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Earth Day Spotlight: 12 Latino Champions Shaping Our Planet

Earth Day Spotlight: 12 Latino Champions Shaping Our Planet

This Earth Day, we’re celebrating Latinos leading the green change. Discover twelve Latino environmental leaders making waves in conservation and climate justice.

Photo by Antony Weerut/Adobe Stock
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The fight for a healthy planet needs a diverse team of champions, and Latino environmental leaders are stepping up to the challenge. With a deep understanding of the environmental concerns facing their communities, Latinos are at the forefront of environmental justice, conservation efforts, and climate action.

In fact, a majority of Latinos in the US recognize the urgency of climate change, both globally and in their own neighborhoods, according to Pew Research Center. This deep connection to the environment, coupled with a strong support for environmental policies, makes Latino leadership in these fields crucial.

This Earth Day, we celebrate twelve influential Latino environmental leaders who are making a difference for our planet. Read on to discover their impact, in no particular order.

1. Mark Magaña

Founding President and CEO, GreenLatinos

Mark Magaña is the founding president and CEO of GreenLatinos, a national network uniting Latino environmental and conservation advocates. Leading a comunidad of Latino environmental champions, he emphasizes the cultural connections, shared resources, and collective power that can advance environmental justice and liberation. Magaña underscores the interconnectedness of climate change and systemic social, health, and economic injustices.

GreenLatinos serves as both a convening platform and a capacity-building organization.

Through initiatives like the Justicia y Equidad Fund and Colaborativo40, they connect members to vital resources and opportunities. A trailblazer in political circles, Magaña was the first Latino to serve as senior staff at both the White House and in Congressional leadership roles. He also founded the National Latinos for Obama, contributing significantly to grassroots mobilization. Based in Boulder, Colorado, he serves on several environmental boards, including the League of Conservation Voters and Green 2.0.

2. Adrianna Quintero

Vice President of Programs and Equity, US Energy Foundation

Adrianna Quintero serves as the vice president of programs and equity at the US Energy Foundation, focusing on strategic efforts to secure a clean and equitable energy future in the fight against the climate crisis. As a key member of the Biden-Harris Transition Team for the US Department of Energy, she evaluated environmental and energy justice structures and policies.

Previously a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Quintero founded Voces Verdes, a national coalition advocating for clean energy and climate action.

An attorney and lifelong advocate for justice, she has spearheaded initiatives highlighting the disproportionate impact of pollution on low-income and historically disenfranchised communities. Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of environmental health issues, including drinking water safety, pesticide use, and air quality. She also led a TedxBerkeley talk on how environmental issues disproportionately impacts minorities but the climate action movement doesn’t reflect that diversity.

3. Andrea Delgado

Chief of Staff for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA

Andrea Delgado is a nationally recognized leader and certified chief of staff, who has devoted sixteen years to engaging and leading underrepresented communities in federal policymaking. As chief of staff for natural resources and environment at USDA, she oversees the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.


She also leads efforts to reform wildland firefighter compensation and advance Tribal co-stewardship of forests and grasslands.

Delgado has a proven record of securing bipartisan support for legislation benefiting agricultural workers and protecting the public from exposure to toxic waste, chemicals, and pesticides. She spearheaded the legislative strategy for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill aiming to establish a path to legalization for undocumented farm worker families and improve working conditions.

A skilled convener and advocate, Delgado navigates across social movements and sectors, connecting Tribes, communities, NGOs, labor unions, industry, and government to uplift underrepresented voices and craft inclusive and high-impact federal policy solutions.

4. Luis Villa

Executive Director, Latino Outdoors

Born in Los Angeles and inspired by his Mexican heritage, Luis Villa has a deep-rooted connection to the outdoors, fostered from childhood experiences and urban hikes in southern California. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University, he embarked on a nonprofit career dedicated to community development and affordable housing.

Venturing to Costa Rica, Villa worked with the Nectandra Institute, focusing on the conservation and restoration of tropical cloud forests. He managed the Eco-Loan Fund as their chief operating officer.

