July 17 to 25, 2021 was Latino Conservation Week, created in 2014 by the Hispanic Access Foundation to “support the Latino community getting into the outdoors and participating in activities to protect our natural resources.” Three of our EPIC Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program (CRDIP) members working with the National Park Service (NPS) were kind enough to answer a few interview questions on their ACE experience and what it means to be Latino/a/e in conservation. Read on below for interviews by Sofía Muñoz, Melissa Hurtado, Diego Borgsdorf, and find all CRDIP member bios in a previous blog here. Thank you, CRDIP members!
Sofía Muñoz | Archaeology Intern | Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Q: What are you currently Studying? A. I am currently studying anthropology and minoring in museum studies and theater at Trinity University.
Q. How has your internship impacted you so far? A. This internship has given me an incredible opportunity to learn Anabout archaeological field work as well as dive into real life museum work. For example, I have been able to draft a complete housekeeping plan for CAREs museum spaces which involved lots of research into preservation of artifacts. I have also conducted pedestrian surveys in many of the park’s trails to monitor and identify items of significance. I am learning so much, it’s been amazing!
Q. What are your future goals? A. I am not entirely sure what I want in the future but I am definitely interested in pursuing museum work in addition to physical anthropology or bioarchaeology. This internship has shown me how much I could enjoy both those things and given me some fantastic hands-on experience.
Q. Any thoughts on what it means to be Latino in the conservation field, and any advice for others wanting to get into the field? A. In my opinion being Latinx in the conservation field is about learning how to preserve, protect and amplify voices and stories that have traditionally been marginalized and silenced. Whether that be indigenous or Latinx people, my goals are about making sure their history is known so the things these people value are not forgotten and their poor treatment is not repeated. The advice I would give any Latinx people wanting to get into conservation is to do what you love! I was taught that the best work you can do is where your passions and the world’s needs intersect. In the field of conservation that’s extra important, so do something you like and try you best to help others! That’s all any of us can do.
Melissa Hurtado | Native American Archaeology Intern | Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, MA
Q. What are you currently Studying? A. I am currently in a BA/MA program at Boston University studying Archaeology with a minor in Anthropology. I am specializing in historical ecology and community based archaeology.
Q. How has your internship impacted you so far? A. My internship has been extremely impactful and has allowed me to be in the front lines of planning a community based archaeology project for the Boston Harbor Islands. It’s been really fulfilling to work alongside my supervisors and team members to make sure everyone’s voices are being heard in the process of protecting and documenting archaeological sites.
Q. What are your future goals? A. My future goals are to continue advocating for restorative justice archaeology methods and creating models that fit the best interest of descendant communities. I hope to go back and get my PhD after I graduate but want to take some time off to be in the field and understand the cultural resource management aspect of archaeology more.
Q. Any thoughts on what it means to be Latino in the conservation field, and any advice for others wanting to get into the field? A. Being Latino in the conservation field means doing what you were taught growing up but applying those experiences to real-world applications. It also means being the representation that the field needs and showing others like us that there is space for us in the field. My biggest advice to anyone wanting to get into the field is to find a good mentor or good mentoring program. When you have someone looking out for you and someone to go to for advice, it makes all the difference. I highly recommend checking out these organizations: HAF, Latino Outdoors, GEO Latinas, Society of Black Archaeologists, and Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, Archaeology in the Community.
Diego Borgsdorf | Museum Services Intern | Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, VA
Q. What is your job title and duties this summer? A. I’m working as a Museum Services Intern at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park through American Conservation Experience’s Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program! My duties are two fold—my main project is working on cataloguing, rehousing, and photographing a very large accession of collected artifacts from the Appomattox Campaign. I research these objects, document information related to their origin and condition, and ensure that they are stored so as to prevent deterioration. On the side, I also help out by doing regular housekeeping tasks and inventory work around the Park!
Q. How did you get involved with your internship program? A. This spring, I participated in ACE’s National Park Service Academy. The program was such a wonderful introduction to the Service and the myriad opportunities to get involved in cultural resource work. One of these opportunities was CRDIP and my position here at APCO!
Q. What inspired you to do an internship at the National Park Service? A. I have always loved anthropology and history, however, I often felt that academic practices of these disciplines were insular and could do more to connect with different communities. As I learn more about the CRM field at large and the NPS, however, I feel that I’ve found a route to engage with anthropological and historical work in a more public-oriented way. While there is still much work to be done in this area at large, it’s so meaningful to be working to preserve and exhibit objects for the public to learn from and enjoy.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of the work you are doing? A. The most rewarding part of my work is knowing that I have a small role in extending the longevity of objects that are part of such an impactful historical moment. As we continuously develop and complicate our understanding of the events memorialized at APCO, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this knowledge-building.
Q. Tell us something unique and special about your site. A. I’ll tell you two! First, while most of the structures in the historic village at APCO are reconstructions, there is some original paneling and paint on the Clover Hill Tavern–which is over 200 years old! Second–and more of the moment–David Vela, the first Latino director of the NPS, was a ranger at APCO early in his career!
Q. How has your cultural background influenced your passion for conservation? A. As a Chilean-American, my culture is bound up in complex stories of political crisis and shock. Through recent popular movements, many Chileans have begun to reconsider these stories, from el pasado reciente to the foundation of the Chilean state itself. Working at a Civil War park has meant having to closely consider the politics of memory and historical preservation. As I approach these politics, I cannot help but think of my Chilean counterparts driving reimaginations of collective memory. Experiencing something analogous to what many in my homeland are experiencing makes my work feel deeply personal. Regardless of where the cultural resources I may work with come from, considering the questions of memory and historical preservation is a way I connect with my heritage–these questions are the substance of my roots.
Q. What advice do you have for youth who are interested in getting involved in stewardship and into the conservation field? A.One thing I’ve come to realize is that there is no work in these fields that is unimportant. Stewardship and conservation are collaborative fields, and everyone has a part to play in protecting natural and cultural resources!