We had the good fortune of connecting with Susana Cruz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susana, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Nature is a space most people from my hood are uncomfortable visiting and told by some hiking wasn’t for us. Fortunately, my educator parents took us often to Chickasaw National Recreation Area and to visit family in a remote town in San Salvador, Zacatecas, Mexico. These places initially sparked my interest in nature. In elementary school, I received a scholarship to attend Science Day camp at the Natural History Museum in Fair Park. Only I noticed something; I was the only Mexican American kid present. This has been a reoccurring theme of my life; being the token person of color. Playing tennis growing up in Texas, moving to Missouri for college, and working in camps only continued this reality of me being one of the only Latinas represented at any given moment. Pushing my feelings aside for decades because people called me “sensitive” for expressing myself about racial aggressions people were so comfortable with verbalizing, I quietly let it accumulate into a mountain of unresolved moments.
In spring of 2020, there was a conversation I had with a person lacking melanin who tried to explain racial profiling[even though I worked in and studied Criminal Justice], attempted to go into detail about a concept in Psychology[again studied and worked in the field], and lastly, made me feel sexualized for pronouncing words in Spanish correctly. Left the conversation annoyed, frustrated, and confused. In most of my life, I’ve had no qualms about expressing myself when something is wrong. Yet in this moment and others having to do with racially driven conversations or mansplaining, backing down was the go-to especially having feelings for whomever was speaking. This made me feel truly disingenuous and lit a fire under me for change. Just had no idea what it would be.
During the Summer of 2020, I wrote a top ten list after hiking a challenging trail in Colorado with a couple of friends. Someone suggested I send it to an outdoor magazine. While looking for where to send it, none of them spoke to me or had other POC represented. Then I thought about why and wanted to change it! This was the shift I was looking for to make happen.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
This year the challenges of garnering attention and getting more people involved has been a struggle. Since the focus is more on education, reconnecting with nature, and not miles on hikes, this sometimes deters people from getting involved. Also, the fact that people will be meeting a complete stranger in a wooded environment is already daunting to POC. The first time ever personally driving off a paved road to work at a camp, I got nervous. Definitely understand people’s concerns. Word of mouth has played a major role in people coming out to hikes. Part of meeting challenges is being able to pivot when things aren’t working out the way you think they should. Partnerships have helped and asking community members to sponsor hikes brings more people out. The world needs to know we all need to slow down, look at the incredible natural environment we belong to, and connect to it. If the pandemic has taught us anything, making time to be outside is extremely important for our physical and mental health. Why not do so while learning pro tips and fun facts?
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Start out with some hikes at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, the Texas Buckeye Trail and AT&T Trail near the Trinity Audubon Center. I always encourage the homies to walk with me around Fair Park in South Dallas. My favorite spots to send people to grab something good to eat are Taqueria El Si Hay, Rudy’s Chicken, Wingfield’s Breakfast & Burger, Celebration, and grab something sweet from CocoAndré Chocolatier. For drinks, head to Ten Bells Tavern, Mike’s Gemini Twin, Ruins, and Las Almas Rotas.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Larry Conley for being my biggest advocate, mentor and friend over the years. Midwest Children’s Burn Camp and everyone involved have been my inspirations for being the change I want to see in the world. My family for understanding my need to explore. My homies for always encouraging me to do what makes me happy.
Ashlee Freese Nez the Random Rover Esther Villarreal