An Interview with Felipe Benítez: Father, Environmental Warrior, and Latino Leader

Interview by Daniela Salazar

Felipe Benítez

Felipe was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. 13 years ago. Felipe is considered a subject matter expert in advocacy and political communications, his experience and background is the intersection between the Latino community, climate change, nature, conservation, and the environment. He has been part of numerous campaign and events that bring Latinos to environmental movements — from protecting lands in the Amazon to encouraging Latino families to enjoy the outdoors in the U.S. Felipe has also worked in projects that have influenced the conversations in the Paris Agreements, bringing Latinos and their voices into climate action.

His inspiration: His 5-year-old son Alex. Felipe has devoted his career and efforts to ensure that his son and future generations are able to grow in a better world. One of Felipe’s desires is to take Alex to see “the most biodiverse place on earth” –The Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The Yasuní National Park contains the world’s most extensive biodiversity, and is home to two tribes who have voluntarily remained isolated from civilization, the Tagaeri and Taromenane. In 2007, the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa announced at the United Nations’ General Assembly the country’s commitment to preserve indefinitely these reserves.

1. What do you love most about the work you do?

Elevating the voices of the Latino community in climate and environmental action, and the conservation movement. Additionally, I love creating programs and campaigns that bring Latino families to the outdoors, bringing their voices and points of view in the management and conservation of public lands.

2. Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? If not, why?

I’m a tree hugger! For me this means rising the voice of our community to protect the rights of Mother Earth. It means creating a balance in the relationship between the human race and nature.

3. For you, what is the connection between Hispanic Heritage Month and the environment? Why is this important for our community?

HHM celebrates and honors our heritage as Latinos, and a fundamental part of this celebration is our commitment to live in balance with Mother Earth. HHM opens up the opportunity to get involve in climate and environmental action, and conservation.

4. What are some of the things we can do to honor our cultural heritage and engage in environmental stewardship during Hispanic Heritage Month?

There key dates throughout this month long celebration; for example, next week we will be celebrating National Public Lands Day, and National Voting Registration Day — a very important opportunity for Latinos to engage from a democracy perspective and make sure we help shape environmental policies through the power of the vote.

Also we can implement individual solutions or actions that can help us tackle climate and help us with conservation- energy conservation, walk to work, register to vote. Through collective action we can change the world!

5. Are there any other leaders that you want to shine a light on? How are they setting an example for future leaders?

I would like to recognize Adrianna Quintero, Executive Director of Voces Verdes. Her leadership for more than 15 years has been an integral part of the Latino environmental movement. Thanks to leaders like her that have paved the way with tenacity, vision and commitment, have facilitated and shape this movement.

Robert Garcia of the City Project in LA– One of the first leaders that brought environmental justice within Latino community.

Congressman Grijalva, from Arizona, he is been a champion for our movement as well.

Leonardo DiCaprio — he is not a Latino, but he has used his “megaphone” as a celebrity to call for climate action and conservation.

Felipe is currently working with Voces Verdes, the Environmental Defense fund, HECHO, The US Forest Service, Tree Media Foundation, Americas for Conservation + Arts, and the Climate Reality Project among other organizations.