After discovering freedom to be themselves in nature, founders of Latinx Hikers started a community for multicultural Latinx hikers to meet up online and on the trail. Words and Photos by Abigail LaFleur-Shaffer.
Like our ancestors roaming and learning about new lands, some of us are going into parts of ourselves that are wildly unknown, without a map to follow. While I have recently discovered new pieces of my Native American cultural self, there is a piece of myself I have been fairly familiar with: my Latin culture and upbringing.
I can still picture abuelo [grandfather], abuela [grandmother] and I hand-picking chili for the best green chili you’ve ever tasted in southern Colorado, speaking in Spanish when topics were too mature for my little ears. My grandparents worked hard for our family, not only to provide but also to find our place here in America. With that, they wanted to be sure that my mom and tios/tias [uncles/aunts] didn’t “stick out” among their peers, so they assimilated to speaking English anywhere outside the home. I remember in high school I was frustrated with my lack of fluency in Spanish, so I took it upon myself to learn in class. I was the “brown girl” to my white friends; obviously, I should speak Spanish, but I didn’t.
From left, founders of LatinxHikers, Adriana Garcia and Luz Lituma.
Fast forward and here you find me, a proud golden-skinned woman, face-to-face with Luz Lituma and Adriana Garcia, founders of LatinxHikers, a community dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors through digital storytelling and community outreach. We discussed our inner cultural battles—that I had never felt fully Latinx (pronounced “Latin-ex”) because I can’t speak Spanish fluently, and yet I’ve never felt fully American because I have ethnic features. In my conversation with these beautiful, vibrant, strong, multicultural Latinx women, I felt a safety I haven’t felt with my Latinx peers.
I knew I had to spend more time with Luz and Adriana in the outdoors. So I met up with them on a hike in the rainy woods of Arabia Mountain outside of Atlanta, Georgia to talk about all the different multicultural shades of being Latinx women that love being in nature. Here we are, and this is their story.
Luz and Adriana met in Atlanta and immediately connected, logging miles on local trails and backpacking trips in National Parks.
Chasing that top-of-the peak feeling, rain or shine. The waterproof Grandview hiking boot in Dark Blue.
How would you describe your cultural background? What was it like growing up?
ADRIANA: My father is from a tiny town in Zacatecas, Mexico. He’d listen to old school hip hop and cumbia (real loud), drove a lowered ‘63 Chevy Impala with no door handles, and dressed eclectically. My mother is white, she grew up Mormon, on a farm, in a small town called Ooltewah, Tennessee. My brothers and I grew up there and it’s a rather white town.
My family looked and acted differently than most of the people in my neighborhood, church, school, so I tried hard to act as “normal” and white as I could in order not to stand out. To top it off, I grew up going to the Mormon church. That’s where the outdoors and nature comes in. It was the only place where I didn’t feel “othered.” I could be 100% of my goofy-ass self and not have a care in the world.
LUZ: I grew up in a more traditional Latin household. Both of my parents speak Spanish. We grew up attending parties where they’d play Ecuadorian music and we’d all dance and play Carnaval together. We tried to keep our traditions alive.
My mother is a very shy woman, who has a very soft voice… She is the strongest woman I know. I believe the adventurous part of me came from her and her mother. My mom used to run around in the jungles of Sucua, Ecuador to get to work and enjoyed it.
My father is a jokester. He comes from a festive family that loves to dance, listen to loud music, and throw epic parties. He is your typical macho Latino man who hardly ever shows his vulnerable side. When he was younger he’d pack naranjillas (fruit) to make some money while going to school and was outside through all his childhood. The outdoors was a way of life for my parents because of necessity, not recreation. But they loved it.
Both of my parents worked so hard, we didn’t have the time to go on family vacations. I thought vacations were only for rich kids. We’d stay home and host pig roasts. This was our idea of a vacation: we’d invite all of our family and friends that lived close by and it was a big celebration. Everyone had tasks assigned, men and women had to put in work and it was nice growing up seeing how everyone came together to put food on the table.
Luz wears the Grandview hiking boot in Dark Shadow.
How and why did you create LatinxHikers?
ADRIANA: I’ve been playing outside my entire life. From playing all day in the woods behind my house when I was a little girl to drinking my first beer on a camping trip—the outdoors has truly shaped who I am as a person.
I met Luz a few years after moving to Atlanta. We began going backpacking together and spending time outdoors. We wanted to share the love and excitement of that experience with others, so together while at Zion National Park, we came up with the name and claimed it on Instagram. The rest is history!
LUZ: I remember posting on my personal page about hiking and taking all these beautiful waterfall pictures or trail pictures and people would message me ALL the time, especially my Latinx friends… I’d get excited and reply where to go, what to do, etc. I wanted to inspire and expose my friends to these epic views.
I used to hike alone a lot back in the day. I had a cool job that took me to north Georgia locations and made it easy to take my breaks going hiking. I’m someone who hates depending on others and hiking alone made me feel super independent and empowered. I had hopes that other people would see me hiking alone and wouldn’t think twice about going hiking with a partner or a group.
