We’re halfway through Hispanic Heritage Month and I hope you’ve had a chance to reflect, learn, or celebrate. One way I keep my Mexican American culture alive is by speaking Spanish. It has never been the primary language of my home. Instead it was peppered into our daily lives and used whenever we spent time with my grandparents. I have learned most of my Spanish in school, listening to Selena, and still now while reading with my son. I love that when I read certain Spanish words, like mija, I hear them in my Dad’s voice. I invite all Latinos to celebrate the power of your voice this month, be it Spanish or English.
Historically our voices, the voices of Hispanic communities, have been excluded, denied, and left unheard by the mainstream environmental groups but we must remember the environment belongs to everyone. The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” cover a broad range of individuals, cultures, and experiences each with their own reasons for being concerned about climate change. Welcoming and listening to these people is crucial to the success of the climate movement.
My dad is a great example of someone who isn’t directly involved with the environmental movement but has a passion for the outdoors. As a kid he dreamed of being a park ranger and totally gives off a Smokey the Bear vibe. On the weekends you can usually find him out on the cold sandy beaches of the Pacific Northwest with the breeze in his hair. He also follows the news closely and I have noticed the stories he sends me have been shifting from general news to updates about the ice sheets of Greenland or wildfires and smoke. He is like many people who are paying attention and ready to do more. In fact, according to a report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, “Latinos are more convinced global warming is happening and human-caused, more worried about it, perceive greater risks, are more supportive of climate change policies, and are more willing to get involved politically.”
I know working on climate change can feel daunting for me, sometimes it feels like too much for me or any one person to make a difference. Remembering the power within my family and community gives me hope. From my sister teaching high schoolers in El Paso about climate change, to my dad starting climate conversations, I feel that we can and must keep speaking up. This Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s listen to the Latino voices in our communities and embrace their ongoing leadership, contributions and innovations.