Fierce

Nature Chola Is Making Space For Indigenous People In The Great Outdoors

From a casual hike on public lands to expert alpine mountaineering, access to people of color, both in real life and in media, is limited. It wasn’t even until the 2014 film adaptation of Wild created a surge in female participation in outdoor adventuring. According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2018 report, almost three-quarters of outdoor recreation participants are white.

While enjoying the great outdoors has increased by 1 percent in the last five years among Latinos, @NatureChola wants to get more of us out there and is increasing visibility on Instagram.

Meet @NatureChola, a.k.a. Karen Ramos.

@naturechola / Instagram

She’s an Oaxaqueña ÑuuSavi/Scu-iia indigenous woman. She’s a 26-year-old full-time student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University and with a full-time job in architecture. She owns a non-profit to help young children of color experience the outdoors. She is a jefa.

Ramos is here to shed light on environmental inequality and melanize the outdoors.

@naturechola / Instagram

If you’re interested in seeing yourself in nature, be sure to follow tags like #melaninbasecamp #diversifyoutdoors #fakevanlife and #getoutstayout. So often, it takes just seeing someone like you do the dang thing to make it feel like a possibility. Go wild, friend.

She currently has 12.6k followers on Instagram, her main platform.

@naturechola / Instagram

She’s going strong. Why? Because you won’t find a photo of Ramos smiling without a caption sharing the moments spent crying in the bathroom for being an indigenous woman in a white-dominated industry. All followed up with empowering words like this: “Your mom did not wake up at 4 a.m., pick strawberries all day, feed a family on less than minimum wage paycheck for you to feel small. YOU awake their insecurities with your simple presence. YOU are powerful.”

“We need to open dialogue about moments like these. The micro-aggressive biases that reveal themselves in the slyest of ways. Dear white woman I am not trying to take your power away, I am not here to dethrone you. I am carrying the hopes of my people so that one day they too can have the opportunities of yours.”

She’s using her platform to shine a light on the far too white industry.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “What does it mean to be a POC small influencer among a sea of white well paid platforms? There has been a debate lately.. and … for a lack of better words it’s been said that diversity is trending (in reality though that dismisses a lot of the work others have done in the space before).But does that mean it loses it authenticity? Do POC who pick up brand sponsors or sign deals with companies compromise their message?”

“I don’t think either are fully true. I don’t think you can be completely unbiased when it is a company that is paying your rent. Just like I don’t think your message is completely changed.”

“What I do know is..
If Instagram (or any social media) was to disappear tomorrow.. MY WORK WOULD STILL MATTER. MY IMPACT WOULD STILL BE FELT AND I WOULD CONTINUE TO DO DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) advocacy even without social media. I do it now. This message is not a trend I follow— it is my outdoor narrative. It has been said and I’ll keep saying it.. I don’t get to stop being brown or an indigenous woman once the DEI trend is over.”

Like most of us, Ramos didn’t always claim her identity and the experiences that come with it.

@naturechola / Instagram

According to her own third-person self-description, “At one point a self-proclaimed non-activist, non-radical, white-washed, ‘normal’ person, who didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, offend anyone, or stir the pot….”

“However coming face to face with a community who mirrored and reflected her insecurities and trauma of discrimination as she herself experienced when she was younger, she found the courage with a ton of support from friends to start a non-profit serving the migrant indigenous populations of the Central Coast.”

Get Out, Stay Out / Vamos Afuera is aiming to increase diversity in the outdoor industry by creating memories for young indigenous kids.

@naturechola / Instagram

There’s so much outdoor access to white Americans, but often plain logistics of travel, cost of equipment, and time off for parents get in the way for POC. Thee Nature Chola takes kids out to help clean up beaches, take kiddos swimming in Big Sur and even to local rock climbing gyms. She’s a shero.

Sometimes, her captions are the poetry we need to be convinced that time outdoors matters. We matter.

@naturechola / Instagram

“Deep breath. 
Float.
Deep breath. 
Float.
Deep breath…. “Karen, Karen,
Ya 15 minutos más y nos vamos.”
I hear my mom’s muffled voice.
I let the water drown out her sound and pretend I can’t hear her.
My eyes squint open, 
a clouded frame from water drops clinging onto my eyelashes.

