Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month has been recognized by the US Government since 1988 to recognize and appreciate their various cultures, achievements, and on-going contributions to our country.
Rather than spanning a month from beginning from end, Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month covers a range of Latin Independence Day celebrations. The first day of the month is September 15th, the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The following days are the Independence Days of Mexico (9/16) and Chile (9/17) and the month ends on October 15th. Here in the United States, Hispanic or Latinx people are the largest ethnic minority and account for roughly 18.5% of our population according to the US Census Bureau. Similar to other minorities in the United States, Hispanic and Latinx people experience several barriers to involvement with nature and the environment including language and class barriers and a lack of representation amongst environmental organizations and the exploitation of the natural areas in which some individuals make their homes. Despite these barriers, there are many Hispanic and Latinx people and organizations active in challenging their community’s marginalization, as well as the economic exploitation of the environment. Today we celebrate Hispanic and Latinx environmental advocates who have fought for the environment and their communities.
At 18 years old, Jamie Margolin is a Columbian-American environmental activist, organizer, public speaker, and the published author of Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It, and co-founder of the international youth climate justice movement: Zero Hour. She is frequently involved in youth climate marches and rallies. Margolin is outspoken about the ways that inactivity and ignorance surrounding climate change have begun to threaten the futures of the younger generations and represents the power of youth voices in advocacy.
In 2018, an Afro-Columbian organizer and activist, Francia Marquez won the Goldman Environmental Prize for South and Central America. After seeing the effects that illegal gold mining was having on her country, Marquez organized the women from her town of La Toma and together they marched and pressured the Columbian government to remove the illegal miners from the town. From the start of her journey as an activist at just 13 years old, Marquez uses her Afro-Columbian dance, and music to communicate both politics and culture. She has been at the forefront of issues involving mining, agriculture, and deforestation.
Isidro Baldenegro Lopez
We cannot talk about environmental achievements and advocacy without acknowledging the risks that Hispanic and Latinx activists endure while fighting for their communities and environments. Isidro Baldenegro Lopez was a subsistence framer and community organizer of Mexico’s indigenous Tarahumara people and was murdered in 2017 after repeated death threats throughout his life as an activist. He left behind a legacy of non-violent resistance and dedication to the resiliency and preservation of indigenous culture in Mexico. Baldenegro was the 2005 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize and led several fights to combat illegal logging and preserve the old-growth forests in Sierra Madre.
Co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team, Liliana Madrigal is an activist native to Costa Rica and specializes in issues relating to clean water, human rights, and environmental sustainability. Working as a Director and Liaison for The Nature Conservancy’s Costa Rica plan, she advocated on behalf of the native communities on the island. Madrigal has done advocacy related to ethical supply chains and the ways that consumer behavior can shift the actions of producers, especially when it comes to sustainability and environmental conservation.
Latino Outdoors is an organization aimed towards rebuilding the relationship between Latinx people and the Outdoors. Their Vision Statement is as follows: A world where all Latino communities enjoy nature as a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place – a world where the outdoors is a place to share and celebrate stories, knowledge, and culture, while growing leadership and an active community of Latino outdoor users, mentors, and stewards. Beginning as a blog and online community space in 2013, it has now blossomed into a community spanning across all parts of the country that provides mentoring, volunteering, and outdoor education to communities that are often excluded from the outdoors. You can learn more about Latino Outdoors at latinooutdoors.org.
Local Feature: Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, DE
The Latin American Community Center and Delaware Nature Society partnered to hold a Monarch Migration Celebration, honoring the Monarch butterfly’s migration from the US to Mexico each year and celebrating Hispanic & Latinx Heritage month. The event took place on the Wilmington Riverfront. The Christina River and its wetlands support more than 200 species of wildlife, including the Monarch butterfly. Visitors were able to encounter live butterflies, borrow a butterfly net to try their hand at catching butterflies and other insects, help tag and release Monarchs for research, and make crafts. Monarch butterflies have been experiencing significant decline in population and public events like this are a great opportunity to connect community residents face-to-face with the wildlife that shares the marsh.
We hope you take some time out of this month to support and learn more about the issues that Hispanic and Latinx activists and communities are fighting for. Too often, these experiences are left out of larger conversations about environmentalism and environmental advocacy as a whole. There is so much rich diversity amongst Hispanic and Latinx communities across the country and around the world and we hope that you take some time this month to explore all that they have to offer!
Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Campaign’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!