By Wendy Diaz, Kathia Gonzalez and Rocio Ronquillo
For many of us who grew up in the Paso del Norte region, it is easy to take for granted the beauty that surrounds us: the Franklin Mountains; a desert landscape dotted with ocotillo and creosote; desert wetlands with winged visitors every fall and winter; or simply the fresh scent that wafts in the air after it rains.
It has often taken some of us leaving the area for some time to realize how lucky we are to be so close to natural spaces that allow us to easily connect with nature and with our culture.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we’d like to remind those in the Borderland region of the connection they have to open spaces such as Castner Range. In our work with The Frontera Land Alliance, we see that unlike other large cities connected to a river, El Paso does not reap the physical, emotional, financial and recreational benefits of being located next to the Rio Grande.
Our connection to one of our most treasured natural features has been lost, making it easy for El Pasoans to lose their connection with nature as a whole. Our ancestors, on the other hand, were closely connected to the land. We see that evidence in rock art, stone tools and even pottery pieces found at Castner Range.
And despite its cultural significance to the Latinx community, Castner Range remains largely off-limits to its population. The story is the same across the country: Latinx communities lack equal access to open and green spaces.
As environmental professionals who have worked at other open spaces around the country, we rarely see other professionals who look like we do. Designating Castner Range as a national monument will help protect this important land for future generations but will also help build a Latinx community that increasingly sees itself enjoying the outdoors or even working in positions that educates the public and protects the outdoors.
By designating Castner Range as a national monument, the Paso Del Norte region can see its large number of minority citizens have increased access to natural spaces that benefit them physically, emotionally and even financially.
We urge El Pasoans to speak up and let the Biden administration know what they want the outcome of our work to be: Castner Range National Monument.
To sign a letter of support and to ask President Joe Biden to use the Antiquities Act to declare Castner Range a national monument, visit https://esign.castnerrangenationalmonument.org/.
Wendy Diaz, Kathia Gonzalez and Rocio Ronquillo work for Frontera Land Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to help preserve and protect the Borderland’s open natural spaces.