Everyone invited to posada, a traditional Latin American Christmas-season tradition, on public land | AspenTimes.com

Everyone invited to posada, a traditional Latin American Christmas-season tradition, on public land

At family with their Christmas tree that they cut themselves at the 2021 posada Christmas tree-cutting event.
Courtesy of Omar Sarabia

Comforting food, warm drinks, and community all comprise the traditional Latin American Christmas-season tradition of posadas. Different cultures and nationalities celebrate in many ways, but the Mexican tradition always includes tamales and champurrado — or Mexican hot chocolate. 

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wilderness Workshop’s Latinx outreach program Defiende Nuestra Tierra is partnering with the White River National Forest for a free Posada Christmas Tree-cutting event near Babbish Gulch in Glenwood Springs. 

Wilderness Workshop purchased tree-cutting permits from the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District for attendees. And, keeping with Mexican tradition, tamales and champurrado will be provided. All are welcome to enjoy traditional posada refreshments and choose and cut down their own Christmas tree. Tree-cutting permits and policy pamphlets will include both English and Spanish instructions.

“You have to have tamales. Otherwise, it’s not a posada,” said Defiende director Omar Sarabia. 

This is the third year that Defiende and the Forest Service have partnered for a posada tree-cutting event. It is part of a long-term concerted effort to engage the Latino community in public land use in the Roaring Fork Valley, which is a historically neglected group in public land use. 

The Hispanic population in Eagle and Garfield counties is approximately 30%. In Pitkin County, Hispanic people account for about 11% of the demographic, according to the Colorado State Demography Office. In the Roaring Fork School District, Hispanic students make up more than half of the student body. 

Yet, Defiende is one of few, if not the only, bilingual programs focused on public-land use and conservation in the Roaring Fork Valley. And, the engagement vacuum goes both ways.

Sarabia said a lack of Spanish-language materials and the intimidating nature of a uniformed federal employee contributed to the longstanding lack of trust between the Latino community and institutions like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 

“We try to cut down all the barriers to use public lands, (like) language, but also (rangers) look like cops or border control,” Sarabia said.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District said they are committed to listening to the needs of the Latino community and making changes wherever possible.

“We want to make the forest a welcoming and inclusive environment,” said Jennifer Schuller, deputy district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. 

Their plan includes community outreach like the annual posada tree-cutting event and also ensuring all press releases and public materials get published in both Spanish and English.

“Creating trust with the community, listening, and understanding the Latino community is important to us. Creating positive experiences like these types of events, and we’re looking to provide translation in Spanish for a lot (of our work),” Schuller added.

Sarabia said that he is working with the forest service to get all signage in the White River National Forest both in English and Spanish. That covers signs across 2.3 million acres of land, so it is a long-term project.

A Christmas tree-cutting event with pamphlets in Spanish and English is just the beginning. 

Sarabia also said that he and another translator will be available at the event for questions, though he hopes the bilingual materials provided by the forest service will meet the attendees’ needs.

For those who cannot attend the event, tree permits are available for purchase at the White River National Forest website, as well as at certain retailers in the community. Each permit costs $10 with a maximum of five permits per person. The tree must be for personal use and cannot be resold.

Those who buy a permit may cut down a tree shorter than 15 feet and less than 6 inches in stump diameter. Cut as close to the ground as possible and make sure the permit is pinned to the tree during transport. Upon purchasing a permit, the forest service issues a map of allowed and prohibited sites for cutting down a tree. 

“Come, and cut your own tree. This is your forest; these are your lands,” implored Sarabia. 
The event is free, but space is limited. Register at the Wilderness Workshop website under the Defiende Nuestra Tierra page.


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