By Lynn Córdova
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Colorado is such an outdoorsy place, but I grew up with limited means. We lived in a housing project and often relied on government assistance. My mother was a single mom who worked as a janitor. Even though the mountains were only 20 minutes away, we rarely went because when you’re poor, even buying the gas to get there is an extreme effort.
On rare occasions my mom would pack sandwiches and sodas and we would go to the “mountains,” which was essentially the foothills, the base of the nearest mountains. Our camping was throwing a mattress in the back of the trailer truck and looking at the stars at night. It’s not your typical camping, but it’s what we had.
The first time I went on an actual camping trip was through school. It was only because of the Balart Program that I was able to have this experience. In Colorado, Balart takes middle school kids to a summer camp and they get to spend a few days with some of their friends camping. While there they teach you to hike and take you fishing in a lake. Now that I’m older I realize they stocked it with fish, but as a kid you were just excited to “catch” a fish. For a lot of low-income people it’s the first - and sometimes the only - time they get to experience camping. I remember there being a small fee to go on this trip and fortunately there was a generous donor who paid my sister’s and my fees, because we couldn’t have gone otherwise. I didn’t go camping again until high school. The expense was out of my reach. Most people don’t realize that you have to buy all the equipment, you have to figure out where you’re going to go and pay a park fee (if there’s one), and that’s not always accessible to people.
I really feel like I missed out on a lot of those opportunities living in Colorado because of my family’s economic status. Now that I’m older I want more people with limited means to experience what I couldn’t, and HECHO is a wonderful organization to start to do that.
I joined the HECHO board to raise awareness that sometimes if you’re of limited means, it’s hard to partake in outdoor activities. Oftentimes it’s Latinos and people of color that cannot partake in these activities even though they may live in an amazing place like Colorado where the mountains are abundant. I want to help increase those numbers and make sure more people have access.
I’m also big supporter of conservation. Aside from being Mexican, I’m also Native American. We believe in protecting Mother Earth and being able to ensure that the mountains are not drilled upon, that our water is not exposed to toxic chemicals and that we’re not hurting people and killing the land that we so desperately need.
I work in politics as a public affairs consultant in Arizona. When I was with the Colorado legislature I conducted policy research and we worked on all kinds of environmental legislation. The legislature advocated for things like land conservation, decreasing water usage and reusing water. While doing some research, I realized that in some of the inner cities it’s contaminated and yet people are still drinking it. Sometimes it’s the irrigation water that’s contaminated and that’s going into the food we eat, and I assume that’s causing a lot of health problems.
I’m excited to help with all of these things. I want to get more children involved in the fishing days which are hosted in Phoenix and see what other programming we can offer to get more Latinos exposed to the outdoors. And most importantly, how we can advocate on a policy level to conserve lands and make sure our water isn’t contaminated.
I just recently moved to Arizona. On my list is to visit the Grand Canyon, Papago Park in Phoenix and all the other beautiful places this state has to offer. I also want to start camping more and I don’t want to be the person who says I’ve never done these things but you should do it – I want to do more of this because now I have the means to do it.