24 Nov The False Generalization of Latinx in the Field of Science
For the past 10 years, I’ve supported national environmental organizations, agencies, and a museum institution with bridging connections with community groups by creating science and nature programs that are accessible and culturally resonant for LatinX and other minority groups lacking representation in the field of Conservation in the United States.
The grants that often fund this work expect a narrative that refers to Hispanic or Latinos as “marginalized, impoverished, underrepresented, high-risk, and impacted (among other non-positive terms) and never fully captures the cultural richness and intellectual capacity of this cultural group to be part the existing environmental field as professionals. Outreach work can be perceived as charitable work to expose “communities that have been marginalized” to the field of environmental science in hopes that they will join the professional community in some facet.
However, my experience in Jilotepec, Mexico, and exposure to the coordinators, organizers, and participants in the PAU program countered the generalization that is made of minority groups and provided me with validation, empowerment, and illustrated a narrative of my Raza (my people) that counters the American misconception of who we are. I wasn’t surrounded by “marginalized, high-risk, nor underrepresented” people, I was surrounded by hundreds of competent volunteers, scientists, environmental educator, naturalists, and eco-tourism practitioners, among others who convened to share best practices, troubleshoot challenges, and more importantly, empower each other to grow in their work. These were my people, I looked like them, and saw myself in them; and for the first time in my tenure, I was no longer the minority from a marginalized, impacted, high-risk, underserved, urban community, rather, I was a professional among other professionals.
When I joined the Audubon team 3 years ago, I struggled to navigate the birding community; traditionally composed of mostly retired, white people of privilege, I always felt like an outsider—someone who didn’t belong. Finding birding groups of color in the States is like finding a needle in a haystack. Finding professional development opportunities in the States to be able to make birding culturally relevant to minority groups is close to obsolete. My work had become exhaustive until I came across PAU via social media. Not only was I able to learn from the various PAU chapters throughout Mexico, I too received a personal validation for my work and felt included, part of a larger community with which I could identify with.
I was not surprised, however, but very impressed by the high-quality programming that was facilitated; the organization and communication mediums; the multigenerational approach and inclusiveness of various community groups and political figures; the use of birding to build commerce, and the inclusion of culture and arts; all in the name of community science. I will always be grateful to the participants of the 3cer Encuentro del Programa de Aves Urbanas, to the staff of CONABIO, Environment for the Americas, and to U.S. Forest Service – International Programs, who provided an unforgettable professional development opportunity, and by doing so, also impacting the thousands of multigenerational participants that the Audubon Great Lakes’ Wild Indigo Nature Explorations program engages through culturally relevant programming.