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DEC Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Since its inception, the mission of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conserve, improve, and protect New York's natural resources and communities is one that unites all cultures and heritages. Environmental awareness and stewardship play an integral role in many cultures and the pursuit of a clean, healthy environment remains a goal of our agency on a professional and personal level.

DEC is proud to observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 in honor of the history, culture, and influence of past, current, and future generations of those of Hispanic or Latino origin. The observance started in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson's administration as a one-week celebration called Hispanic Heritage Week. Years later, President Ronald Reagan proposed extending this celebration into a month-long event. It was enacted into law in 1988, officially designating September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The celebration starts on September 15 as that date marks the independence of five countries: Costa Rica; Nicaragua; El Salvador; Honduras; and Guatemala. Followed by Mexico's Independence Day on September 16 and Chile's on September 18, it is capped by Día de la Raza, which is celebrated on October 12 and recognizes the heritage and cultural diversity of Latin America.

From the time of the Aztecs' "zero-waste" society and Mayan innovation in the areas of wastewater treatment and civil engineering to modern-day, climate justice leadership and frontline neighborhoods confronting the impacts of pollution, many in the Hispanic and Latino community continue to recognize the need to protect and nourish our environment and natural resources.

The national theme for Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 is Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power and Progress in America. During this time, we pay tribute to our Hispanic and Latino environmental leaders, neighbors, co-workers, conservationists, and organizations who are making a positive difference in our lives and the environment, benefitting current and future generations.

Let's join with these individuals and everyone fighting for our environmental futures. DEC is partnering with community organizations across New York State that serve the Latino community and address environmental issues head-on. These organizations recognize the unique challenges of their communities, and through funding provided by DEC's Office of Environmental Justice, are working to make our neighborhoods better for everyone. This year, we are highlighting the Long Beach Latino Association, just one of the organizations that are doing the work and making a difference.

DEC partners with community organizations across New York State that are serving Hispanic populations and addressing environmental issues head-on. These organizations recognize the unique challenges of their communities, and through funding provided by DEC's Office of Environmental Justice, are working to make our neighborhoods better for everyone. This year, we are highlighting the Long Beach Latino Association, just one of the organizations that are doing the work and making a difference.

Long Beach Latino Civic Association

The Long Beach Latino Civic Association
uses a community impact grant from the DEC
Office of Environmental Justice to provide
education about floatables on Long Island.

The Long Beach Latino Civic Association (LBLCA) (leaves DEC website) seeks to empower the Latino population of Long Beach, Long Island, to advocate for itself, while also embracing both the American experience and distinct Latino cultures. This organization promotes environmental justice, cultural awareness, and civic participation while addressing the critical issues of education, public health, environmental conservation, and community development.

LBLCA has been awarded over $270,000 between 2008 and 2022 through the DEC Office of Environmental Justice's Community Impact Grant Program that provides community-based nonprofit organizations with funding for projects that address various environmental and public health concerns that disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities.

In 2008 and 2011 LBLCA received funding for their B.E.A.C.H. projects for efforts both pre and post Hurricane Sandy. Project B.E.A.C.H (Beach Environmental Action for a Cleaner Habitat) was a successful collaboration between the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and the Long Beach City School District dedicated to inventorying and disseminating reliable and accurate information on the environmental harms and risks affecting the North Park area of Long Beach, the entire barrier island, and its bordering communities.

In 2018, Long Beach Latino Civic Association was the recipient of $100,000 Community Impact Grant from DEC grant for a new project named B.A.Y.A.R.E.A. (Building Alliances Yielding Awareness Resulting in Environmental Action). The project aimed to improve and protect local waterways by educating local residents on the negative effects of plastic floatables, cigarette butts, balloons, and other debris. Through this grant, LBLCA was also able to plant trees to contribute to the restoration of the Bay Area to help replace those that were stripped from that area after the storm hit.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Environmental Justice organizations continued to work hard to serve as many people in their community as possible in both safe and creative ways. DEC's Office of Environmental Justice was continuously impressed by the way so many groups, including LBLCA, were able to improvise, adapt, and overcome. They had a great response for their Random Acts of Clean Up day.

Most recently, in 2022, LBLCA was awarded $100,000 for their latest project Suburban Organic Farming in Action (SOFA). The aim of the project is to listen, educate and inform people from Environmental Justice communities in Long Beach about the importance of growing and eating organically. One of the objectives of SOFA is to provide residents and families with the knowledge, skills, and supplies to become suburban farmers and grow their own produce at home. Additionally, the SOFA program will reach the greater community through hosting workshops, tabling at their local farmer's market, through social media, and by hosting environmental justice film screenings like Kiss the Ground (leaves DEC's website).

The DEC's Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) thanks LBLCA for their hard work on these very important and impactful projects.

If you would like more information on OEJ's grant program, please visit the DEC's Office of Environmental Justice webpage or send an email to [email protected] A full list of past funded projects through OEJ's grant program can be found on the Open Data NY site.

Recommended Reading List: 

Aridjis, Homero, and Betty Ferber. 2017. News of the Earth. Mandel Vilar Press. 

Bittle, Jake. 2023. The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bonilla, Yarimar, and Lebrón Marisol. 2019. Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm. Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books.

Bosma, Ulbe. 2023. The World of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment Over Two Thousand Years. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Dietrich, Alexa S. 2013. The Drug Company Next Door: Pollution, Jobs, and Community Health in Puerto Rico. New York: New York University Press.

Figueres, Christiana, and Tom Rivett-Carnac. 2021. The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. New York: Vintage.

Lloréns, Hilda. 2021. Making Livable Worlds: Afro-Puerto Rican Women Building Environmental Justice. Decolonizing Feminisms. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Margolin, Jamie. 2020. Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It. New York: Go, Hachette Books.

Martinez, Xiuhtezcatl, and Russell Mendell. 2020. Imaginary Borders. New York: Penguin Workshop.

McCarey, Kevin. 2012. Islands under Fire: The Improbable Quest to Save the Corals of Puerto Rico. Ocean Publishing.

Mendes, Chico, and Tony Gross. 1989. Fight for the Forest: Chico Mendez In His Own Words. Latin America Bureau. 

Pawel, Miriam. 2019. The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez's Farm Worker Movement. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Peña, Devon Gerardo. 2005. Mexican Americans and the Environment: Tierra y Vida. The Mexican American Experience. Tucson, Ariz: Univ. of Arizona Press.

Revkin, Andrew. 1990. The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Vince, Gaia. 2022. Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World. First U.S. edition. New York: Flatiron Books.

Wolfe, Mikael D. 2017. Watering the Revolution: An Environmental and Technological History of Agrarian Reform in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press.

DEC's website content is available in English, Spanish, and 11 additional languages. At the bottom of every webpage, you can find the translation section. Each language link will bring you to a mirror of DEC's website translated into the selected language.

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