It’s the universal cry from moms who shoo their kids out to play. They know that fresh air and sunshine make kids happy.
Josie Gutierrez of Latino Outdoors (latinooutdoors.org) took that advice to heart. At 20, a friend took the San Antonio native to Garner State Park, where the beauty of the crystal Frio River and the knobby cypress trees inspired her.
“I instantly knew that I needed more of this in my life,” she says. “Being in the right space at the right park on the right day, it’s everything. It’s so therapeutic.”
Garner vacations continued with her two daughters. Josie was the first in her huge extended family to go camping. It was an unfamiliar kind of “outdoors” to the others, but her photos made it all look like so much fun.
Even after her kids were grown, Josie took her granddaughter on camping trips, wrote blogs and posted photos of big families having fun outdoors, with abuelas and tiny children laughing and sharing stories.
“I’m so big into family, that’s my thing,” Josie says. “It’s something we all need, especially in times like these. When you’re out in the quiet of the park, you start remembering things and sharing memories.”
Josie’s twinkling eyes and bubbly storytelling are hard to resist. She gets it from her father, a famous Chicano filmmaker who sparked her creative mind and instilled a love of culture in young Josie.
“It’s about the stories,” she says. “I think of a state park like a book. You open it up and find out what’s inside, what trees, what animals, what trails. It’s up to you to make your own story out of each book/park.”
Josie started tagging #LatinoOutdoors in 2015, and they quickly reached out to make her an official ambassador.
She planned her first Latino Outdoors outing and soon found many eager families in San Antonio to take to parks. Josie ensures that the first park experience is a good one. She provides everything she can, both supplies and support. And, for everyone, a Mexican blanket for the picnic table.
“They feel like they have their culture there,” she says of the colorful addition. “They feel like they’re at home.”
In that relaxed setting, Josie knows the magic of the park will bond the families together.
“How can you tie in your life? It’s your grandmother, your ancestors,” she says. “Both of my grandmothers were amazing women — I want to give back to my granddaughter what they gave to me.”
Courtesy Josie Gutierrez
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