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Latino Outdoors: Using Storytelling and Social Media to Increase Diversity on Public Lands

David Flores, Karmon Kuhn

Abstract


In 2013, for the first time in United States history, more than 50% of children younger than age one were minorities. Latinos are the nation’s largest-growing minority group, and by 2050 are estimated to comprise 28% of the total U.S. population. Despite the exponential growth of minorities generally and Latinos in particular, landmanagement agencies have been slow in responding to these major racial and ethnic demographic shifts, particularly within the context of outdoor recreation activities. The purpose of this article is to show how Latino Outdoors is providing diverse and family-focused outdoor-recreation opportunities by using storytelling and cuttingedge social-networking technology to build avenues for access to public lands and a Latino-centered message of environmental awareness and belonging. In the past four years, Latino Outdoors grew from one person to 180 volunteers, 44 of whom function as volunteer leaders, and two paid full-time employees, all of whom have together organized outings in 14 states across the country. Storytelling and social media work as mechanisms to communicate the value of nature and interaction with the natural environment as part of a modern Latino identity. Engaging with cultural and ethnic diversity, Latino Outdoors and its partners have built a national network that values and advocates for the wealth of experiences that the environment and recreation can provide to the over 57 million Latinos in the United States, who are underserved by public land-management agencies. Through its use of storytelling and its online presence, the organization is creating a space for new social and cultural meanings of the outdoors using counternarratives that question normative American outdoor experiences that privilege an able-bodied white middle-class user. Latino Outdoors’ staff promotes shared narratives in the conversation about the nation’s changing meaning of outdoor experiences within an increasingly diverse society. A storytelling focus could be applied within recreation programs for the purposes of creating more culturally sensitive services, understanding land-use differences both within and across racial/ethnic groups, and developing mechanisms for collaborative goal setting that includes diverse community voices.

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Keywords


Latinos; Recreation; Storytelling; Social Media

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2018-V36-I3-7868

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