Celebrating Latino Conservation Week – An Interview with Jennifer and Karla

Interviews with Jennifer Vieyra-Sanchez and Karla Hernandez

1. Can you introduce yourself to the readers? 

Karla: Hi, my name is Karla and I use she/her pronouns.  I am from the Arizona/Sonora border, and I am an avid lover of nature and art. Some of my hobbies include journaling, reading, biking, binge watching my favorite TV shows, and cuddling my orange tabby cat, Vilma.

Jennifer: Hello, I’m Jennifer Vieyra-Sanchez (she/her). I’ve been mostly raised in Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf Coast, but I was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and lived there until I was four. I am also half Venezuelan, so I have roots in both Central and South America. I’m a second-year Anthropology student at the University of South Alabama within my home city with a possible double-major in International
Studies. Starting in the fall, I will be traveling to Ecuador to study at the San Francisco University in Quito, a decision I made specifically to experience living within Latin America.

2. How did you get into conservation? 

Karla: My journey in conservation kind of just happened. In college, I got the opportunity to work with a youth outdoors organization and a couple of NGOs where I conducted community-based outreach to gather the community’s input on what were the barriers to the outdoors. Eventually, I became involved with my first national park, Saguaro, and did education and interpretation and I really loved it. Prior to this, I was always that person that didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives. Now I feel very lucky to have found one of my passions.

Jennifer: I honestly stumbled into it. I have a huge passion for learning about different cultures, so I really see museum work as a possibility for my future. I applied for my CRDIP internship completely absorbed by the museum aspect, so I didn’t truly process what it would mean to work with the National Park Service or to participate in conservation efforts until I’d been here a few days. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, though, even if it snuck up on me.

3. What’s your position at GRTE? What does your day-to-day look like?

Karla: I work as interpretative ranger at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, aka the heart of Grand Teton National Park. Jenny Lake is the busiest visitor center and is also housed in the historic Harrison Crandell Studio. Crandell is renowned for his photography and the role he played in the conservation of the Tetons. My schedule varies depending on the day, but most likely you can find me leading a morning hike the Jenny Lake Moose Ponds, working the front desk, roving the plaza, working an Art, Bear or Junior Ranger pop-up programs, or sometimes even helping wildlife brigade manage bears coming into our plaza area to help keep visitors safe.

Jennifer Vieyra-Sanchez

Jennifer Vieyra-Sanchez

Jennifer: I’m a Cultural Resources and Interpretation member at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston, Alabama. My day-to-day takes place within the visitor center near the entrance to the park. I mostly enjoy the unlimited access to the museum’s library, reading up on the heavy and complex history of the Battle at Horseshoe Bend, of Alabama, and of the entire Southeastern region. I also get opportunities to shadow rangers or crews while they do routine work or seasonal projects. It’s been really nice so far to explore the different positions at HOBE because it betters my understanding for what opportunities lie within the NPS.

Karla Hernandez

Karla Hernandez in the field at Grand Teton National Park

4. What’s been a highlight (or highlights) of your ACE term?

Karla: Definitely the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. Prior to this position, I had never immersed myself in an alpine environment this beautiful and unique. The mountains are incredible, and the views never get old. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I am here and living in the park. It is an incredible experience and I feel very fortunate. I have enjoyed practicing my interpretive skills through a new environment. I really enjoy being in a student role and then sharing my experience and knowledge with others. I also get very excited every time I see bears!

Jennifer: I have particularly enjoyed following along with tour groups during my term. The tour groups are often very different from each other, and it’s interesting to see how they interpret the history depending on what they connect with the most. I find Horseshoe Bend’s history to be very rich and important, so I’m always pleased to see it not only spread to visitors but also appreciated by them.

5. How does this position fit into your career goals?

Karla: I have found that I enjoy public facing jobs because I love talking in general. Interpretation is a good fit for me because it’s a combination of all the things I love: learning, teaching, and the art of interpretation! While life could take many turns, right now I’d love to come back to NPS and do seasonal work for a while before maybe finding a permanent park.

Jennifer: If I decide to pursue museum work, I know that my experience at Horseshoe Bend will have provided me with a better understanding of the underworks of a museum. I’m also specifically interested in working with indigenous histories and cultures because of my roots. I’ve learned about how a museum can work closely and respectfully with native peoples, which is something Horseshoe Bend prioritizes with the Muskogee (Creek) Nation and something I will look for and implement in my future.

6. Is there something you wish more people knew about the Latinx experience in conservation?

Karla: It can be challenging for sure, especially when sometimes the only diversity in the room will be you and yourself only. I’ve learned to advocate for myself and remind myself that I can ask for help and support. Things are changing and hopefully workplaces make or continue to make diversity, inclusivity, and safety a part of their culture. As someone who did not grow up going to National Parks and did not usually see people like me be represented equally in this field, it feels really rewarding to be the reflection of my community especially for young people. For my Latinx folks, never be ashamed of your background and culture, also continue taking up the space you deserve to take up.

Jennifer: It’s hard to speak on the broad Latinx experience in conservation as an individual. We come from many different backgrounds and live in many different regions, so I don’t imagine I have lived through the same things as Latinx people outside of the Deep South. I do know, however, that we are influenced by our backgrounds every step of the way. I think it is sometimes hard for people who live within the country their heritage comes from to imagine Latinx people carrying theirs every place that they go. It can be hard to imagine that our stories and our cultures follow us everywhere, shaping the paths we take within conservation. I know that is definitely true for me. I’m never too deep into the thick of the Alabama woods to forget where I come from.

7. Favorite national park?

Karla: I have yet to discover my ultimate favorite National Park because I honestly haven’t been to many. However, my favorites so far are Grand Teton, Saguaro, and Zion National Park! I love the mountains of Grand Teton, the views of Zion and the homey feeling of Saguaro.

Jennifer: I haven’t had the chance to visit more than a couple national parks unfortunately. I think before I came to Horseshoe Bend, I had only been to Little River Canyon National Preserve a bit further north in Alabama. I think this will change very soon, though, since I’ve been thinking of buying the stamp book for national parks!

8. Favorite book? TV show? 

Karla: My favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and my favorite TV shows are Breaking Bad, Gossip Girl and Attack on Titan.

Jennifer:  I surprisingly do not read or watch TV a lot in my leisure time. I am more interested in video games, honestly, to the point I almost chose game design as my career path. It’d be hard to pick a favorite, but I love anything with a rich, moving story.

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