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Interns reach out to communities

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Fall Fiesta: Efforts coincide with Hispanic Heritage month

By Arin McKenna

One of the key elements of Bandelier National Monument’s Fall Fiesta involved outreach, especially to Hispanic communities that tend to have low visitation. The effort is part of the National Park Service’s recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 ­ through Oct. 15.

“In a lot of ways, Fall Fiesta is a way for us to bring people who normally don’t use this park, to kind of introduce them to this place. And maybe they’ll want to come back, start making it part of something they do,” Public Information Officer Rod Torrez said.

“The more people we can reach, the more communities we can reach that’s so essential to making this park a valued piece of the landscape for people who live here.”

Angela Lorena Velarde Quintanilla and María Pía Floria have led that effort for the past three months.
Quintanilla hails from Arequipa, Peru and Floria is from Esquel in central Patagonia.

The women are here under a program called International Volunteers in Parks, an offshoot of Park Flight Migratory Bird Program.

The program selects professional candidates who can share the knowledge gained here with colleagues in their home countries.

Both women are biologists with a background in working with local communities.

They have been using some of the tools that have proven successful in their own countries with Hispanic communities here. Two other volunteers, from Mexico and Colombia, have been working with Bandelier’s bird banding program.

“The idea is to come here and work in the libraries, in the community centers, in the schools and the universities, fairs and fiestas, to make activities related with birds and environmental education,” Floria said. “All this is to invite people to the Fall Fiesta.”

Quintanilla and Floria have been active at all those venues, with programs ranging from storytelling and making bird masks with younger children to talks about their work in their home countries with high school students.

While here, the two have organized a scavenger hunt and a bird house project sponsored by the Española YMCA.

The bird houses were the idea of Ben Sandoval, director of the Española YMCA’s Teen Center. Sandoval made birdhouse kits that the youth could put together and paint.

During the Fiesta, Quintanilla and Floria provided information about birds and made bird masks with children, leading guided walks in Spanish and talking about how the Pueblo people used birds in their ceremonies and in their tales.

“We are taking a lot of tools from here to work there, because we have a lot of new ideas and a lot of energy to go there and try to improve our work in our home countries,” Floria said.

Quintanilla and Floria return home Oct. 9.

“This place has something magical. It has something really, really special,” Floria said.

“I fell in love with this place. I really love this place and am very comfortable here. It has something very special that I could not find in other places.”