San Antonio, Texas — The Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. but one of the most under-represented when it comes to outdoor recreation.
The organization Latino Outdoors is helping introduce more Latino families to Mother Nature by setting up camping or hiking trips for families unfamiliar with the basics of the activities.
The barrier that keeps Latinos away from the outdoors is "just not knowing, not knowing how easy it can be," said Josie Gutierrez, who first camped at Garner State Park in Texas more than 30 years ago.
Lisa Pacheco, who has never been the outdoorsy type, recently took her children camping a few hours away from their San Antonio home and miles away from her comfort zone. "Never put up a tent. Never thought about sleeping in a tent," she said.
"We're def gonna help you," Gutierrez told Pacheco.
Volunteers with Latino Outdoors provide the basics, then let families explore the land and learn about themselves. "'Oh, I can make fire. Oh, I can do this,'" Gutierrez said of participants learning new skills.
Since 2013, the organization has created a network of nearly 150 volunteers who have helped plan more than 500 outings, according to its website. More than 60% of the outings were attended by someone new to the activity, it said.
Pacheco said the experience helped her build confidence. "So like for me, I am ready to go by myself with my kids," she said.
Pacheco knew her kids were all in on camping when they stayed offline during the trip. "They passed out. No tablets, no internet, no phones, and they actually stayed asleep," she said.