SAN DIEGO — Leading hikes has a deeper purpose for Wendy Garcia. She works with the San Diego Chapter of Latino Outdoors, a national organization working to connect Latino communities with nature and each other.
Garcia said her goal is to introduce Latinos like her to the outdoors in positive ways, so that the outside world feels safe and welcoming to all people.
“We offer families the opportunity to get out into nature and visit places that they wouldn’t normally visit on their own,” Garcia said.
Garcia said she tried to join other walking groups but always felt like an outsider.
“No one really shared my culture or was as brown as I was,” she said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable and safe, that you’re not being judged for eating weird food or playing music.”
Latino Outdoors encourages unspoken bonding in their communities and gets people involved in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, bird watching, paddle boarding and kayaking.
Garcia said historical barriers have prevented many Latinos from feeling comfortable outdoors.
“We went outside to work, not really to relax and unwind,” she said. “For example, my grandma used to go to the river every day, but to do laundry, bathe and stuff like that.”
Salvador Macias joined Latino Outdoors so his children would learn that there is a place for them in the outdoor recreation community.
“I’ve never been an outdoor person myself,” Macias said. “Growing up in Tijuana, there aren’t a lot of trails and things to go out there.” “We always want to give our kids things we never had.”
Latino Outdoors has helped thousands of Latinos experience the outdoors for the first time and discover a new connection with the community they all love.
“We’re really trying to find a sense of home in a place that we often don’t feel like home even if, like me, we were born here,” Garcia said. “To make you feel safe like, you’re safe, you’re ok with me because I’m Latino too.”
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors announced that August 30 is Latino Outdoors Day in San Diego County.