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“I didn’t want to leave my culture at the trailhead”

Congratulations to José González, BKF Fellow and Founder of Latino Outdoors for his many recent accolades for his work in promoting diversity in outdoor education and conservation.

In January, José was featured in the Outdoor Industry Association’s “Together We Are a Force” campaign and highlighted as a “force for participation.”

He also awarded the 2018 Kenji Award for “Diversity, Inclusivity and Leadership” in recognition of his leadership in founding Latino Outdoors (LO.) During his acceptance speech, José noted that the award is really one for the whole LO team and asked his colleagues to join him on stage. He also noted that this award “is a reminder of how we’ve needed to carve out this space and though we have made some strides there is still MUCH to do.”

José again made news when he was interviewed for an snews piece called “Yes, we are getting better at diversity” that highlighted 6 leaders of color who are working to bring diverse voices into outdoor education and conservation.

Like other leaders in the diversity movement, González got hooked on the outdoors in college but was conflicted by how few people on the trail looked like him. “The higher I hiked up the mountain the whiter it got—and I’m not talking about snow,” he says. “Whether it’s true or not, the narrative was Latinos don’t go outdoors.”

González founded Latinos Outdoors in 2013 to build a community that incorporates his Latin heritage as well as his love of being in nature. “I didn’t want to leave my culture at the trailhead,” he says. “The biggest obstacle for Latinos on public lands is that they don’t feel welcome there.” Even though Latinos comprise 17 percent of the U.S. population, only 1 in 10 visitors to national parks fall into that demographic.

Latino Outdoors has grown from a blog and Instagram platform to an outings program. It sponsors organized family hikes and camping trips in California as well as major cities across the west, including Denver, Seattle and San Antonio. These trips on public lands are led by volunteers who help Latinos connect to their roots in places that often have Spanish place names and a long history of Latin settlement.

Gonzalez is happy to see the growth in the last few years of many Instagram campaigns that push diversity in the outdoors but he believes there is much more work to be done. “Beyond having brown-skinned ambassadors for a brand, there is the social justice issue that companies need to face,” he says. “If we are really going to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion then companies need to open up their decision making to people of color. Resources need to be leveraged to support these new faces and voices.