The blue sky, 
the bright sun and 
my mom’s beautiful brown face.

Little rainbow are forming
as she blocks the sun.
My moms gentle fingers on my back keeping me afloat.
The current rocking me softly.

If love could ever hug you, it would feel like this.

Before the fancy water shoes, the ultra lightweight quick-dry gear, the bathing suits, the over excess of it all. 
Before I knew of all the politics and sacrifices she made to get me here.
Just me, my mom, and the river.
This was my safe space. 
This is where I wanted to stay forever.”

Why “Nature Chola”?

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “I remember vividly, sitting around the campfire when @goulding_jr (later to become one of my closest friends) asked why my Instagram handle was NatureChola.”

“Being put on the spot was not something I was used to nor was I prepared to answer the question. I stumbled through my answer and was thankful it was dark so none could see my embarrassed face.”

“See at the time I had not yet grown into my new Instagram handle. I had changed my Instagram handle on a whim when curiously one day I checked Instagram and there were no other ‘cholas’ in nature.”

The hashtag #naturechola #climbingchola #outdoorchola had never been used before.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “And to tell you the truth I didn’t know if I was the most appropriate person to take it.”

“But ultimately I’m so glad I did.”

“I took it because it challenged my own comfort of what an acceptable outdoor narrative was. It was a reclamation of the word and the negative stigma it has historically carried. It was a way to say eff???????? the outdoors-person box that has been created. But mainly a ‘chola’ who loves ‘nature,’ is a paradox to most people. It carried the same confused looks and explained my own story with the outdoors in two simple words.”

“As the months passed every time someone asked me for my Instagram handle I felt a tiny bit bolder each time.”

Communities of color often don’t live close to public lands, and often have to drive further to get there.

@naturechola / Instagram

That means they need more resources like gas, time off and energy to get out there. Once you do get on the trail, it’s Patagonia puffies and Osprey packs everywhere you go. Nature Chola is here to validate your Costco flannel and trekking poles. If the Patagonia puffies have their secret code of acknowledgment on the trail, you bet the lower income Costco crew is also going to validate you on the trail.

She’s even bringing her own mami out into the outdoors for the first time.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “Anyone still take family vacations? If you do then this will resonate with you. Traveling with a parent(s) can be difficult and frustrating. As adults, we do not rely on our parents the way we used to and navigating that new territory can be hard. On the road, with my mom, I had moments where I envied the freedom and carelessness of those traveling with friends. They were able to do things like grab a beer or be careless about our itinerary. @hasanminhaj had a hilarious bit about immigrant parents and some of the things they do. The way they want to show love but in comparison to what we seen in western television it doesn’t match up. Or the fact that they are extremely strict and in my case do not fully understand ‘American culture.'”

“On the road with my mom there were moments of frustration where I converted to a sassy 14yr old teenager self. I had to remind myself how fearless my mom is to want to see more, that this is all uncharted territory to her, and that often she is trying to navigate this world that doesn’t reflect any of her comforts to her.”

“She is brave.”

“And I am so lucky.’

“I’ll look back on this trip hoping to be able to one day do the same for my kids. ????Now if only we can work on her driving skills, that sh*t is foreal dangerous ????”

Ramos will only support brands that intentionally diversify their ambassadorship, like Merrell.

@naturechola / Instagram

She’s connected with the POC influencers in the outdoor industry and is completely transparent about the frustrations in the difference of pay between a white ambassador and an ambassador of color. That said, she does her research and will support brands that are supporting fair wages from production to influencer marketing.

Plus, Nature Chola is here to take us all on little adventures like reducing waste at home.

@naturechola / Instagram

Given that she’s working full time, in school full time and running a non-profit, it’s pretty dope that Ramos is also taking the time to comfort her Insta story viewers with memes featuring her dad. We stan.

