What is Latinx? Latinx is a term used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina. It is also used to describe individuals in the United States who have Latin American roots. This is what I am, a native-born Argentinian who moved with my family to the U.S. more than 30 years ago.
I became a naturalized citizen at the age of 21. Most of my education was completed here, though I had to learn English in the beginning. The outdoors and camping were already a part of me when we moved here. However, being Latinx brought with it some challenges to enjoying the outdoors. While I can’t speak for all the Latinx RVers out there (there is a wide spectrum that I am not able to represent as a whole), I can share my personal experience in the hopes to give some insight.
Like many Americans, I come from immigrants. My mom’s family emigrated to Argentina from Poland in the 1910s. My father’s family is native to Argentina, having roots originating from the Quechua people of the Andes Mountains.
I was no stranger to diversity, or even racism, throughout my childhood. My family shared with me their two different perspectives and experiences. I equally understood the hardships my Polish great grandparents endured when starting a farm in their new given land. I also learned a love of nature and wisdom passed down to me in form of Quechua poems from my grandma on my father’s side.
RVing in Argentina
I am very fortunate to have memories of RVing in Argentina with my family. My mom was a teacher who had summers off, and my dad was able to take long vacations.
Our camping experience in Argentina was very much like I’ve experienced here, minus things like technology, proper signage on dirt roads, or having plenty of restaurants and RV parks along the way. We owned a small camper trailer and what seemed to me (at the time) a very large tent. Road trips and camping adventures shaped my childhood, and those memories are still with me to this day.
These experiences taught me that all people are the same while camping– we all want to share stories, food and good laughs.
RVing in the U.S. as Latinx
Having been able to RV and travel full-time for over 7 years around the United States with my awesome husband and two adventure kitties, all I wish is for everyone to have the same opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
We started RVing in 2013, and although our style and speed may vary these days, it still our favorite lifestyle and can see ourselves retiring this way. We have seen many beautiful places and have met all kinds of good people who we now call friends. We’ve made and shared memories with RVers from all different types of backgrounds as well. I’m proud to have shared my culture with others, even if it meant embarrassing myself by dancing to Latin music in the middle of the desert somewhere.
Accessibility is a Barrier for Minorities
Our experience RVing so far has surpassed all our expectations. Unfortunately, many minority RVers are not as fortunate. It turns out you need resources, a bit of money and time to be able to enjoy simple things like nature or even a short vacation.
The largest percentage of Latinx live in the country’s largest urban areas. By contrast, some of the most naturally beautiful the areas in the United States are remote and not at all diverse. When resources such as time or money are in tight supply, getting from urban areas to rural ones in order to enjoy the outdoors proves quite difficult.
This has been evident as we travel the country. We travel from point A to point B, and pretty much every stop in between meant staying the night in small rural towns that often don’t feel very inclusive.
Not Feeling Welcomed Leads to Not Feeling Safe
This feeling of not belonging leads to not feeling safe. There are times when, upon reaching a new destination, I feel better staying back in the RV while my awesome husband is handling all the things it takes to get us set up. Not looking the same as the majority around me is something I had to work at getting used to. Even now, when I am used to it, I am still very aware of these differences.
One “game” I like to play is when arriving at a new RV park or campground is to go for a run. I wave and smile at people as I pass. The game is to see how many return a smile or wave, and notice how many don’t even make an attempt.
Those types of interactions make me think “why do I put myself in places where I would be looked at or treated differently?” I still think it’s worth the experiences in the long run, but can understand why many others don’t feel it’s worth it.
Multicultural and minority communities tend to serve as safe havens for people of color. Humans naturally look for similarities and primarily want to feel safe, so we seek out communities like us. Additionally, families with children appreciate the multi-lingual education options available in the safe environment provided by these communities.
Having a diverse family, myself, helped me understand that there is a balance between embracing being different and navigating those areas that feel foreign, and putting myself in unsafe situations. What I’m not used to, and don’t want to get comfortable with, is seeing signs that promote hate and divisiveness around town and even in RV parks. Part of me hopes is not done intentionally but let me tell you how much I appreciate when I see an RVer deliberately places a sign outside their RV that welcomes all kinds of people. That gesture has much more meaning than you may think.
What Can Others Do to Promote Inclusiveness?
Telling a stranger on the internet that there is room for them at the campground often isn’t enough to truly demonstrate inclusiveness. A year or so ago, I brainstormed ways I could help.
I was first inspired by Instagram accounts like @LatinoOutdoors and @Brownpeoplecamping. I wanted to start one specific to RVers. Seeing Latinx or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) like yourself getting out and enjoying RV life can help build confidence and courage to venture into this way of life, too. These accounts reminded me that it may be a small percentage of people doing this but it still needed representation to just even start these types of conversations we are having today. So, I created @RVLatino.
The goal of @RVLatino was to help connect Latinx RVers and families on the road, and also to help them see there are other minorities out there. I want to give a platform to others so they can share their culture and experiences, as well as share my own. Along the way, I hope to help influence the RV and outdoor industries to be more inclusive when it comes to branding and marketing.
Inspiring More Minorities to Explore RVing
We may never be able to resolve all the barriers that keep minorities and their communities from enjoying the great outdoors, but through those of us who are lucky enough to overcome these and share our experiences, we can show that it is possible and that it is a worthy endeavor.
Maybe some will start looking for new paths to take and hopefully their own way to dip their toes in a simpler outdoorsy lifestyle. The goal is that all Latinx and minority RVers will be able to enjoy camping and nature in a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment.
Latinx Already in the Outdoors
In a recent Huffington Post article they also argued that at least in some areas of the United States, Latinxs may already enjoy the outdoors more than we think: the results of one poll found that more than 90% of Latinxs in Colorado and New Mexico engage in outdoor recreation. A majority of Latinxs in those states also visited public lands at least once a month. This is something that we noticed as well, as there are more BIPOC communities out west surrounding these beautiful areas. But observing that doesn’t stop me from wanting to see more change and inclusion in more areas like the south and rural east coast.
Thankfully, outdoors organizations and small businesses have begun owning up to these realities. The National Park Service created the Office of Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion. And as the outdoor community begins to acknowledge these problems, other smaller organizations have started working to solve them.
Organizations like the Fresh Air Fund, Vida Verde, Outdoor Afro, and Latino Outdoors help offer more outdoor experiences to communities of color. They are helping to change what outdoor culture can look like and mean for the next generations. My hope is that this change carries out to other industries and communities as a whole similar to what the Welcoming America organization is doing, recognizing that together we can create neighborhoods and communities where each of us feel safe and can truly belong.
In the meantime, I know there are many issues our country currently faces. However, I think that if we take the time to learn from others and give a helping hand where needed, no matter what background, we can still make progress. We can work to make BLM lands, trails, and campgrounds feel more like safe havens for everyone, as they should be. And I hope that the next time you see someone like me while you are camping, you will go out of your way to smile and wave, as that gesture can go a long way.
Veronica Ibanes #124732
Veronica and her husband, Denny, have been full-time RVing since 2013 with their 2 adventure cats (Mango & Kali). Both have been balancing 9-5 corporate jobs while also dabbling in outdoor adventures and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a dash of crazy fun! Find out more at www.rvoutlawz.com or follow them on Instagram: @RVoutlawz