The outdoors can be a complicated space. Though nature is all around us (and is theoretically free to use), various factors — like ability, race, class, and more — can affect whether or not someone feels comfortable getting outside in a community garden, a national park, or on a ski slope. To address this issue, many organizations are devoting themselves to making the outdoors more accessible. One is LatinxHikers, a grassroots initiative dedicated to creating a space for members of the Latinx community to spend time outside and establish connections with nature.
Adriana Garcia, the co-founder of LatinxHikers, believes in the importance of spending time outside. She grew up in a small town in Tennessee, where she spent much of her childhood in nature. “I can’t remember a time in my childhood that I wasn’t outside doing something,” she said, adding, “I loved the freedom the outdoors gave me. I got to govern myself and be curious.” Garcia eventually turned that love of the outdoors into a career path: Outside of her role at LatinxHikers, she works as the marketing lead at an outdoor apparel brand in Atlanta and travels all over for hikes and other outdoor activities.
Garcia and her friend Luz Lituma co-founded LatinxHikers in 2017, out of what Garcia calls “necessity and a little bit of curiosity.” She and Lituma bonded over their love of outdoor adventures, but often noticed that they were the only Latinas on the trails and in other outdoor spaces. “It felt kind of lonely, but we knew there had to be other folks like us out there so we took to social media to try and find those connections,” she said. They built up a community online, eventually getting enough followers to start hosting IRL events. Their first event was a group hike in the Atlanta area, but today LatinxHikers hosts hikes all over the country, from Washington to Florida to Chicago, and puts on other activities like camping, kayaking, tubing, and summiting.
Besides the main goal of getting outside, Garcia says that all of LatinxHikers’ events are also culturally relevant to the Latinx community. “We try to always include music and food since those are two staples that we value in our culture,” she said. At a recent event, Garcia and a group of LatinxHikers followers did a beginner-friendly three-mile hike in the Atlanta area and then gathered for pozole and Mexican hot chocolate while listening to music and talking around a campfire. “Outdoor cooking is very important in the Latinx culture,” Garcia said. “Growing up in a mixed Mexican-American household, it was normal for us to have carne asada cookouts in our front yard or when we went swimming at the lake. I remember some of my favorite moments were getting together with everyone for dinner and helping cook.”
Garcia knows from personal experience how important and beneficial it is to get outside and reconnect with nature. “A few years ago, I went through some rough times with my mental health and I remember challenging myself to get outside at least five times a week,” she said. “Even though it was hard to push myself to get outside, I noticed that when I got that time in I felt a lot better mentally.” Outside of the mental and physical health benefits, Garcia adds that spending time outside can also benefit you by “helping you connect with community, challenging yourself, and learning self-love.”
Despite these benefits, it still takes work to overcome the perception many people have of the outdoors as inaccessible. To help address that, Garcia believes we can start by changing the definition of “outdoorsy.” “Being outdoorsy can mean playing in your garden, bird watching from your porch, or taking walks in your neighborhood park,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be this extreme version that we sometimes see in ads or on social media. You don’t have to summit 16ers or be a professional snowboarder to be outdoorsy.” Many brands are also working to help nature feel more accessible, like the Parks for All program from Hydro Flask, which has donated over $3.1 million to nonprofit organizations focused on making the outdoors a more equitable space.
Overall, Garcia hopes that LatinxHikers can help people see that anyone can get outside, in whatever way they’d like, and that it can be the start of change in diversifying the outdoors. “I hope [when people come to LatinxHikers’ page] they see that the outdoors is literally for everyone,” she said, “and even though historically in the United States that has not been the case, we are helping change that and they too can be a part of that change.”