Weather and waterproof: Grandview hiking boot in Dark Shadow.
How has being a Latinx woman shaped your individuality?
ADRIANA: I have FULLY embraced the term Latinx. It’s almost as if it were a term made for multicultural people like me. I never felt like I could call myself Latino or Hispanic because I don’t speak Spanish, and I didn’t grow up surrounded by my Mexican culture. So when the term Latinx surfaced, it felt more inclusive of different and complex identities so I ran with it.
I feel like after letting all that internalized hate within myself go, I fully embraced being the strong, independent, creative, determined, passionate Latinx woman that I am. Being Latinx has made me strong because I’ve had to face different challenges. On one hand, I’m managing my Papi’s finances and trying to get him an immigration lawyer so he can become a US citizen and on the other hand, I’m code-switching in meetings with white nonprofit leaders—it’s weird, but awesome. There’s a fire that’s inside of me that can only be explained by the fact that I am a proud Latinx woman.
Adriana wears the Grandview hiking boot in Dark Blue.
LUZ: I come from people who are humble and kind, for the most part. We are simple individuals who can easily adapt. Adaptability, I feel like that’s key in my version of being a Latina. I was taught to be uncomfortable.
Growing up I’d see stereotypical versions of what a Latina is supposed to be, the “spicy and feisty, over-sexualized, a bit high-maintenance Latina” depicted in the media. It made me believe I needed to live up to a standard I knew I never could live up to. I knew I’d be the quieter and more reserved woman my mother influenced me to become. Throughout high school and college, my Latino/a friends would say, “Por que no puedas ser una chica normal?” (Why can’t you be a normal girl?) It made me smile because I was happy with being a unique Latina woman.
Luz wears the Grandview hiking boot in Dark Shadow.
When do you feel the freest in nature?
ADRIANA: It’s when I’m by myself in a place I’ve never been before and seeing it for the first time. It’s being able to take it all in without any judgment of my skin color, body size, hairstyle, or what I’m wearing. It’s a magical feeling to let all of that go. That is a feeling of freedom like no other. It’s also gathering around a campfire with friends and family while we share a meal together, and while listening to our favorite jams and dancing.
LUZ: When I’m high up at the summit of a peak and feel the wind. The wind, despite being one of my biggest fears, still takes my breath away. It’s like it sweeps everything off my body and takes it away for a moment—all my insecurities and all my thoughts—plus it comes with a view! I feel vulnerable both physically and emotionally, and there’s usually tears involved.
It helps me clear my mind of my never ending thoughts, especially when I’m doing a strenuous hike. The only thing I can think of is how I’m going to get my foot up off the ground to take another step up this big ol’ hill. I love it. It reminds me I am strong physically and mentally, and what better freedom is there than knowing that?
The first time we met, we discussed the feeling of not belonging in our culture(s), as we all come from one or more cultures. Do you still struggle with that feeling? How have you found freedom from it and what would you say to others that may be struggling with those insecurities?
ADRIANA: I am truly a work-in-progress. I still struggle with not feeling enough, not feeling Latinx enough, not feeling womanly enough. There are so many layers to this, but the main point is that our own people are our worst critics and that needs to stop. We have a right to claim our culture whether or not we “look” Latinx or whether or not we speak Spanish, or we don’t wear red lipstick and hoops and know how to dance cumbia. There is no right way to be Latinx.
I want others to know that they are not alone in feeling inadequate or insecure in themselves, and that it is not your fault. I’d also tell them to embrace every bit of their weird-ass self! Whether you’re multiracial or not, you have a place on this earth. Even if you have to create that space yourself.
From left, Adriana, Abi, and Luz.
LUZ: There are so many stereotypes that don’t fit us all. I’m not super outspoken and won’t speak in Spanish unless it’s necessary. As I get older, I’m learning to be okay with knowing I can’t dance, but still manage to jump around or group dance in a party setting. And I no longer mind if others say I dance like a gringa, haha!
I feel like music is my way to keep tradition alive. There’s a song that is a classic, “El Oriente” (a.k.a. the orient part of Ecuador) and it touches me every time. When it plays in a party setting and my aunts, uncles, and cousins are up dancing—that’s when I feel at my peak of being proud of where I’m from.
We are all complex ass individuals and can be any way we want to be. No one person has the right to label what being Latinx means.
In addition to leading outdoor meet-ups, Luz and Adriana are involved in their local community garden in Atlanta.
Abi wears the Highside ‘84 in Calliste Green/Dark Olive.
What are your future dreams and goals for LatinxHikers?
ADRIANA: I want to continue connecting folks to their roots through nature by holding more events and different stewardship opportunities. I want us to get more involved with different communities and organizations in the Atlanta area while also growing nationally and internationally. I feel like if we continue to get people outside, re-developing, and developing those relationships with nature, then we have a better chance of creating environmental advocates out of everyone! I want to save the earth!
LUZ: If people learn to love and respect these outdoor spaces we will gain future climate justice warriors, future outdoor advocates, and future stewards. That’s all I hope for in the future.