Land has always been a core part of my community’s identity. It is our ancestral history when we read about those vast empires of the past, it is what we inherit from our elders, it is also a way to reconnect with our ethnicity and the indigenous history behind the countries our families hailed from.
Land is a tense topic for our people abroad and here in the United States. Whether in the context of protecting indigenous rights, conserving precious habitats, the livelihoods of immigrants, or even making a place for ourselves in the American identity, land ties us all together.
I take pride in my family’s history. My maternal grandmother grew up in a village in the rugged Andes Mountains terrain before moving to the capital, Lima, at the tender age of 13 for domestic work. She didn’t learn to read or write, she learned to speak Spanish but at the cost of forgetting Quechua (the indigenous language of Peru), she left much behind but made sure to fill its void.
I take pride in her connection with land. I listen intently when she talks about her childhood, weaving stories of dirt-packed paths along cliffs, the way she saw the crashing ocean, the sweltering Amazon Jungle, and the snowy mountain peaks around her. A cornucopia of environments all within one place and only within a short portion of her life. The rest was spent in the city and subsequently here in my hometown of Shelton in her present old age.
I have yet to visit these places, having only seen my relatives who live in Lima, Peru a handful of times. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to see it and to remember it. My grandmother’s history is intricately tied to the land there and here. It is an intangible history she tells me through memory, and I take note and file it away and call it my part of my own.
I amend this gap in my connection with gardening and wandering. I don’t know Peru as she does, but I know Connecticut enough I think. I go out and explore those state parks and preserves. I wander and take a seat on old stumps by the creeks and meandering river banks. I stop and take a moment to wonder just how old those waist-high stone walls are. Perhaps they saw the first settlers put their cows out to pasture, maybe when they were just stones, they saw long-dead animals from a different time period.
So, I’d like to encourage the Latinx community to go out and visit the land around them. Travel the four corners and the center of CT and their land trusts. They are integral to the lasting beauty in this state, they contribute to the survival of our birds, trees, flowers, animals, and almost anything that needs our forests.
Let our community here, uplift our communities and the parts that protect and work with the land. We are stewards in our own ways, and working with land will only bring us closer.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month everyone.