Journeys of Discovery | Connecting People to Their National Parks

Our summer began with the announcement of the 2013 @American_Latino Expedition, an exciting opportunity designed to further engage diverse audiences to connect with America’s national parks by literally, “bringing people to the parks, and the parks to the people.”  Bloggers from across the country applied for the chance to participate in a national park adventure focusing on education, park stewardship, outdoor recreation and exploration, all the while highlighting historic American Latino contributions at each site. In partnership with ARAMARK Parks and Destinations and REI, ALHF selected three groups to embark on the 2013 @American_Latino Expedition.

Yvonne Condes explored Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado with her national park-loving family: her husband Carl and their two sons Alec and Henry. Together they formed the Condes Campers. Two groups of dynamic women – dubbed the Latina Blogstars and Travelistas In Nature – visited Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Olympic National Park, respectively.  Adding to the excitement, I decided to tag along and surprise the Latina Blogstars as they took on Glen Canyon. And here is where the power of the @American_Latino Expedition became deeply personal.

I wish we had the space in this newsletter to convey to you, our readers, the impact the Expedition had on our bloggers and myself. As a Latina from an urban city, I didn’t grow up exploring and enjoying our national parks. My personal connection to our national parks started when I came to lead ALHF.  As I joined the Latina Blogstars, the purpose of the @American_Latino Expedition became ever more powerful. From following the footprints of the Pueblo Indians as we trekked toward Rainbow Bridge National Monument, to witnessing our bloggers overcome their fear of hiking and kayaking to the point where they couldn’t wait to do it again, and then reflecting on the day in the quiet, serene, still moments of the moonlight evenings, the @American_Latino Expedition reaffirmed my dedication and commitment to sharing our national parks with our community. As for our bloggers? Many have told us they’re already planning their next national park trip!

We are proud that the @American_Latino Expedition was a total success and we hope you feel proud too as you helped us spread the word and share the excitement! We were thrilled by this front page New York Times story, which featured the Expedition and our partners. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank all of those who were involved: National Park Service, Olympic National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the teams at ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, REI, Columbia Sportswear and Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). ¡Muchisimas gracias, amigos! This vision could not have become a reality without your full faith and support.

We’ve pulled a few quotes from our bloggers for you to enjoy in this newsletter, but to truly understand the experience, you have to read their full blog entries at

And finally, as we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, I encourage you to engage with and experience our shared history and heritage – daily and throughout the year – by visiting OUR national parks. They share the stories of our collective history while inspiring a much deeper journey into self-discovery – facing and overcoming our own physical challenges while walking on the same soil as our ancestors. We’ve shared a list of great ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage in our national parks and we hope you’ll take a moment to review and share them with your friends and family!


Midy Aponte
Executive Director
American Latino Heritage Fund


  Dear Ranger, You Inspire Me  
  Becoming Junior Rangers in Mesa Verde   We'll Always Have Lake Powell

Becoming Junior Rangers in Mesa Verde

"A great way to get kids excited about visiting a national park is introducing them to the Junior Ranger program. They not only learn about the park in an interactive and fun way, but they earn a badge to show to their friends back home.

The first day we got to Mesa Verde National Park as part of the @American_Latino Expedition, we headed to the visitor center to get the Junior Ranger booklet from the Park Ranger.  The booklet has a bunch of activities for the kids to do including coloring a picture of pottery like the kind the Ancestral Puebloans made. There are also questions that can only be answered by visiting different sites within the park.

…It’s a tradition for our family that every time we visit a national park the boys get a badge. So far, they have seven. They treasure them because each one reminds them of the beautiful parks they visited and the adventures we've had as a family." 

Written by Yvonne Condes of the Condes Campers. To read the entire blog post, go here.

We'll Always Have Lake Powell

"…Have I expressed how much Monique, Kathy, Nicole and I bonded on this trip? I feel like I have found three true friends in life. The things we experienced, the sights we saw, the emotions we felt, the challenges we overcame--it made us more than fellow bloggers. We'll always have Lake Powell, is what we told each other.

…It's one thing to hang out with your girlfriends for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. It's quite another to place yourself in a foreign landscape, overcome fears and challenges together, and immerse yourself in the moment. We'll always have Lake Powell."

Written by Denise Cortes of the Latina Blogstars. To read the entire blog post, go here.

Dear Ranger, You Inspire Me

"A few days before our @American_Latino Expedition to Olympic National Park, I turned on the television to discover that the Ken Burns documentary about the national parks was airing on PBS again. What perfect timing!

...this episode highlighted Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, and his efforts to build a team of professional park rangers, who were 'of good character, sound physique and tactful in handling people.'  

When the episode ended, I turned off the television and thought, there can't possibly be a perfect, intelligent, physically-fit, socially-engaging, nature-adoring person to fit the bill, let alone thousands of them to meet the needs of all the national parks. So, I chalked off the romantic account of Mather's rangers to the rugged living conditions of 90 years ago and maybe a little bit of the exaggeration that comes with urban legends.  

But, a few days later, when we interacted with the rangers in Olympic National Park, I began to suspect that the special ranger spirit that Mather described was not only real, but alive and well in today's parks. 

… In two short days, we met six of the most amazing people we've ever encountered.  They're scientists, archeologists, historians and naturalists. They had great answers to every crazy question our team was curious enough to ask. They told engaging stories that made us connect with the park on an emotional level. Their collective passion for nature and sharing it with others is undeniable. So, it's clear to me now, that the spirit of Mather’s rangers has never faded."

Written by Chelle Roberts of the Travelistas In Nature. To read the entire blog post, go here.


LATINO AMERICANS, a landmark three-part, six-hour documentary, is the first major series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have for the past 500-plus years helped shape what is today the United States and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S. Led by Emmy Award-winning series producer Adriana Bosch and narrated by Benjamin Bratt, the series documents the evolution of a new “Latino American” identity from the 1500s to the present day, featuring interviews with close to 100 Latinos from the worlds of politics, business and pop culture. The series aired nationally on PBS on September 17, September 24 and October 1. The series is also being broadcast nationally in Spanish on Vme, the Spanish-language channel on public television, every Friday in October. This bilingual project includes a companion book by Ray Suarez, Chief National Correspondent for PBS NEWSHOUR, a nationwide public engagement initiative, and digital engagement and public education campaigns. To learn more, watch episode one and two, and share your own story now, visit

Calendar of Events

In partnership with the American Latino Heritage Fund and other partners, the National Park Service’s American Latino Scholars Expert Panel is hosting a series of Latino Legacy Summits highlighting the American Latino Theme Study and the importance of identifying and preserving Latino heritage throughout the country. Events are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit ALHF on Facebook.

Saturday, October 19, 2013 ~ 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Theater
1300 Guadalupe Street
San Antonio, TX 78207

Thursday, October 24, 2013 ~ 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Ruben Salazar Park (formerly Laguna Park)
3864 Whittier Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90023

For more information please email

The American Latino
Heritage Fund is part of the
National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks.



National Park Foundation

National Park Service


facebook Facebook

twitter Twitter


From Pacific coastline to glacier capped mountains and rain forests, Olympic National Park is a natural wonderland. Click here to learn more.


The @American_Latino Expedition would like to
thank our sponsors.