Over a decade ago, I had the amazing opportunity to live in Ecuador and immerse myself in the culture and beauty of this Latin country. My primary goal, besides beefing up my Spanish, was to learn, experience, and have that once in a life-time opportunity to be in la selva, the rainforest. I knew at a young age that biology and the natural world were passions of mine, so visiting one of the most iconic forests on the planet was high on my list.
Here in the United States, learning about the Amazon rainforest seems to be a key component in a child’s education. La pulmonas del mundo, you learn, it gives us and all of the animals that live in these forests — monkeys, pumas, anacondas and more — the oxygen we all need to breathe.
Nothing prepared me for my first canoe ride down the Río Cuyabeno into the flooded forest of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. The tree diversity, amazing bright greens and birds flying by, simply took my breath away. This is a memory I hold with me to this day. This forest, an important natural treasure for the country, is unfortunately visited by more tourists than Ecuadorians. Part of that is due to access, financial resources and the fear of the unknown or what might be there.
When one of my Ecuadorian friends, who works in la selva, came to visit me here in California, the one place he wanted to visit was our iconic forest, the redwoods. He had heard so much about them, seen many pictures and was ready to experience the tallest trees in the world. When he finally encountered these beauties, el se acostó en la tierra y miró por arriba. Looking up at these trees was the only proper way to take them all in. For him, visiting the redwoods was similar to my experience visiting the rainforest — it was astonishing, amazing and overwhelming all at once.
Similar to the rainforests of Ecuador, our redwood forests are often visited more by tourists than by young people in California. Some of the same barriers exist as well, such as access to these forests and the fear of spending time in an unknown place.
Tomorrow kicks off Latino Conservation Week (external link) and the League is proud to support an event to send 20 young Latino adults from Los Angeles to Sequoia National Park. They will collect scientific data on sequoias, hike the Giant Forest and learn about stewardship. This is just one example of how we work to eliminate those barriers through the League’s education and outreach programs and make sure that todos tienen an oportunidad a visitar las sequoias!