keep face for the ladies and motivate them to keep going.  After all was finished, I did tell them that I was deathly scared of the bears and that I did not want to finish our second day's hike.  I wasn't around the ladies when they arrived at Tiltill Valley, but another youth leader said the whole trip was worth seeing their reactions when they had their first glimpse of Tiltill Valley.  Just hearing about the ladies reactions gave me the energy to keep going.

So here's to my Latina sisters Vanessa and Dixie who encountered bears, fought off snakes in the river and trails, spent hours washing dishes, learned to filter their own water, built their own tents, watched out for animals during our bathroom adventures, and comforted each other when we wanted to vomit.  Thanks for stepping out of breaking down the barriers to enter into the wonderful world of the outdoors.  We can do it!

Related Posts:

  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. Hiking Along - Backpacking: Is It Just Male Sport?
  3. Overcoming My Fear of "El Cucuy"
  4. Guest Post on Latino Outdoors: "Latinas Outdoors"
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