It was the first time I had been surrounded by so many people that were interested in the environment and conserving it. All these people were members of different environmental organizations in the Portland-Vancouver area and they were gathered that day for a big announcement. The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge was receiving a million dollar annual grant with the purpose of engaging urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation. It was BIG news!
At the beginning of my undergraduate career I would scan my biology lectures to count how many other Latinos were in the room with me. I never reached a high number. The reason I was counting in the first place was because it felt a little bizarre not being around so many Latinos. My college experience was much different than my time in elementary school and high school. It was slightly monotonous. I missed seeing people of different ages. I missed seeing families, babies, and older people. I missed eating Mexican food so much. I didn’t know of a store that had the supplies I needed in order to prepare a decent Mexican dish. I would see different faces on campus when I walked through it but I found that my lectures were lacking that diversity.
Towards the end of my college career I stopped looking for faces like mine. I began to see myself more as a person who was interested in biology and conservation and less as a Latina in science. Yes I struggled a bit since I was the first person in my family to go to college, but I overcame it on my own. I sought help and successfully received it. I searched for opportunities that would bring me closer to my future career goals and found them. Being Latina was irrelevant to my career.
I was at this gathering and I did not feel uncomfortable but Brenda mentioned that she did. She said she counted the number of minorities attending this meeting and it was a very low number she was not accustomed to. I mentioned to her that it didn’t even cross my mind. It didn’t cross my mind because I was so used to it already. It was my life for the past 4.5 years. The alarms in my head don’t go off when I’m around a large group of white people, they actually go off when I am face to face with another Latino. When I see their face it makes me so excited, it makes me feel at home. It makes me feel like it is alright to be where I am even if I am different.
I shouldn’t be satisfied with this feeling. I should be doing something about it. And I am thankful for this opportunity EFTA has provided for me. I am learning how to connect myself back to my culture while I help other Latinos learn about nature.