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New rec club Tierra decolonizes nature

(Courtesy of Lariza Estrada)

Lariza Estrada is the creator of Tierra, a Twin Cities women’s recreation club committed to racial inclusivity and the decolonization of outdoor activities for inner city women of color. Tierra was born out of the 25 year old’s personal quest to find cultural reflection in nature-oriented outdoor activities in the Twin Cities metro area. Estrada immigrated to Minnesota from Mexico at the age of three with her parents. But one thing her parents kept along the journey was their love for the outdoors

“My parents – they love cycling. When we lived in Mexico, my dad, he did the bike taxis and was super passionate about biking. They would make me go on these really long bike rides when I was like 10 years old – it was the worst! But I finally came around to it as I got older. And I really started appreciating what those rides meant, for them and for me.”

Estrada says a school trip added to her budding love for the outdoors. As an adult, she wanted to take her parents up North for a vacation. But Estrada says she recognized some lingering trauma that kept their outdoor adventures within limitations.

“I think being so close to the border makes them afraid.” Estrada continues. “They went past Duluth for the first time in their lives last summer. We went to see the lighthouse, and we went to a state park that's pretty close to the border.”

Due to systemic racism, people of color are more likely to be concentrated in industrial environments with little to no immediate access to nature. As a result of redlining and racial discrimination in rural areas, people of color face anxiety when leaving the city to explore natural reserves, such as state parks.

“But I just loved seeing the light in their faces. My parents would have never took that leap of faith and gone and drove out there by themselves. This was a completely whole different world that they had never seen. It was super emotional for me.”

But that wasn’t the only barrier Estrada faced as an inner city girl, raised in an industrial neighborhood faced with environmental racism. Estrada struggled to share her newly developed love now with her peers.

(Courtesy of Lariza Estrada)

“As I think about it, I'm like, I don't see enough people who look like me. I don't see enough Black or brown people on the trails. I don't see a lot of bikers, or when we go camping. The same people that you want to feel in community with. So I was looking for groups of my own that I could join, because I'm like, maybe I'm not finding the community because I'm not trying hard enough.”

Unfortunately, Estrada says she didn’t find the right fit. She says she ran into groups that reflected her community, but not her capacity. Estrada desired something casual, fun, and accessible.

“And I'm like, if what I'm looking for isn't there, I'm going to create something that's my own and hope that other people can relate to it and join.”

And so Estrada’s outdoor women’s recreation club, Tierra, was born. Tierra currently offers monthly hikes and centers women of color in the Twin cities metro area. Tierra’s first hike was held on May 20, at Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota.

“It was a beautiful one to start with. I learned that I can definitely step out of my comfort zone. I think for a long time, I have been too scared to do things in completion, or actually make my dreams a reality. I think there's always that fear in us that holds us back. And I think that that has happened to me more than often. So being able to do this definitely made me feel like I can do a lot of things.”

Tierra’s next hike is set for Saturday, June 24, at St Croix State Park. The event will also feature a picnic and a visit to the park’s fire tower. Registration opens Wednesday, June 15. Women of color are highly encouraged to attend. For more information, visit @tierra.recclub on Instagram.

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