Nearly 50 percent of New Mexico’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. In the entire U.S., it is 18 percent, with a projection of 25 percent by 2050. Hispanic and Latino culture has been around long before this country was founded and continues to grow and solidify into the national fabric. 

This Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s recognize the influence that Latino and Hispanic Americans have on the way we conserve land and water. Acequia irrigation systems and sustainable agriculture are just a few of the deeply rooted environmental traditions held by Hispanic, Latino, and Native communities. 

While the nation’s colonial history has caused many of these ancient practices to diminish or reduce in scale, the values of conservation and sustainability continue to thrive in Hispanic and Latino communities. A strong sense of gratitude for the surrounding environment is ingrained in the way we look at the world. 

With many Hispanic Americans living in low-income communities today, these conservationist values have been reinforced out of financial necessity. Whether it’s energy, water, or food, conserving resources as a family continues to be a big part of Hispanic culture. This comes in spite of a lack of reciprocity in the environmental field. 

Both financially and socially, Hispanic and Latino Americans continue to be excluded from environmental opportunities, despite a demonstrated commitment to sustainability. Recreational activities on public lands are often inaccessible due to expensive fees, gear, and cost of travel. Socially, our voices are underrepresented in decision-making discussions regardless of our ingrained history and connection with these lands.

As we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month this year, we must address these inequities that exist for nearly half of the New Mexican population. Our state is infused with outstanding public lands that should be available to the people whose ancestors historically explored and cared for them. To do this, Hispanic voices need to be heard, amplified and validated. 

Today, “Latinos are vocal advocates for creating new national monuments, protecting water sources like the Colorado River, encouraging the permanent reauthorization and full dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and establishing and maintaining regulations under the Clean Air Act.” According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “support for wildlife, public lands and conservation is higher among Hispanic Americans than among any other ethnic group in the nation.”

To our fellow Hispanic and Latino Americans, let’s honor our heritage by demanding a voice in decision-making arenas around the conservation of public lands and water, advocating for more conservation practices like the 30×30 Goal, and ensuring access+ to public lands for future generations. 

To our fellow conservationists, we urge you to seek out and include Hispanic and Latino voices in spaces where they are lacking. The effort to establish equity and inclusivity needs support and solidarity, so demonstrate your commitment today as we honor Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Learn more at nuestra-tierra.org