Zion Interns Take the Grand Canyon: It was a grand ol’ time!

This past week, I was fortunate enough to go to Grand Canyon with two other Zion interns, Jada and Iris, to help with the Grand Canyon Juneteenth event and research in their museum collection archive!

Jada, Iris, and I!

The first day I was a support role for the Juneteenth event that Grand Canyon hosted. We started the day off by a beautiful speech on what is Juneteenth, given by Ranger Lynda. She powerfully explained the reason why we celebrate Juneteenth is because June 19, 1865, is the day that the message that enslaved African-Americans were free reached Texas, which was the furthest confederate state and slaveholders still had enslaved people at that time. Therefore, it took a whole two years after the emancipation proclamation, which took effect in January 1st, 1863, for ALL African-Americans to be freed. This is why we celebrate Juneteenth, which was declared a federal holiday only in 2021. It’s a celebration of freedom, remembrance, unity, and resiliency. Afterwards, we did a freedom hike along the rim of the canyon listening to music from Black artists. Throughout the hike, Ranger Lynda would stop at various viewing points and recited writings from W.E.B. Du Bois, on his visit to the Grand Canyon.

Ranger Lynda in the words of W.E.B. Du Bois: “Those who are shuttered with the worlds hurt and pain, why do you not come to these places of beauty and healing?”

The Juneteenth celebration continued in the Grand Canyon visitor center. There was live music, a junior ranger table with a special Juneteenth activity, a poetry wall, and infographics on Juneteenth history. The day ended by an amazing presentation by Archaeologist Margaret Hangan, who spoke on the history of Black Americans, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon.

The next day was spent in the Grand Canyon museum archives. There, I was able to search for documents or photographs that could help in my research project on Latino history. Notably, I was able to get good information on the Arizona Strip, which includes Southern Utah and Zion National Park, to be able to make the connection between Grand Canyon and Zion.

 

“What is Juneteenth?”

On my free time, I was able to meet Dumari, the Grand Canyon LHIP intern, who is working to make a composting program in Grand Canyon! We went out to eat, went to gift shops, and walked to see the rim of the Grand Canyon. It was such a privilege to speak together and bond over our very similar experiences. Sometimes being a Latino in a white dominated academic or professional space it can be such a culture shock, but it is so nice to meet others who have had similar upbringings to relate to. It helpsĀ remind us that we’re not alone, that Latinos are here, with a seat at the table, and are here to stay.

It was so nice to meet you Dumari, and I can’t wait to reunite in DC!

Dumari and I!

Overall, this experience was so valuable to me because I had never been to Grand Canyon before, even as an Arizona native. (Wild, I know!) But, truly the reason I hadn’t visited the Grand Canyon before is because it is expensive to travel. It is about a 7 hour drive from my home town, my family isn’t well experienced in outdoor recreation, and hasn’t had much many opportunities to travel in the first place. I know this is a common sentiment among Latinos. It’s always nice when people can understand that we don’t always have the resources to be able to travel and explore. This is why I am so grateful for the privilege that I have now to be able to see these amazing places and do this important work.

Bright Angel Hike

Sunset at the Grand Canyon

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