Inclusivity in the Outdoors
Whether out on the trail or unloading your kayak at the local dock, you may notice something missing—the uniformity of people on the trails is in stark contrast to the diversity in the nature around you. Now that’s changing, thanks in part to Latino Outdoors—a nationwide organization with a new chapter in Massachusetts led by UMass graduate students Sebastian Moreno ’25PhD and Jackie Dias ’19, ’23MS.
“The goal of Latino Outdoors is to connect and engage Latinx communities in the outdoors and embrace our culture as part of the outdoor narrative. Ultimately, we want to create outdoor spaces where everyone can feel welcome and safe,” explains Moreno, whose research focuses on the intersectionality between humans and wildlife in urban environments.
Ultimately, we want to create outdoor spaces where everyone
can feel welcome and safe.
For some, it may be difficult to imagine not feeling welcome on a trail or in a natural setting, but for many in the Latinx community, that is the case. As Dias explains, “Recreation and the ‘outdoor community’ have traditionally been very white and gear heavy, with the mindset of ‘If you don’t have the gear, you’re not doing it right.’ We want to get kids—especially Latinx children and families—into the outdoors. You don’t need the newest backpack or hiking boots to form a connection with nature.” Dias is currently researching the economic benefits of conservation programs in the United States.
Remembering her own experience, Dias says, “My undergraduate experience was pretty lonely and I often felt as though I didn’t ‘fit in’ to any one group. I didn’t feel like I was outdoorsy enough for UMOC (UMass Outing Club): I didn’t have the traditional background as someone pursuing sustainability. It was hard finding my place. Now, with Sebastian, we are creating a welcoming environment for people who are like us, to do the things we like and want to do.”
A key part of the Latino Outdoors mission is to explore the idea that nature can be found anywhere—families participate in events in local parks, city greenways, and even in their own backyards. In the spring, Latino Outdoors Massachusetts teamed up with other groups and collectives for events, creating pandemic-friendly activities to get their 43 members outside and in nature, including scavenger hunts and birding exploration.