Equity in Parks: Celebrating the Contributions of Hispanic & Latino Leaders in Parks and Recreation Link copied!

September 21, 2022


Hispanic Heritage Month, observed annually from September 15th-October 15th.

Hispanic Heritage Month, observed annually from September 15th-October 15th, is a time set aside to celebrate the contributions, history, and culture of people from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Spain. In celebration, we are highlighting the stories of three Hispanic and Latino leaders who have led the charge to advance more equitable access to public recreational spaces in their communities. Members of the Hispanic and Latino communities are traditionally underrepresented in these spaces due to the on-going effects of systemic racism, but the work of these and other advocates prove that progress can be realized when equity is placed at the center of the conversation.

Maite Arce is an activist and founder of the Hispanic Access Foundation, an organization that connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create a more equitable society.

Through her work, Maite has championed environmental justice and equity, while encouraging Latino communities to enjoy outdoor activities and advocate for conservation. Over the course of her career, Maite has organized several programs, including The MANO (My Access to Network Opportunities) Project, which matches Latino youth with paid internships at environmental, cultural, and preservation organizations such as the National Park Service. Additionally, The Hispanic Access Foundation partners annually with the National Park Service and other organizations for Latino Conservation Week, a series of national events designed to encourage conservation and highlight the community efforts to protect nature. Learn more about Maite here.

José González is the Founder and Director Emeritus of Latino Outdoors. A professional educator with experience in education and conservation, José uses his skills along with art and messaging to explore the intersections of environment and culture.

José’s work focuses on Equity & Inclusion frameworks and practices in environmental, outdoor, and conservation fields. While in grad school, José developed Latino Outdoors to help create a space for Latinos interested in outdoor recreation and conservation. Since 2014, the organization has worked to create outdoor experiences for families and youth through its Vamos Outdoor program, which inspires participants’ conservation ethic, and encourages their evolving engagement in outdoor recreation, while recognizing and celebrating the different ways in which diverse communities already connect with the outdoors. José believes that positive outcomes will arise naturally if individuals and communities have an equitable opportunity to play and enjoy the outdoors. Since its inception, Latino Outdoors has grown rapidly from its California-based roots into a national movement powered by volunteers. Learn more about José here.

George Melendez Wright is credited with conducting the first scientific survey of wildlife for the National Park Service. He was well-known for his holistic approach to conservation and fought to ensure that natural and cultural resources were equally protected.

Through George’s work as an assistant park naturalist at Yosemite National Park, he became increasingly concerned about the impact human interaction was having on wildlife and dedicated his time to researching and identifying solutions. He was one of the first protected area professionals to argue for a holistic approach, ensuring that the same amount of care provided to protect natural lands was provided to lands that had significant cultural importance. He played an integral role in the nationwide planning for public parks and recreation areas and served on a commission that worked with Mexico to identify and establish new protected areas along the international border. George became the first chief of the Wildlife Division of the Park Service in 1933. Learn more about George here.

KABOOM! recognizes the importance and benefits of equitable access to nature and public spaces, and salutes Maite Arce, José González, and George Melendez Wright for the progress they led.

We know that far too many Latino children lack adequate places to play due to the ongoing effects of systemic racism. These inequities have left communities of color with less access to playspaces than their white counterparts, limiting their ability to fully experience the physical, social, and emotional health benefits of play. We acknowledge this injustice and create playspaces in partnership with communities to further long-term, sustainable progress towards community-driven goals that improve the lives of kids.