Liliana Camacho Guzman is an alumni of the Nature for All Leadership Academy and now works for the Council of Mexican Federations. As a field organizer, she advocates for environmental justice particularly in southeast Los Angeles communities, to reduce environmental health inequalities. She participated in Nature For All’s annual DC trip to speak with our representatives in Congress about the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and to advocate for its protection.
What Surprised Me
As a first-timer visiting Washington D.C, I was shocked to experience a different culture. I was exposed to the lifestyle and work operations that occur in Congress. As I walked through the hallways of the Capitol Building, I sensed tension and seriousness because of my DACA status. However, when I spoke to a Congress member and/or legislative staffer, I felt welcomed and the ability to demonstrate my concerns and love for the San Gabriel Mountains. Each meeting had its uniqueness.
During some meetings, we had the opportunity to have a great dialogue with legislation staffers or the Congress member him/herself. However, in a certain occasion, we found ourselves speaking to a legislative staffer in the hallway, accompanied by puppies. In addition, I was surprised to learn how many different committees are in Congress and their role of introducing legislations. As a minority party, it has been difficult for Democrats to obtain a hearing to introduce any environmental-related legislation. Though we have not had much success compared to previous years, we continue to fight back for environmental equality.
What We Talked About
On average, meetings were 30 minutes long. Therefore, it was tremendously important to state the importance of protecting and expanding the San Gabriel Mountains through a clear storyline. As a representative of The Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM), I stated how important the San Gabriel Mountains are to our immigrant communities. Our communities are starving for green space. Therefore, the Leadership Academy alumni, including myself, shared our community projects. Consequently, we requested that Congress members and staffers support Representative Judy Chu’s bills.
What I’m Still Thinking About
After learning more of how Congress works, I continue to think of how long and difficult the process of passing a bill is. The Congress members and staffers greatly appreciated our advocacy and activism we’re leading in our communities. This effort is through teamwork; we, Nature for All, work with communities at the local level, while Congress members operate at the federal level. Our public lands are under attack; therefore, we must continue to advocate about the importance of protecting our public lands, including the San Gabriel Mountains.