No need to fear, Nature Chola is acutely aware of the obstacles for marginalized communities to participate in #zerowaste.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “The town I currently live in has, a ban on plastic bags. A ban on plastic straws. And a ban on styrofoam.
Amazing right?!? Yes and no.
– The racial demographic is 85.05%white
– Affordable homes start at $600,000
– Over 60 miles of trails and 37000 acres of open space
– Population of 46,000 people.
There is a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods, and sprouts, and twice a week plentiful farmers markets with “local” produce. This town also has a plethora of local shops and is bike friendly.

About 40 miles south is Santa Maria. Hometown.
-Racial demographic 80% non-white (74% ”Hispanic” 6% “Asian”)
– 4 “in town” trails total. (Accumulating to about 18 miles)
– Population of over 110,000
-One Trader Joe’s. One health food store. Many big box stores.

It’s easy for me to sit high and mighty on my sustainability horse when I can afford to live in a place that has all the resources to live a “zero waste” lifestyle and continues to benefit off the labor of POC and poor communities.
While simultaneously looking down on those same communities for not being green enough.”

“Sustainability in the forms that we see it on blogs and Instagram is not meant to be practiced by the masses. Rather we need diverse solutions, for diverse communities, from diverse groups of people.”

On John Muir’s birthday, she’ll be the outdoor influencer who talks about how he treated people of color back in the day.

@naturechola / Instagram

John Muir may have been the founder of the National Parks system and the Sierra Club, and that is a fabulous legacy. He also decimated indigenous communities that Nature Chola will acknowledge every time she ends up on a trail that was once home to an entire community.

At the end of the day, Nature Chola is a chola like all the rest of us.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “Traded in my hiking boots for a playbill???? tonight and it was magical ✨✨#Hamilton”

“PS. Download the Hamilton App and enter the daily contest for tickets to the show. So worth the extra one minute out of my day.”

She gets insecure in fancy places.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “I AM VERY INSECURE.. like I get nervous walking into a space that looks too fancy or feeling like I am not wearing the right thing, not just pertaining to the outdoors….for me the worst is seeing the very skinny white girls wear the same huaraches as me but immediately be accepted.”

“*I am bringing race into this because up until recently, thanks to the queen @yalitzaapariciomtz , none of y’all even acknowledged MIGRANT-indigenous brown beauty, and it definitely made an impact on my lived experience being treated like the ugly bottom of the bag crumbs in the LatinX classist/colorist unspoken hierarchy. I don’t know exactly how to fully remediate my insecurities.. but one thing I have tried and that has been working is.. when I feel myself getting nervous, worthless, scared I breathe and try to embody someone who I think deals with these types of situations like I would one day like to.”

She loves her mami.

@naturechola / Instagram

Caption: “My mom unexpectedly deposited 30$ in my bank account for food yesterday.. and all I can think of is how lucky and privileged we are to have parents who, even though they can’t help us navigate the college system, give everything they can to see us succeed ♥️ if this was also your parents give them an extra big hug or just send them a message tonight to say you love and appreciate them????”

She, clearly, loves the outdoors.

@naturechola / Instagram

It goes without saying that spending time in the outdoors is life giving. Studies show that folks who get back to a circadian rhythm afuera for at least three days will experience a significant increase in creativity and productivity afterward. We’re meant to soak up the sun.

Parting advice: “Don’t let anyone ever diminish your experience in nature because you ???????? did ????????it ????????for ????????the ????????picture/gram????????.”

@naturechola / Instagram

“Get outside, visit that national park, climb that mountain… for the gram.
Your experience is no less valid.”

“And sometimes on days like this …for me visualizing how beautiful the view from the top looks.. and how much I want to share that, can be the most powerful motivator.”

“So shamelessly ask that stranger to take your picture or better yet fearlessly set up your auto timer.. it’s okay.”

“Don’t play down your accomplishments.. your experience in nature .. for the comfort of others.”

READ: Hiker Ronald Sanchez Jr. Identified As Victim In Fatal Machete Attack On Appalachian Trail

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Study Says 95% Of Women Don’t Regret Having Abortions

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Study Says 95% Of Women Don’t Regret Having Abortions

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Across the country, many states require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo waiting periods and counseling. The assumption behind the regulation is that ultimately women looking to have an abortion will regret their decision in the long term. A study published this past January in Social Science & Medicine, however, found that over 95 percent of the women who took place in a UC San Francisco study revealed that they had no regrets about their decision five years later.