There, he evaluated land acquisition financing programs to protect mountain springs and improve clean drinking water access for communities.

Now serving as the executive director of Latino Outdoors, Villa leads a dedicated team and network of volunteer leaders to shape, share, and celebrate the outdoor experiences of Latino communities, promoting environmental conservation and equitable access to nature.

5. Bray Beltrán

Director, Ocean Justice

Born on the Caribbean shores of northern Colombia, Bray Beltrán‘s passion for ocean conservation was ignited by observing subsistence fishermen in his native Santa Marta. Influenced by his abuela’s tales of abundant fish populations, he pursued degrees in biology and environmental science to address the decline in marine biodiversity.

Beltrán spent a decade in the Northern Rocky Mountains protecting iconic landscapes before relocating to the mid-Atlantic in 2023. Now the director of Ocean Justice, he emphasizes a conservation ethic that centers on people as stewards of their environment, promoting a relationship of nourishment and reciprocity with nature.

In the mid-Atlantic, Bray has found renewed purpose in ocean conservation, striving to re-establish the community’s connection with the ocean and advocate for sustainable practices that protect marine ecosystems.

6. Camilla Simon

Executive Director, HECHO

As the executive director of HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors), Camilla Simon is dedicated to elevating Latino voices in conservation efforts and advocating for equitable access to public lands. Since joining HECHO in 2014, she has broadened the definition of conservationist to include Hispanic and Latino generational ties to the land, leading advocacy efforts to highlight these perspectives in national conservation campaigns.

In 2018, Simon formed a strategic partnership between HECHO and the National Wildlife Federation, focusing on collaborative projects to increase visibility and resources for Hispanic and Latino conservation leaders nationwide. With a background in managing conservation funds and environmental law and policy, she has a multifaceted approach to promoting environmental stewardship and connecting children with nature.

7. Francisco Vera

Climate Change Youth Activist, UNICEF

Colombian activist Francisco Vera is the first youth advocate for environmental and climate action in Latin America and the Caribbean, named by UNICEF. Based in Spain, Francisco began his activism at the age of nine and has been a passionate defender of the right to a healthy environment through his work with the group Guardians for Life.

Through social media and engagement with a virtual environmental activism program and school network, Francisco amplifies his fight for climate action, children’s rights, climate justice, and human rights. As a UNICEF advocate, the thirteen-year-old is working to inspire more children to participate in environmental decision-making and is currently preparing for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (SB58) meetings and negotiations.

The young Latino environmental leader emphasizes the importance of collective action, stating in a UNICEF release, “We must not forget that no matter where we are, how old we are, or where we are: We can all work for life and act.”

8. Xiye Bastida

Co-founder, Re-Earth Initiative

Xiye Bastida, a 21-year-old Mexican American climate justice activist and indigenous rights advocate, champions indigenous wisdom and principles as solutions to the climate crisis. She gained prominence as an organizer with Fridays For Future and is the co-founder and executive director of the Re-Earth Initiative, an international youth-led organization supporting frontline youth across twenty-seven countries.

Xiye received the 2018 UN Spirit Award and was named TIME100 Next in 2023. Currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying environmental studies and policy, she continues to amplify indigenous voices and advocate for climate justice on a global scale.

@forbes Xiye Bastida, cofounder of the Re-Earth Initiative, spoke about the power of Gen-Z at the #Forbes3050 Summit. #womenempowerment #womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #sustainability #climatecrisis #climatechange ♬ original sound – Forbes

9. Adriana Guerrero

Executive Director, Salted Roots (formerly Brown Girl Surf)

Adriana Guerrero is the executive director of Salted Roots (formerly Brown Girl Surf), where she champions inclusive surf culture through community programming, collaboration with ally organizations, and advocacy for equitable coastal policies. With over fifteen years of experience in education and youth development, Adriana utilizes a community-based approach to pursue social justice and empowerment.

Throughout her career, she has worked globally with diverse communities, emphasizing socio-economic, cultural, and linguistic inclusivity.

