Connecting With Our Corazón Latino in Puerto Rico
By Alison Malisa
In Puerto Rico, a vision of passion, love, and solidarity for the common good is helping to reweave and regenerate the ecosystems and economies most severely affected by climate change and poverty. Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Maria — one of the most destructive and deadly natural disasters in the last 100 years, and two weeks after popular uprising forced the governor to step down, the visionary organization Corazón Latino gathered with partners to cultivate a path of deeper connection, recovery, and regeneration. Puerto Rico’s own corazón latino, characterized by resilience and resistance, offers plenty of reasons for hope.
Connecting communities to the regenerative power of nature is happening this time through citizen science and forest bathing to El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. At 28,000 acres, El Yunque is both the smallest national forest and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System and boasts the most biodiversity. It is also the longest continuously measured tropical forest in the world, and provides habitat to endemic and endangered species, important ecosystem services, and fresh water for San Juan and surrounding municipalities.
Scientists from the Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research program know that there is still a lot to understand about how well the forest and the people can best support one another. With partners, Corazón Latino will be helping to connect the dots, and answer the questions that remain.
Corazon Latino, a non-profit with a vision of passion, love, and solidarity for the common good is helping to reweave and regenerate the communities of El Yunque National Forest.
We know that shared experiences in nature connect communities with each other and with their environment, also improving the ability to respond quickly and effectively in emergencies. We know that more canopy cover helps to lessen the severity of extreme weather events, and decreases the recovery time. Citizen scientists in El Yunque will help track forest growth, biomass, and biodiversity. Snorkeling through the rivers, they can also track freshwater shrimp populations as indicators of river health and clean water supply. Forest bathing excursions boost heart health, immunity, and mental and emotional well-being. And all of these can also boost the local economy as guides are trained.
As Americans, we have much to learn from our latino heart. Dance, fiesta, food, and honoring the family are central to community connection and to resilience. Perhaps if we cultivate the joy of our corazón latino, we will find our sense of belonging, to the earth and to one another. Perhaps the Corazón Latino partnership program in Puerto Rico can be the bridge to show how the hard work that needs to be done to regenerate our forests, our economies, and our cultures is to joyfully acknowledge that we are all one big family. Through river snorkeling, forest bathing, art in nature, or just a BBQ picnic in a forest, the most important strategy going forward may be simply to act from our hearts, to honor, and take joy in the interconnectedness of all life.