The finding not only completely debunks the notion that most women who have abortions suffer from regret and guilt over their decision even if the decision was a hard one to make.

Out of interest, we researched online forums like Reddit to see what women had to say about their decision to terminate their pregnancies.

“I’ve had… more than one abortion. It was never a thought. Immediately after finding out I was pregnant, I bee-lined to the clinic. BEST decision I have ever made. No regrets at ALL! I’ve been called names, “baby killer”, etc. but I laugh at these people. I’m open about it, not that I had the choice because my ex SIL went around town telling everyone (thanks, stupid fuckhead ex-husband). The people that give me a hard time about it are parents themselves and are probably just bitter and jealous, anyways.” – Reddit user

“I had one when I was 21 (almost 39 now). Not once, for a single second, have I ever regretted that decision. I was dating a complete shitshow of an excuse for a human being (a heroin dealer, which I didn’t find out until later) who was abusive and promiscuous, and I knew the second I found out I was pregnant that I wasn’t keeping it. In addition to already knowing I was childfree for life, there was no way would I have brought an unwanted child into that kind of situation. So my very supportive mom took me to the PP appointment, where the staff was wonderful and only gave me a brief counseling session in which they made sure I was making the right decision for myself. The rest was pretty cloudy for me, because they gave me a Valium beforehand, but I do remember that when they did the ultrasound, they couldn’t find a heartbeat but still wanted to do the procedure because the pregnancy test was positive. After that, mom drove me back home, and the guy I was dating didn’t even seem to care about much of anything. We broke up just over a year later, and I heard through the grapevine that he was in jail for grand theft auto a few months after that. Today, I’m super well-adjusted and in a happy relationship with a really awesome guy who is as childfree as I am!” –Shanashy

“I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation.”

“I had an abortion recently. Mid-20s, stable relationship and good income. IUD failure. I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation. We don’t want children so we won’t have one. No regrets here.” –meinkampfyjumper

“When I was 17, I had an abortion. I’m 30, and have never once regretted it, nor ever felt guilty either. I knew, even after telling my parents and grandma about it I was certain. The guy was a nice guy, we talked about keeping it (because he was almost aborted himself when his mom got pregnant with him), but in the end he was already in the process of joining the Army. I would have been alone, a senior in high school, with my family’s help. That was not how i wanted it to happen, if at all, amd neither did he. He helped pay for half the procedure and when he took me home, my mom was supportive. I was scared yes, but relieved. She was amazing (still is). My grandma called me cold hearted for not thinking of the baby, when in my head(and heart), thats all I was doing. I learned later that my mom, grandma and great grandma had all had an abortion, but still had kids later. And its been great for them. Im on my second IUD now and have no plans for kids. Every so often I would get back in contact with the guy, and every time he brings up the kid we could have had (I was the one that got away). I would have had a 12 year old by now. And I breath a sigh of releif every time that I dont. I can barely take care of myself, hanging on by a thread and know I’m happier and better off. To some it may be cold, but I did the best thing for me, and made sure it never happened again, but also know i have the option and support in whatever i decide. And when i go for a check up or any Drs visit and its asked, i have no shame, no guilt, no regret in my decision. (Bracing myself each time for backlash, tho it never comes, true pros). Im happy other women have the same relief. There should be no negativity for our choices, but when it comes, bottom line, we know we did the right thing. And its not up to them for shaming us. Edit: my dad even told my brother and I years later ‘thank you for not making me a grandpa before I was 45.’ And gave me a pointed look. It was a small weight lifted I didnt know I carried. Especially after his reaction after i told him I was pregnant. (Explosive).” –bubblymayden

“I would have an 8 year old son right now if I hadn’t gotten an abortion. The thought of having a kid, a son, creeps me out. I have 0 regrets.” –Jens0485

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How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

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How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

Growing up in a Guatemalan-African American home in Woodbridge, Virginia, Evelynn Escobar-Thomas didn’t feel like outdoor activities were always accessible to her. After a few summer trips to Los Angeles, where she hiked regularly with her aunt, she realized that she enjoyed nature.

