We are a family of four, expanding to five sometime this month! My husband, Jesse, and I have been married for eight glorious years full of adventures as a bi-racial family. My roots come from the Peruvian Andes and Amazon Jungle, and my husband’s from the East Coast of the United States. We live in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, and I love our ability to explore the outdoors, from coastline to mountains.
Truly, I am a California girl. Childhood memories recall outdoor time with my family at Griffith Park for Sunday afternoon “Carne Asada,” and my parents taking every opportunity for a road trip toward Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, or Sequoia National Parks for camping in the Sierra Nevada. Since I was a teenager, I’ve lived in the Bay Area, enjoying the diversity of an urban outdoors within confines of San Francisco, the wide California Coast, rolling hills of East Bay, and a remote mountain range. I have always been “active,” but in my early 20’s I discovered hiking as a new form of exercise, and a way to escape “the suburban life”.
A second-generation Peruvian, I also find great joy sharing this vibrant culture with my husband, recalling experiences I had as a child. We love learning more about my Peruvian culture together, and decided to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu early in our marriage, visiting my extended family in the Amazon Jungle. It was during those trips to Peru that I fell in love with the outdoors even more, knowing my ancestry was deeply embedded in the environment of this region.
I know most of my cultural values have been handed down through generations of family experiences within the outdoors. That sense of “culture” is a mixture of many, although I identify physically as a Peruvian-American. I grew up within many different Latino cultures (Mexican, Salvadorian, Chilean, Guatemalan), in addition to the typical “American culture”. There is no separation between my Latino culture and being an outdoor mom because it is who I am. I am bilingual in English and Spanish, with English as my first language, and actively teach my children Spanish when we are outdoors, because I’ve learned they retain information with experiential learning. We translate ABC’s, 123’s, and names of birds and plants in Spanish along the trails.
Although I limit my children’s television screen time, when they do watch they love nature-themed shows that feature Amazon or Andean culture, and animals. I also show them photos of Mommy and Daddy visiting the Peruvian Amazon Jungle. It’s a good lesson, incorporating cultural values into experiences, so all families can work the outdoors into daily life.
Postscript: The Avery family welcomed their third child, son Diego, on March 6, 2015.
Melissa Avery is a Regional Coordinator in the San Francisco Bay Area for Latino Outdoors. Melissa focuses her time partnering with organizations and facilitating outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and backpacking with families and youth students. Melissa is also known as “Chasqui Mom” and blogs about her family outdoor family adventures in the Northern California.