Adriana has also served on the leadership team for Women’s March Oakland, as the Secretary on the Board of Directors at Camp Phoenix, and as the Alpha Chi Omega Chapter Advisor at UC Berkeley.

Recognized for her impactful contributions, Adriana was recently featured on The 100 Latinos Most Committed to Climate Action list, highlighting her commitment to climate activism, environmental rights, and sustainable policies.

10. Belén Páez

President, Fundación Pachamama

Ecuadorian ecologist Belén Páez specializes in climate change, the Amazon, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. As the secretary general of the Amazon Sacred Watersheds Initiative, she collaborates with multiple indigenous groups to protect thirty-five million hectares of land. She also currently serves as the executive director of the Pachama Foundation.

For twenty-five years, Páez has led programs focusing on forest economies, ecotourism, renewable energies, and legal actions for nature and climate justice. Her advocacy has contributed to significant victories for the protection of tropical forests and indigenous land rights in Ecuador and Peru.

Currently serving as the president of the Terra Mater Association, Páez is passionate about systemic transitions and envisions an evolution towards post-extractive economies in the next decade.

11. Daniel Cáceres

Regional Representative, Sustainable Ocean Alliance; Legislative Advisor, Congress of the Republic of Peru

Daniel Cáceres is a regional representative for the Sustainable Ocean Alliance Hub in Peru and co-founder of the Taking Care of the Ocean collective. He has spearheaded multiple marine biodiversity and conservation projects, ranging from connecting with humpback whales to documenting new reefs in northern Peru.

Recognized for his impactful contributions, Cáceres won the Hreljac Medal in 2016 for the greatest impact on National Sustainable Development and the Agent of Change award from the Scientific University of the South in 2017. He founded Cuidando el mar, the largest ocean collective group in Peru, and established SOA Perú as the first international hub of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, currently the largest network of young ocean leaders in Peru with chapters in every coastal department.

12. Enric Sala

Explorer in Residence, National Geographic

Former university professor Enric Sala transitioned into a full-time conservationist as a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, focusing on protecting critical marine ecosystems globally. He founded and currently leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire the protection of the last wild places in the ocean.

Under Sala’s leadership, Pristine Seas has facilitated the creation of twenty-seven of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of 6.6 million square km. Committed to raising environmental awareness, he produces documentaries and media content highlighting the importance of a healthy environment.

Sala has been honored with numerous awards, including the 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2013 Environmental Media Association Hero Award, 2016 Russian Geographical Society Award, and 2018 Heinz Award in Public Policy. He is also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Honorable Mention: Verena Meraldi

Chief Scientist, Hurtigruten Expeditions

Dr. Verena Meraldi is the cruise industry’s first chief scientist, and she is using her position to advocate for a cruising and adventure travel mode that is better for the planet.

Born in Mexico City, the Mexican Swiss scientist’s curiosity regarding the natural world motivated her decision to dedicate her life to biology. In 2018, she was named chief scientist at sustainable expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a 130-year-old Norwegian company.

Hurtigruten is a leader in the cruising industry when it comes to environmental and social sustainability so it’s no surprise it was the first in the industry to create a chief scientist role. “We wanted to increase awareness amongst our guests by exposing them to the scientific world and knew we needed a dedicated person to develop the science and education program. I was very fortunate to be involved from the very beginning, even in the creation of the job description for my position,” Meraldi says.

Read the full Hispanic Executive feature.

One person holds a plant's dirt roots and hands them off to another

As we commemorate Earth Day, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate the invaluable contributions of Latino environmental leaders. From grassroots activists to international influencers, these individuals are driving change, protecting ecosystems, and advocating for a sustainable future for all.

Through their dedication, innovation, and passion, they are reshaping the narrative and setting the course for a more inclusive and environmentally conscious world. Their stories serve as powerful reminders of the vital role Latino environmental leaders play in shaping and advancing the global climate agenda.

This article was written with the assistance of AI.

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