Latinos throughout the Southwest have a long and strong connection to this region’s diverse public lands. One group reflecting this interest is HECHO: Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors.
Committed to bringing a Latino voice to conservation, the five-year-old organization seeks to protect the quality of water, air, land, and wildlife habitat, and ensure that Hispanics can always enjoy nature-based recreation and cultural traditions.
HECHO challenges the common assumption that minorities spend a smaller percentage of their time and money enjoying the outdoors than whites do. A recent HECHO-sponsored survey found that more than ninety percent of voting-age Hispanics contacted in New Mexico and Colorado do engage in such recreation, the majority of them at least once a month.
Also, a majority in both states said they spend more than $250 a year on gear for outdoor activities. And ninety-five percent of respondents felt the government should consult Latinos about leasing public lands for oil and natural gas development, and give strong emphasis to environmental protection.
Part of the group’s mission is urging policymakers to safeguard public lands for everyone—young and old, rich and poor. It also works to get Latino youth and families involved in many forms of outdoor activities.
HECHO says those long-held traditions and identification with public lands mean more than recreation—they are the essence of a way of life.