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  • Writer's pictureXochitl Clare

Intersectionality: Paseos de los Colibris

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Dive into our conversation exploring the complexities of ecology in the 'Borderlands'

Article by Xochitl Clare | Photos provided by Eric Medina

I met Eric Medina when he was a third year first generation college student at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). He is the first of his family to finish high school and attend college. Growing up in a family of Mexican immigrants, Medina often felt torn between his desire to study social sciences and biological sciences. Listen to this audio log or read the transcription at the end of this article to learn more about Eric's poetic perspective on finding his place as an ecologist.

Kimbilá to Santa Cruz

Eric's family is from a small town called Kimbilá in Yucatan, Mexico & Eric was raised in the United States. Eric grew up in Fort Bragg, a town at the center of the fishing and tourism industry. His upbringing helped him see linkages between cooperate agricultural practices and socioeconomic worker struggles once he began his career at UCSC. Through the Doris Duke Scholars program at UCSC, he got experience doing hands on research in the biological sciences and developed ways to merge his interests in social and environmental issues.

"My family’s from a small town called Kimbilá in Yucatan, Mexico. An hour away from the state capital, Merida."

Awards & Achievements

Eric Medina worked to renew the UCSC Oakes Garden, creating a hub of learning and empowerment for students. (Photo by Steve Kurtz)

Aside from being a UCSC Doris Duke Scholars Program Fellow, Eric received a Donald A. Strauss Foundation Award In his fourth year of his undergraduate career at UCSC, "Eric Medina (double majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and Latin American and Latino studies) received a $15,000 public service scholarship to reinvigorate the garden at Oakes College (@oakescollege ) which will increase student access to healthy foods. Medina and other members of the garden wanted the renewed Oakes Garden to be a place where students can learn about sustainable gardening practices and be a hub for dialogue and action on issues related to food security for students on campus.

"Since high school, food has always been incredibly important to me," he said. "It was a major step in my life when I decided that I deserved food that made me feel good and capable."

Empowering the Next Generation

Today, Eric is serving as a program leader for the UCSC Younger Lagoon Internship program where he provides hands-on research training and professional development opportunities to undergraduates from his alma mater. Medina also united the members of the Inclusive Ecology Network that provides resources to first-gen students seeking careers in ecology.

Intersectionality: Paseos de los Colibris

Listen to this audio log or read excerpts from the transcription at the end of this blog to learn more about Eric's journey and poetic perspective on finding his place as an ecologist.

April 24, 2017, 9:30-10:30pm via Skype

E: My name is Eric Medina and I’m a college student double majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and Latin American Latino Studies.

E: I’m from Mendocino, California, 6 hours north from here, super remote.

E: My parents moved there originally because of the fishing industry for immigrants there

E: My family’s from a small town called Kimbilá and in Yucatan Mexico. An hour away from the state capital Merida. The town is changing a lot now. Originally there was just indigenous Maya people that lived there. and that’s the main language that’s spoken there. Yucatec Maya. Pretty rural. Both my parents were raised there and met they were 17

E: They had my older siblings: four sisters and my brother before they came to the U.S.

E: But my mom started to miss having to miss having her kids and sent for my brothers and sisters to come in clumps across the border all the way to Mendocino. I was the last one and I was born in the United States

E: I have been able to visit Mexico here and there. My brothers and sisters haven’t been able to visit. My parents, got residency three years ago so it was 23 years before they were able to see anyone again.

E: That was really hard on my family.

E: Slowly, I’m beginning to see how forced everything was on my family and on me. It was dug into me that your family should speak English and I thought it was normal to be embarrassed that my parents couldn’t speak English

For a long time growing up in the U.S. , you kind of try to change up your identity. And in coming to college you learn that oh, where I come from is rad.

E: Your identity is rad. That’s like my driving force I think. Where my family comes from, their struggle, is the reason that I do anything really

E: I’m very prideful of having parents who are Maya.

E: Hmm--I don't think I’ve been told by many people like that studying plants and birds and things like that are illegitimate. But I think that they fight inside of me a little bit because I have gone to cool places and have heard about endangered animals and in my mind have been like—WHO CARES!

E: Why do I care? Why is it important that Lake Tahoe stays blue? You know what I mean?

E: Because there are people with money who are going to lose this site. But I don’t understand why this is important when there are people that are hungry

E: And other important things going on. Yeah so sometimes I find myself just kind of like questioning why it’s important or why it matters at all when there are larger social issues happening that are effecting humans. And whether it’s my place to be spending time thinking about animals when my own people aren’t surviving, or like you know being able to live beautiful lives to their fullest extent. The course that I'm on I think has been really really helping me.

E: I am spending a lot of time naturalizing, connecting with the outdoors, which is something I criticized a lot, just enjoying a flower, writing a poem. I thought of it very much like an individual thing. For your own satisfaction. But actually I’m learning a lot about compassion.

E: I’m starting to connect. Understand why something as small as a humming bird's nest is so valuable. I saw a hummingbird nest (laugh). It was so so—there were two little humming bird babies in it and they looked like little jellybeans and like

E: They were so precariously placed at the end of this branch.

E: And they were moving in the wind and I think it was pretty obvious that they were going to just fall and die. And--

E: I guessed what it must have taken to make that little poor structure. And when I thought about them that way, and thought of them as beings, I began to understand, like wow, that’s not much different than my parents who worked hard to give me something that the world has said isn’t good enough. I don’t know, the more time I spend in nature the more I’m really starting to understand those connections.

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