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Linda Escalante’s Blog

Earth Day Latino 2012: celebrating Los Angeles history, culture, and ecosystem

Linda Escalante

Posted April 17, 2012 in Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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Latinos know how to party on Earth Day. This year, the William C. Velazquez Institute and its coalition of conservation and environmental partners, which include La Onda Verde de NRDC, will continue the annual tradition of EARTH DAY LATINO at the Los Angeles Historic State Park (formerly known as Not a Cornfield), just north of the Olvera Street and sandwiched by Chinatown and Dogtown/Lincoln Heights.

This area is very rich in cultural and ecological history.  Olvera Street or “Placita Olvera” (as Latinos call it) is of particularly significance to Angelenos because it was the birth place of the city of Los Angeles back in the late 1780s when the Spanish settled next to the Los Angeles River.  An independent Mexico claimed it from Spain but a few decades later relinquished it to United States control after losing all their southwestern territories in the Mexican –American War.  

Earth Day Latino intends to bring together residents of the city in a day of education, entertainment and outdoor activities, focusing on the environment, history, culture and art. It will be an unforgettable experience culminating with urban camping under the silhouettes of Downtown‘s skyscrapers on the horizon.

Last year was the first time WCVI and its partners organized Earth Day Latino and 75 families planted trees, heard presentations on the history and ecology of the region, and even played soccer. Families camped overnight in the park thanks to California State Parks’ FamCamp.

This Earth Day 2012 will be a great feast for families and everyone is invited. The event will start at 10AM on Saturday April 21 with a blessing of the grounds ceremony by the Tongva Indian tribe. Then, the young and old can plant trees and shrubs of the region under the guidance of Urban Semillas' Master Gardener Miguel Luna. These young trees are oak from neighboring Arroyo Seco acorns. The Los Angeles Historical State Park and its staff will then give a presentation on the history of this urban green island and will give guided walks through the 32 acres of the park.

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Before lunch, we will have one of the most anticipated activities of Earth Day Latino:  the unveiling of an amazing artistic model of the original Zanja Madre water wheel that drew water from the LA River to Placita Olvera.  The original was enormous, so local artist James Naish has built a steel and wood model that measures 20 feet wide and 12 feet high.  Children can hop on a bike fused to the waterwheel so they can power it to scoop recycled water from cistern.  

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But that’s not the end of our “environmental art” showcase.  UCLA professor Dr. Fabian Wagmeister and class of 2012 EcoInterns submit their impressive digital artwork for large billboards. The EcoInterns are outstanding Latino students from public high schools in urban neighborhoods of Los Angeles. To learn more about the environmental leadership curriculum of EcoInterns you can see it here.

For those who do not bring their own picnics, famous restaurant Un Solo Sol from BoyleHeights, will serve lunch.  Un Solo Sol is committed to the Latino community and sustainable food.  It will be an inexpensive and very healthy lunch since they lean toward vegetarian or vegan dishes.  And while we eat, we will enjoy a Battle of the Bands where high school students play their electric instruments powered by solar panels and face the challenge of composing a song dedicated to Mother Earth.  A panel of judges will award the winning band.

The afternoon will proceed with more outdoor adventures. REI will be sponsoring a treasure hunt in the park with GPS (Geocache) in English and Spanish. There will also be wildlife show. And at 4:30PM bicyclists will meet and ride along the LA River for 10K, ending up at the park for evening activities and overnight camping.

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The night will be greeted with an inexpensive and healthy barbecue with lots of vegetables and no red meat that you can eat by the campfire while listening to stories and drums.  

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If you register either online or at the park early between 8-10AM on April 21, you will be loaned a camping tent.  For those urban campers, the morning of the 22nd will start with a body movement class and a lunch truck breakfast inspired by Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Mexican cuisine.   

Visit us at our Facebook page for more photos and updates.  En Español.

Detailed Schedule:

10AM: Tongva Native Tribe Ceremony

10:45: Tree Planting

11:30 History of Los Angeles State Historic Park Presentation

11:45 Los Angeles Then... Unveiling of LA River Water Wheel art installation by James Naish

12Noon Los Angeles Now...Through the Eyes of High School Eco- Interns presented by UCLA Professor, Dr. Fabian Wagmister

12:30 Picnic-Style Lunch Bring your own food-filled basket or buy from Un Solo Sol Kitchen, a Boyle Heights favorite; limited amount available) BYOUtensils and blanket

1:30 Geo-Caching/Scavenger Hunt with REI happening simultaneously, Nature Walk: Discover Native Plants Break - Nap Time Under a Tree 

4:30 Bike Ride along Los Angeles River 10k

6:00 BBQ Dinner food for sale; limited amount available happening simultaneously, Battle of H.S. Bands: Compose an "of the Earth" song challenge 

7:00 Urban Animals & Nature Presentation

8:30 Drum Circle, Bonfire & Story Telling Under the Moonlight

following morning, 8:30AM Morning Bilingual Movement/Yoga 

CHECK LIST FOR CAMPING
___ Tent or form of I.D. to borrow one from REI; while supplies last
___ Flashlight
___Water Bottle to fill up at hydration station
___ Pillow/Sleeping Bag/Blanket
___Utensils (Fork, Spoon, Plate, Bowl, etc.)
___Sun Protection (Hat, Sunblock, etc. ) 
___Music Instrument for Drum Circle
___Bike Lock if you're arriving on your bike
___Cooler with personal snacks & food or cash for lunch & dinner(only a limited amount available; first come, first serve) 
__ Camp chair or blanket to sit on

This event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
*Must check-in first in order to camp-out

*Register and ENTER A RAFFLE to WIN A PRIZE!

*No open fires

*Please respect quiet hours

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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