We're embarking on a journey deep into the heart of the national parks, with a special focus on the individuals who forge meaningful connections with these important spaces outdoors. Whether they've made it a career, a lifestyle choice, a profound passion, or simply because the park is right in their backyard, we're shining a spotlight on those who share a bond with our national treasures.
Meet Luz Lituma (she/her), the co-founder of LatinxHikers, alongside Adriana Garcia. Their mission is to bridge communities and break down the barriers of intersectionality in the great outdoors. "By creating accessibility, offering representation, and empowering our community to reconnect with nature as our ancestors once did."... Not only has Luz created a welcoming space for individuals of her culture in the natural world, but she also continues to do so through her online presence, where she shares her compelling stories, hiking adventures, and solo travels.
For more insights into Luz's inspiring journey and the remarkable work of LatinxHikers, explore her Instagram, LatinxHikers, and her website. Let's dive right in and discover the incredible stories that connect 'People in the Parks' with our cherished national landscapes.
Q: Can you give us a little background on your upbringing in the outdoor space? When was that initial connection?
A: I grew up with minimal nature in my life. I was born and raised in inner cities, both in Queens, NY, and then in metro Atlanta, where 'outdoors' meant playing in the apartment complex parking lot, dodging cars as they drove by. I used to think I wasn't too familiar with nature because I wasn't raised with it because of my lack of access to green spaces. However, as I've grown older and spent more time outside, I've come to realize that it was always within me. My connection to nature stems from how my parents, grandparents, and ancestors lived in Ecuador.
Whenever I would visit our small town in the Amazon, Sucua, I was overcome with awe by everything around me. I felt at ease, welcomed, and loved there. My family consists of people from the mountains and the jungle who lived and breathed nature. I like to believe that this connection to nature was passed down to me through my blood. There's a reason why I now feel so at ease and content being outside all the time; it's because of how my ancestors lived.
Regarding my connection to hiking, there was a trek in Peru the summer of May 2017 that started my love for hiking. Prior to my trip to Cusco, Peru, I hadn't hiked much. I travelled with my brother to explore the beautiful town and tour the ruins. During an evening walk around the town, we encountered a local selling a tour to Vinicunca, also known as “Rainbow Mountain”. Mesmerized by the pictures, we decided to seize the opportunity. We didn't fully consider what it would take to reach the top. The local assured us that comfortable shoes would be enough and described it as a 'nice walk.' Little did we know that this 'nice walk' involved ascending to almost 17,000 feet above sea level.
I remember walking, breathing heavily, and constantly feeling fatigued. At one point, I almost gave up. If it weren't for the encouragement of my guide, I wouldn't have made it. She held my hand, helped me reach the top, and gave me oxygen shots. Once I reached the summit, I was not only in awe of the colorful and beautiful mountainous landscape around me but also in awe of myself. I was incredibly proud of my achievement. This experience significantly boosted my self-esteem; in that moment, I felt that if I could do anything! This marked the beginning of my journey into hiking and backpacking.
Following that transformative trip in May, I decided to explore the stunning landscapes that the USA has to offer. I embarked on my first visit to a National Park: the Grand Canyon
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to form a community like Latinxhikers, was there a specific inspiration the idea stemmed from?
A: After the Peru trip, I began researching places to visit around me. I had become aware of so many beautiful locations just hours away from Atlanta. I would share these places on Instagram, and my friends would ask where these places were. This inspired me to start sharing the locations on my personal page. I knew my friend Adriana Garcia felt the same way. During our long drives towards the North GA mountains, we would discuss the lack of representation in the outdoor industry and how we didn't often see Latinx individuals out on the trails. It was these conversations that motivated and inspired us to create LXH. The idea of LXH became solidified during a trip to Havasupai.
