Meet Ceci: Educator and Outdoor Lover. Ceci reminds us that there’s a place for everyone in the outdoors, regardless of how we look or how much money we have for gear. We are all rooted in nature with a body-spirit connection that is amplified when we are outdoors.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in LA County in 1990 to undocumented immigrant parents. We moved around a lot in the county. We eventually settled in Visalia, California but then the 1994 Northridge Earthquake displaced us. We lived in our car for a while, but we also couch surfed at my aunt and uncle’s house. After a few months of that we got our own place and lived there a few months & then headed for Guatemala and Mexico. We spent about 6 months total in Latin America before returning to California. Then my aunt and uncle convinced my parents to move up to Oregon, where we could live a more affordable and peaceful life from the hectic and pricey Southern California life & INS (now ICE). We landed in Keizer, Oregon.
How would you describe your relationship to the outdoors?
I love the outdoors! I grew up in poverty, so our form of fun on the weekends was “filling up” the tank (with 5$) in our family car, packing tuna fish sandwiches, and jumping on the nearest scenic route all along the western coast to a find a state/national forest or park. We didn’t have any gear at all (sometimes not even the best shoes), so all these hiking gear thingymabobs are new to me. Part of the reason I joined Fat Girls Hiking was because the outdoors has been a great part of my childhood and I want to continue hiking while meeting great people in a body positive environment!
Many say that nature has a healing effect, do you agree with that statement?
I believe it’s extremely important to root ourselves in nature. Everything that we do not only comes back to bodies and spirit but it also comes back to the greater outdoors. We take care of nature, and nature takes care of us, essentially.
Do you think there’s a diverse representation in Outdoor media? And do you feel that it has changed in the last year due to social media?
NOPE. There is not a diverse representation of people in the outdoors through media or social media, more specifically in Portland. There’s definitely less POC and less people of different shapes, sizes, and abilities depicted in outdoor media (as well as in ALL other media). I definitely see more of the fit and able-bodied white people (mainly masculine folks) training in the outdoors, hiking, snowboarding, that sort of stuff. When someone who doesn’t fit that body type there’s definitely shaming and paternalistic behaviors/beliefs coming from all angles. Take for instance cycling. If you don’t have the gear; the body; “the bike”; the fancy lights; if you don’t have that, well you’re not a real cyclist. Oh and, you can’t break a sweat. Not even when you’re going up Interstate Avenue.
In your work with youth of color, do you think there should be more outdoor programs available to them and would they be interested in having these experiences?
Of course! But when is that going to happen? Fundraising and regular donors are what these programs need. I’m not talking about having the “scholarships” for low-income students to join an outdoor camp or something like that. I’m talking about including this is in our school districts; budgeting and creating pathways for students across all the schools. Have field-trips embedded in the science curriculum! Offer paid internships for high school students in the natural sciences. Check out The Student Conservation Association for that! If I had a billion dollars? I’d work on this.
You mentioned being part of the National Park Services, which has gotten a bad rap for their treatment of women & people of color. What was your experience like?
Maybe I’m “blind” to that, because I can’t say that I saw or felt ill-treatment, but that doesn’t mean that is the case in other NPS parks or departments. I worked in a park in the outskirts of Philly in Natural Resource Management, and actually most of the people I worked with were women that were very real about their experiences in NPS. What I will say about NPS is that it’s almost nearly impossible to get a job with not only NPS, but also any federal job. There definitely are a bajillion barriers set in place. And while the Federal Government is one of the few employers that gives preference to veterans, it definitely creates long and gruesome struggles to even apply. Also, I really dislike it that NPS, like many other organizations, have limited positions and they rely strongly on unpaid volunteer hours. But hey, what organization doesn’t have its plus’, minus’, and deltas?
What would be your dream adventure?
I really had to sit on this and I still couldn’t think of one place in particular. But then I thought about it and I was like “Why does it have to be ONE place?” – Somewhere warm and humid though! I love humidity. My body craves it; my hair is designed for it. I need somewhere that has tall canopies, moss-covered trees and rocks, birds’ mating calls, sweet breezes, soft water running through the land. Esa seria mi aventura perfecta… tan perfecta.
What would be your advice to someone that is intimidated by the outdoor culture?
F*ck that culture. Be yourself. Follow your heart & feet. Remember to pack for the weather, the region, and most importantly your body. Join Fat Girls Hiking!
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