Two women – one from Gaston County, the other from Morganton – have created a network of Latino hiking enthusiasts to connect the community to the nature of North Carolina.
After hiking with more than 20 other people during Hispanic Heritage Month, Vivianette Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico and a resident of Gastonie, organized a group of hikers alongside Sandra Aguirre, 38, from the Honduras and resident of Morganton.
This initial hike inspired them to create a Facebook group called “Latinos Aventureros en las Carolinas”, which translates to “Adventurous Latinos in the Carolinas”.
“After seeing the turnout, we immediately decided to create this group,” Ortiz said.
What started as a small group of Latino hikers in North Carolina has grown to more than 400 hikers, including 185 residents of Gaston County. North Carolina’s Latino hikers represent several countries in their origins.
Every other Saturday, 18-20 group members join Ortiz and Aguirre for a hike, the latest being at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia on Saturday, December 11.
“When a non-Latin American person asks to join, of course we welcome them. We invite the full spectrum of people and stand in solidarity with all the people, organizations and companies who stand up for this value,” Ortiz said. .
The group has done a total of five hikes alongside family and friends since launching in October.
“I am very happy that there is a group of hikers. Having a Latino group is important because we can share our culture and different Spanish dialects. It has been a great experience doing what I love (hiking) with people who share the same interest, ”said Claudia Ramos, 44, from Peru and Charlotte resident.
Like many members of the group, Ramos heard about the group through Ortiz, then spread the word to friends interested in the same activity.
Thanks to the group, Ramos experienced hiking for the first time and was able to create many memories alongside other members.
“It was a great experience. It’s amazing to be able to have a connection with different people from all parts of the world,” said Ramos.
Participants in the hikes come from all over North Carolina. Some travel over 50 miles on their way to the next adventure. These hikers also take their children to participate in the hike, exposing them to the sun and nature.
“Not many kids like to hike and I’m not one of those who like to stay indoors. Joining this group has been one of the best things of my life because I can witness the beautiful scenery that God gave us, ”said Ortiz’s son. , Osbaldo Romero, 11.
“I connect more with my mom. The time I spend with her is amazing.”
The hike that inspired the group took place at the Chimneys of Morganton on Monday, October 11.
“I stumbled across Sandra’s profile on Facebook and just asked her if she wanted to organize a hike for Hispanic Heritage Month and she said yes. Later we got the idea to start a group because many like to hike but don’t go because they don’t have anyone to join them, ”Ortiz said.
The purpose of the hike was to watch the sunrise as each hiker represented their country of origin.
“The view was breathtaking. We felt so fulfilled because it is important to have so much variety on the trails and the mountains. On a hike I didn’t see many people of color. and we wanted to create something that shows it, ”Aguirre said.
With more people joining the organization, Ortiz and Aguirre are still working on their group logistics. They recently created a logo and put it on the back of a T-shirt.
“We’re still coordinating and aim to do a minimum of two hikes per month starting in January,” Ortiz said.
In celebration of the First Day National Hike led by state parks across the country, group members will be heading back outside on January 1.
First Day Hike is an initiative to encourage people to go out on New Years Day.
“It’s hard to get people out. I was having a hard time bringing my friends and relatives in, so I’m so happy with this group,” Ortiz said.
You can reach Beatriz Guerrero at 704-869-1828 or on Twitter @ BeatrizGue_
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Two Women Create Network of Latino Hikers To Connect With North Carolina Nature