However, with little representation of women of color on trails in mainstream media or in the real world, she often felt excluded from the outdoor recreations she took so much pleasure in.

Evelynn Escobar-Thomas

Hoping to create a safe, fun space that could encourage more women like her to bask in the natural environments around them, she created Hike Clerb.

Founded in 2017, Hike Clerb is an intersectional women’s hiking club and nonprofit aimed at creating experiences in the outdoors that are accessible, empowering and inclusive. While primarily located in Los Angeles, where Escobar-Thomas relocated partly because of its biodiversity, the collective is international, with members as far as South Africa and the United Kingdom. Although predominantly consisting of women of color, the collective is open to anyone who shares the group’s vision and mission.

“There’s a huge sense of community and empowerment because we are out there as a collective of women of different shapes, sizes and colors,” the 29-year-old social activist tells FIERCE. “Women of all walks of life come together to honor ourselves, our bodies and our own individual healing journeys through this radical community.”

In Los Angeles, Hike Clerb hosts monthly treks in areas that are easy to commute to and are capable of being completed by veteran and newbie hikers alike. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these regular in-person trudges, which could include crowds of 10 to 100 people, have mostly been put on pause. However, the group did link up once in June for a protest hike in support of Assembly Bill 345, legislation that would have created environmental protections for communities living near oil and gas operations in California that failed to pass.

“We met up for a hike protest in support of this bill and had signs and information on how others can get involved,” Escobar-Thomas says.


With social distancing mandates in place, the group has focused on new ways to create community. For instance, Hike Clerb posts monthly challenges that encourage followers to hike on specific days and photograph themselves in an effort to establish a sense of togetherness even though they are all physically apart. Additionally, Escobar-Thomas has been using social media to educate users on hiking etiquette, safety tips as well as on the racist history of public spaces like U.S. parks, trails and beaches.

“Let’s be real here: these spaces, although outdoors, which you would think by default are open to anyone, were made for white people. And to take it back a step even further, they exist on stolen land,” Escobar-Thomas says. 

On Instagram, Hike Clerb has posted educational materials that inform followers about this history. There’s the Yosemite National Park, which was founded on the displacement of the Ahwahneechee people who were later used as entertainment for white visitors, as well as the Grandstaff Canyon, which up until 2017 was called “Negro Bill Canyon” after the mixed-race Black rancher who once resided near the area, among many other examples. Even more, Hike Clerb also shares how beaches were once segregated, with Black communities often limited to remote shores that were polluted and in hazardous locations.

“The way that these idyllic structures and spaces have formed were already on a foundation of violence and exclusion, so it’s not hard to see the connection from the way that these places were formed to the way that we participate and consume them now,” Escobar-Thomas adds.

Among their group treks, it’s not uncommon for the women behind Hike Clerb to hear racial microaggressions. “Hiking Helens,” what Escobar-Thomas calls the disgruntled white women who take issue with large groups of Black and brown people taking up space outdoors, have confronted members about their so-called “urban group.” Other times, these women have accused the collective of obstructing their communities after wrongfully assuming members parked in their neighborhoods.

“You hear these little microaggressions, and it’s like no, we deserve to take up space out here just as much as anyone else, and this is why we are doing what we are doing,” she says. “The outdoors are not just this playground for white people. We should all feel equally entitled to it.”

Despite these occurrences, Escobar-Thomas says that creating hiking experiences has overall been healing and empowering for the women who participate in them. For some, it has even been a catalyst for them to start their own individual journeys with the outdoors, with many taking solo road trips and hiking at larger parks across the Southwest.

For Escobar-Thomas, that’s exactly what Hike Clerb is about: giving women, especially those of color, the resources, education, safety tips and confidence to claim space in environments they had previously felt fearful of or excluded from and to help facilitate those experiences.

“I just really want Hike Clerb to become this destination and resource for women of color, and anyone else who is aligned in our mission, to make the outdoors more representative of the world that we live in,” she says.

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