In honor of Latino Conservation Week, hosted by the Hispanic Access Foundation and celebrated July 17 to 25, the National Park Foundation (NPF) announced it is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Latino Heritage Fund throughout 2021. Established in 2011, and originally called the American Latino Heritage Fund, the fund’s mission is to preserve Latino history and elevate Latinos’ stories and contributions to the U.S., past and present, through national parks. Thanks to the generosity of NPF Board Directors Patty Arvielo and Mindy Burbano Stearns, NPF is increasing philanthropic support for the fund.
“Latino history is a vibrant part of U.S. history. Latinos have made significant contributions to our country and the Foundation’s Latino Heritage Fund helps ensure the National Park System honors this important community,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “Thanks to the leadership and vision of many generous donors, the National Park Foundation is increasing its support for national park programming that reflects our country’s tapestry of diverse cultures and histories, including those from our Latino community.”
Past and current Latino stories are present in the over 400 national parks across the country, some of which were specifically established to protect and interpret nationally significant places and stories associated with Latino heritage.
With the support of its donors, NPF works in collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS), the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Biden Administration, and other partners to preserve and share stories that commemorate Hispanic heritage in parks and communities across the country. This includes working with NPS to identify innovative ways to engage current and future park visitors, increase relevancy and access, and build a culture that values diverse ideas and embraces the meaningful participation of all.
“Our national parks reflect the diversity of the American experience,” said National Park Foundation Board Director Patty Arvielo. “It is so important for all people to see themselves in the American story and feel welcome in these places that belong to all of us.”
“Latino heritage is deeply rooted in national park landscapes and historical sites,” said National Park Foundation Board Director Mindy Burbano Stearns. “These places are the common ground we share, made richer by better understanding the contributions made by so many generations of Latinos to our shared history and culture.”
The NPF Latino Heritage Fund sponsored NPS’ American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study in 2013. The theme study features essays by nationally recognized scholars addressing the contributions and experiences of Latinos and provides a framework as the NPS continues to work with partners and communities to identify, preserve, and interpret buildings, landscapes, and other sites that tell stories of Latinos in the United States. Due in part to the theme study’s research, eleven Latino history sites have been designated as new National Historic Landmarks.
“The support from the NPF Latino Heritage Fund continues to expand the capacity of the NPS to engage in broader storytelling and diversify the visitor experience in our parks, rivers, trails, and heritage areas,” said Shawn Benge, Deputy Director of the National Park Service.
In addition to the theme study, NPF’s Latino Heritage Fund has supported efforts including:
- Helping to establish César E. Chávez National Monument as a unit of the National Park System, which commemorates the home and final resting place of César E. Chávez. The site, located in California within an area known as Nuestra Señora Reina de La Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), also served as the former headquarters for the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), which Chávez co-founded with Dolores Huerta. In 1966, the NFWA merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to create the United Farm Workers of America.
- Supporting the NPS and Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s youth summit for Latino students and teachers. The summit engaged younger generations in historic preservation in their communities and equipped teachers and preservation organizations with the tools needed to motivate and engage Latino youth on stewardship of historic places and national parks.
- Partnering with NPS, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps to support four cultural landscape apprentice positions for local Hispanic and Latino young adults at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas. According to NPS, “cultural landscapes reflect our multi-generational ties to the land, with patterns that repeat and change to remind us of the depth of our roots and the unique character of our present.” As it applies to these apprenticeships, participants learn skills from NPS mentors through hands-on work in grounds preservation, maintenance, and landscape bed rehabilitation. Another key aspect of the work involves preserving the historic acequias, the Spanish word for irrigation canals.
As part of the increased support for the Latino Heritage Fund, NPF retained Noemi Lujan Perez to serve as the fund’s project manager in a consultant capacity. She is a public affairs professional with experience managing media and stakeholder portfolios for Fortune 500s, nonprofits, and government agencies. Her experience includes developing signature Latino and African American partner programs for both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.