Exclusive Guardabosque Interviews!

November 22, 2008 § 2 Comments

Tonight L.A. Creek Freak had the pleasure to attend the Cena Comunitaria y Graduacion de los Guardabosques del Rio at the Los Angeles River Center. For all you gabachos in the house, that’s the Community Thanksgiving Dinner and Junior River Ranger Graduation. The event was hosted by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, The City Project (which I work for), and featured guest of honor Assemblymember Kevin de Leon.

Junior Ranger Expedition in the Santa Monica Mountains

Junior Ranger Expedition in the Santa Monica Mountains

The Junior Rangers is a program for youth from age 7 to age 12, funded by the MRCA. It’s led by MRCA Naturalist Ian Griffith, and coordinated by Miguel Luna of Urban Semillas. Also playing a key support role has been jill-of-all-trades Angeles Gonzales. Fifteen Junior Rangers had completed the program and were sworn in by MRCA Chief Ranger Ken Nelson. The newest rangers are: Adrian Aranda, Axel De La Fuente, Roger Garcia, Daisy Gonzalez, Jorge Gonzalez, Cesar Lopez, Alejandro Mendez, Derek Morales, Jessica Mungia, Erick Quero, Jonathan Quero, Jose Ramirez, Jorge Rodriguez, Justin Sanabria and Brian Vargas.

State Assemblymember Kevin de Leon graciously and enthusiastically addressed (first in Spanish then in English) the formidable new ranger contingent. He spoke with optimism about taking concrete out of the Los Angeles River to make green spaces for fish, trees, and people. He stressed to the proud young rangers that they do their homework so they can go to college. The rangers, dressed in tan shirts with their names embroidered and rangers patches on their shoulders, posed with their assemblyman, smiling at the paparazzi photographers assembled.

Creek Freak was lucky enough that a contingent of young rangers consented to grant an impromptu interview during the course of their jam-packed evening. They’re busy folks who speak pretty fast, so I did my best to keep up – I hope I’ve gotten it down accurately enough. Derek Morales, Jose Ramirez, Jorge Gonzalez and Jonathan Quero (all ages 8 and 9) had this to say:

Junior Rangers Around the Campfire

Junior Rangers Around the Campfire

The best part of ranger training? “We were taught to make fire with a stick. There was a hole. You do it fast, touch it on the bottom. Do it really fast, and smoke just comes out!” according to Morales as he gestured, rubbing his palms together. The other three all echoed the interest in fire-starting in saying “yeah” and “it was cool.” Further elaborating on the most fun part of the training, Jose Ramirez recalled seeing a mountain lion. Details of this siting were very sparse as it was “far away,” though he expressed a concern at the time that it “would jump off and attack me.” Ramirez also spoke of when the group encountered the “bones of a rat eaten by an owl” and learning about “scat” which, he clarified, is another word for “poop.” Quero cited a highlight as a “trip to the museum” where they “learned about the solar system,” though he also said that the trips to the mountains were good, and, so, he concluded that the best part was really “all the trips.”

Lessons learned? Quero cautiously stressed “when camping, throw food in a trash can because bears will come.” Morales, returning to the fire theme, stressed the importance of “not playing with fire when camping” in order to avoid big forest fires. The young rangers again spoke smilingly about scat, and how much Ian told them about it.

Ranger Crew Cleans Up the Los Angeles River

Ranger Crew Cleans Up the Los Angeles River

Thoughts on cleaning up the Los Angeles River? The group was proud that they had pulled out a big piece of carpet that someone had dumped there. Gonzalez was happy to see lots of “little fishes” (likely mosquitofish) where they cleaned at the confluence of the river and the Arroyo Seco. Gonzalez further elaborated that there were places there where “when you step on it, it felt like quicksand.”

Future plans? “When he gets older” Ramirez plans to “help every animal and not litter.” Morales plans “to be like Ian, to be a river ranger and to teach other kids about rivers and mountains.” He also reminded me that Ian knows a lot about scat.

With all that, the young crew had places to go, so they ran off. I am looking forward to working with these hopeful young boys and girls as they grow up and take stewardship of our rivers and mountains. Kudos to all the folks involved in making this program a big success.

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§ 2 Responses to Exclusive Guardabosque Interviews!

  • Joe Linton says:

    A few clarifications:

    – This blog entry represents my opinions alone. Even though in the entry I stated that I work for The City Project, I attended this event and wrote this blog account solely on my own authority.

    – When I stated that “I work for” The City Project, I simplified the situation somewhat. I omitted the detail that I am a contractor for the organization.

    – The word “gabacho” is (per wikipedia) “a rather derogatory word used in Spanish to describe foreigners of different origins.” It’s a word from Spain that has been used there to describe French people, though in Latin America and the USA, it refers to white people. I understood when using it that it was a somewhat derogatory word, though I did take it fairly lightly.
    Now and then, in speech and in writing, I use the word to describe myself. In fact, I used it in an August 2008 blog entry, describing myself as one of a group of “nutty gabacho kayakers.” I didn’t receive any feedback at the time suggesting that use had been offensive.
    My intent was to be somewhat lightly self-deprecating. I saw it as playful, not as disrespectful. For me, it’s somewhat similar to the title of the blog – Jessica and I call ourselves creek freaks… I love the title, though I would probably be offended if someone else called me a creek freek. The entire blog entry, though all true, is meant to be a little silly, a little fun, a little tongue-in-cheek – interviewing 8 and 9 year olds and making it sound like serious journalism.
    Though I speak basic Spanish, I certainly don’t understand all the implications and very few of the nuances of Spanish language words I use. From feedback I’ve received on this blog, I understand that the word gabacho can be offensive. It is a racial slur, and I probably used it a little too casually, without sufficient awareness of its potential to offend.
    The first time I heard the word, I was living in the west end of downtown Long Beach in a neighborhood whose residents were predominantly immigrants from Mexico. The neighbor kids would sometimes come over to my artist loft storefront to do art and to play ping pong. One day a youth who had visited before, who I think was about 4 years old at the time, walked up to my open door and shouted “gabacho!” at the top of his lungs. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked around and maybe looked it up and have been using it ever since. I always thought that it sounded less judgmental than gringo… but reading about and hearing about it today, I am not so sure.
    The suggestion was made to me that I delete the word. I have instead chosen to let the blog entry’s wording stand as is, and to add this comment to further discussion around it. In my stubborn, freedom-of-speech-liberal way, I feel that the best antidote to speech that some find offensive is additional dialog to attempt to educate, clarify and connect.

  • Martha says:

    I thought gabacho was funny. Love your website.

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