We had no idea that such a community was so needed until we noticed our page gaining a lot of traction. We would share our experiences as Latinas in the outdoor space, talk about our upbringing in the South, and highlight the positive impact of being out in nature on our mental health. Many others resonated with our message, which led us to start hosting community events where people could connect in real life. We loved seeing the connections that people formed at these events—new hiking buddies becoming lifelong friends. It truly has become such a beautiful space.
Q: As a solo latina traveler, how do you prepare for your time spent on the road and what is one piece of advice you would give to another woman going out on her own?
A: I've heard fear is often what holds many women back from embarking on solo adventures. The truth is, I experience fear frequently while on the road. Growing up in a Latinx/e household, you're sometimes taught to be wary and skeptical of everyone. Honestly, I'm thankful for this perspective; I believe it's helped me avoid trouble. I like to say, 'Go with fear, but don't let it take the driver's seat.' Prepare well and always have an escape plan. Trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, leave the area.
It’s wisest to start solo camping and adventures in places where there are other people around. I highly recommend starting with a populated National Park or state park where you pay to camp and visit.
Q: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as a group and a moment you are most proud to tell? What is the message we can share back to our community?
A: I always remember the first time someone expressed this sentiment to us after one of our events: 'This is the space I didn't know I needed; thank you for existing.' Many others have shared similar feelings. It's surprising how much we crave a community and connections with others who share our identities in these spaces, and it's only when we come together and feel welcomed and comfortable that we truly realize this need. I'm grateful for the individuals who attend our events and contribute to making them inviting and inclusive for everyone. I like to believe that Latinx/e culture, in general, is very inviting and celebratory, so I had a strong sense that our events would embody the same spirit.
Q: What was your first national park memory and how does it connect to where you are now?
A: I visited my first National Park when I was 28 – the Grand Canyon. I had always seen it featured on National Geographic and Discovery channels. As a person who grew up in inner cities, it had always felt so unreachable. Not only was distance a factor but I often thought that someone like me, who wasn't raised hiking or visiting National Parks, wouldn't know how to navigate these spaces. I’m glad I took the leap and did some research to be able to visit. Thankfully now with budget airlines the trip was affordable and I was able to make it happen! I remember being breathless, the Grand Canyon is absolutely endless and mesmerizing. Fast forward to now, I hosted an event in Yellowstone where people came from all over the USA. It was many folks first National Park! The excitement from everyone was palpable, and it was truly beautiful to be part of their first-time experiences as well.
Q: What’s on your fall hiking playlist?
A: I love listening to the birds and the sounds around me while I'm hiking, but I enjoy listening to music when I'm heading towards the trailhead. My playlists tend to be super mixed but some of the most played have been:
Ed Maverick: Fuentes de Ortiz
Natalia Lafourcade: Alma Mia
Brent Faiyaz: All I Want
Vicente Garcia: Entre Luca y Juan Mejilla
Cautious Clay: Wildfire
Karol G: Gucci Los Paños
Omar Apollo: Evergreen
Q: What’s your next big goal in your personal//career life when it comes to intersectionality in the outdoor space?
A: My goal sometimes feels like nothing more than a dream, but I've heard that making your goals exceptionally high can make them feel like dreams. Personally, I hope to settle down in a small town soon to channel all of my energy into LXH. My biggest goal would be to create a safe space, a sanctuary for BIPOC folks to come together and have summits. These summits would include teaching Wilderness First Aid courses and helping other BIPOC individuals not only achieve leadership certification but also inspire them to become advocates for nature. I also aim to start hosting more events at National Parks, sharing in people's first-time experiences.
Q: How do the Latin X Hikers leave it better than they found it while hiking in larger group settings?
A: I believe that bringing in energy, voices, and laughter on a trail accomplishes a lot. I feel like the trees can sense the joy, and it's beneficial. It might sound a bit cliche but I believe in frequencies and how they positively impact our surroundings. We make it a point to acknowledge that we are on stolen land and encourage respecting the space we tread upon. I think this naturally offers a perspective shift to people, leading them to respect the land more than just viewing it as a recreational activity they're engaging in.