15 Dec Returning Home: A Place I Know So Well but Also So Little
Getting ready for this trip of a lifetime was like returning home for me. Not only because I am Mexican, but because I am returning to a country I know so well but yet know so little. I’ve visited Mexico many times to visit family but never to a conference. Landing in Mexico with my colleagues Mike Rizo (USFS), Carina Ruiz (Audubon Great Lakes), and Refugio Mariscal (Audubon Great Lakes) was a privilege. Being able to share this experience and lessons learned and to have the opportunity to share back to the Latino community here in Chicago has a significant potential to open even more partnerships.
Making our way to Jilotepec, we were offered a ride by CONABIO, an opportunity to meet in-person folks like us who are doing work on the ground. Speaking in Spanish about the environment, programs, and places, I took note of how people in Mexico communicate and make a cultural understanding of stewardship. I was finding what makes it different in the United States than in Mexico. Mexico has stories, food, dance, and place where the connection is all around. This will be essential for my work, and making those relationships, and ultimately, we are all correlated and depend on one another to survive.
In PAU (Programa de Aves Urbanas), people were so communal—they shared not only food but best practices to engage with their audience with the backing of a cultural understanding. The sense of ownership of the land is even more significant because they know the land, and it seems they want to also go deeper into a cultural understanding of the earth. The stories and people who are still living in these rural places make it so unique. What excited me most about going up into the mountains in the Bosque de Morelos was its people, they have stories to share and have lived gently on the land for hundreds of years. I have a lot to learn and translate that into my work here in Chicago. Many of these customs were alive here in the United States by its native people. I am glad that I know many organizers who are bringing it back.
Every day was spent getting up at 4:15 am to go bosques (the forest) to go out and bird, climb mountains, only talk in Spanish, and be able to connect with leaders across Mexico. Although it was a challenge at times, it was such a privilege to be there. They not only engage with birds but also talk about environmental education with a cultural lens. This event was well put together by the organizers of CONABIO and the awesome volunteers of Jilotepec. Susan Bonfield from Environment for the Americas (EFTA) sponsored me to go out and experience this for myself. Susan and her staff Chu-Yu and Miguel presented and shared resources with folks.
From this trip, we managed to create a medicinal guide in 3 languages published at the Field Museum in November 2019. And earlier this year, we collaborated with EFTA and Audubon Great Lakes on an event that connected the spring migration of birds with diverse people in Chicago—bridging two countries and breaking boundaries to a common goal: Preserving the natural beauty of our planet.