HECHO: Herencia y Querencia for Our Public Lands

Audio and video by Rock Ulibarri, Jr. (Rock Sound Video)

We have a very rich history and a very strong connection to the land. Some people see the land as the topography, the boundaries, maybe mineral rights, a place to exploit. We see the land as where my father was born, where the blood from his umbilical cord soaked into this earth. We have a connection to the land. We have herencia and querencia and querencia is a love for the land.

We don’t see it as ownership, we are just the caretakers. Although I’m the 7th generation here, that’s what I’ve always been taught. It’s my job and my family’s job to take care of this land for future generations that we will never get to meet. And the same goes with public lands.

My name is Rock Ulibarri and I’m an advisory board member of HECHO. I’m a native New Mexican who hails from the original 36 families that settled Las Vegas Grandes. I’m also the 7th generation here on our family’s land in El Porvenir, New Mexico. I first got involved with HECHO a year ago. I was in Washington, DC for the National Association of Counties.

The purpose of HECHO is to make sure that Hispanics and Latinos have a voice, have a seat at the table, that our voices are heard when it comes to public lands.

For the first year we worked on the methane rule. The methane rule stops venting, flaring and leaking of natural gas, which New Mexico is #1 for wasted natural gas.

Now one of the critical issues is public lands transfers. Public lands transfers is transferring federal lands into state hands, and states are allowed to sell these lands off to private individuals. Once they go into state hands it’s very easy for the state land commissioner to sell off these lands, and that’s what we’re opposed to. We want access to our lands.

To understand the issue of public lands you have to understand the history of public lands, particularly here in New Mexico and in the Southwest in general. The vast majority of all these public lands were once Spanish land grants or Mexican land grants. And they were community land grants. So in a sense they were public lands then, because they belonged to the community.

Our future generations have a right to have access to these public lands, and it’s our duty to ensure that this land is protected for them.

There’s nothing sadder than seeing a chained locked gate cutting us off from our access to our public lands, with no trespass signs or private property signs. Property and lands that we used to cherish for generation after generation.

Public land by definition is owned by all of us. It’s our culture, it’s our tradition and it’s our history. It connects us to our ancestors and it guides how we see our future.

HEHCO provides a platform for our voices to be heard.

If you are a Latino who loves the outdoors, we hope you can join HECHO today.