José González: Creating Community in Nature

Photo of Gonzalez outdoors with a group of hikers behind him.
UC Davis history alumnus José González is the founder of Latino Outdoors. (Courtesy photo)

José González (B.A., history, ’04) has always loved the outdoors. In 2013, he took his love for the outside one step further, founding Latino Outdoors, an organization that seeks to get Latinos into nature and engaged in environmental issues. The group now has a nationwide presence, and González has been commended by former President Barack Obama for his engagement in environmental protection.

What first drew you to the cause of getting Latinos outdoors?

JG: My first inspired action came at UC Davis when I applied to work for the California Mini-Corps Program [offering educational assistance to migrant children]. It had an outdoor education program. That [showed] me what this could look like as part of a career.

How did Latino Outdoors start?

JG: Latino Outdoors started really as a call for community. I was looking for others like me, so to speak, and I thought that what was needed was opportunities to meet and convene with others. What ended up developing from that was that other ambicultural leaders, who had some interest or connection to nature and the outdoors, wanted to take others outdoors, too. So that developed into providing outings and outdoor experiences, like day hikes and other programs.

Why have Latinos been underrepresented in outdoor activities and national park use for so long?

JG: The Latino identity is very diverse. For recent arrivals and people who are first generation, it could be that they just don’t know and that there’s a lack of access and resources. But the biggest barrier is a lack of feeling welcome or that we bring value to the space. So the first part is getting past the idea that Latinos aren’t interested, or they’re not outdoors. The reality is that we are. Recent surveys [show] Latinos are overrepresented in the category of people who care for the environment. Similarly, when the outdoor industry looks at its data, we tend to participate the most and spend the most on gear. That’s a validation.

This Q&A appeared originally in "The Advocates" in the spring/summer 2018 issue of UC Davis Magazine. Authors of the cover feature package were Jocelyn Anderson (B.A., rhetoric and communication, ’98), Jennifer Ernst Beaudry and Benjamin Peim.