I love how Latino Outdoors chose that trifold slogan for their blog series. As an introvert, I’m not very good at talking about myself. As an OCD person, I postponed writing this blog because I couldn’t gather my thoughts in perfect continuity. Life, sickness, and overseas travel also kept me from writing it, but deep down I knew I was afraid to tell my story.
But here I am. It’s time!
I’m Xoshil Yahaira Morales Venegas. That’s indeed a very long name. A name I chose to hide for a while because I thought it was limiting my opportunities. I remember sending job applications as Xoshil Morales and getting declined right away. But when I chose to use the name, Zoey Morales, I got several job offers.
The caucasianization, or whitewashing, of my name, resulted in an outpour of opportunities. I didn’t edit my resume, I didn’t take classes. I didn’t do anything different. I simply chose to use a name that did not scare people away.
But now, seven years later, I’m ready to give it up.
In the lower barracks in Orderville, Utah, I felt mother earth and my ancestors calling me and saying it’s time to be you. I was listening to Danit, and the fire was burning strong, keeping my feet warm on a cold winter night. It was only me, the fire, the river, and the stars.
The realization that I had been betraying my people by using a name that wasn’t my own and didn’t represent my culture hit me like a heavy punch in my chest. I remember crying and apologizing as I held cold sand in my hands. Then I sipped on my water and wiped my tears away. Since then, I’ve dedicated several hours to opening doors for BIPOC women and myself.
I chose to stand strong in my roots, to call my ancestors and ask for their guidance. It’s been a beautiful rough path. But I have them by my side, and I’m not a weak one. So how did I end up living in a 4Runner, why do I love offroading, and how do I implement these things to fight for BIPOC representation in the outdoor industry?
I was living in Louisiana, working a 9-5. One day my then-boyfriend called and said he had been laid off from the oilfield. My first and only reaction was, “That’s awesome. Now I can quit too, and we can move.” We had been watching Bound For Nowhere on YouTube and were craving adventure. A few weeks later, we had gotten rid of everything we had in our two-bedroom apartment and were on our way to Colorado.
We left most of our stuff in Amarillo, TX, and only took the basics with us. He had a 4Runner. I had a mid-size Mitsubishi Outlander. And that’s how it all began. Little by little, I overcame my fear of ledges, narrow trails, and rock crawling.
Eventually, I sold the Outlander and bought a 1998 4Runner. I started learning mechanics with the help of YouTube and amazing friends who were willing to teach me. I am now an intermediate offroader and couldn’t imagine living any other way.
I have been honored to become an onX offroad mapper. I’ve won the lottery with EDGE to learn fly fishing and other skills that will add value to my current lifestyle. My goal is to learn as much as possible so that I can teach others. I am nothing without a community. I want to show women of color what they’re capable of.
The options were, going back to a 9-5 to afford an apartment that was always empty (because I was always in the mountains) or move into my 4Runner full-time. As you can tell, the latter won. I have zero regrets about living in my truck.
It made me resilient, gave me thick skin, and taught me the value of self-reliance. I have met amazing people on the road and seen more sunsets than I can remember. Giving my dog, Jack, a happy outdoor life is priceless to me.
People ask me if I miss toilets and hot showers. The answer is; sometimes. Yes, I’m human. Harsh winters, hot summers, and sickness can make you crave normative households. But when I wake up in the middle of the desert or see the moonrise, I don’t miss anything at all. The good will always overshadow the bad in the forest.
I’ve recently started using my voice to advocate for women. All women, of course, but especially women of color. We, colored ladies, face many other issues that some do not. Unfortunately, racism is still out there, even from our own. So, I will be the stubborn woman standing up for the ones who don’t know how and offering them a safe space.
I make it a point to share content that inspires women to be themselves, drop societal roles, and find their passion. Life’s too short to live it under other people’s lenses. I love telling young girls that skills, humbleness, and community are far more important than looks and status.
I want to be a great role model to my nieces and all the Brown girls out there. Writing for social change, advocating for inclusivity, and creating content that shows representation is what I love. In Latino communities, safe spaces are scarce. We can be the generation to change that. Our girls deserve better, so use your voice to heal and inspire.
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