My name is Branca Sánchez and I am a rising Junior at Emory University. I am majoring in International Studies and Business Administration. Additionally, I study assimilation and discrimination patterns among the growing Hispanic community in Atlanta as a Sociology research assistant. Although I’m not an Atlanta native, I’ve begun to call A-town home! I am originally from Quito, Ecuador, but grew up in South Florida, home of several National Parks like Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.
I’ve always loved the beach. However, I only learned to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of Florida’s wildlife in Marine Biology camp. I spent two and a half Summers on Virginia Key Beach, exploring the dense mangroves, walking along the tidal flats, and enjoying as much of the diverse environment as I could.
Interestingly enough, I only recently learned why Virginia Key Beach is historic. Until the 1920’s black people in Miami weren’t allowed on Miami’s ‘public’ beaches – that was until Virginia Key Beach. Virginia Key was one of the first Black designated beaches in Miami. It was a getaway for Black families, a place for fun and healthy recreation.
Although I appreciate the peace and beauty of nature, to me, the most important aspect of our National Parks is their incredible power to bring people together. Parks especially provide poor, urban, and minority communities with affordable recreation. For this reason, I am very excited to be a Latino Heritage Intern! This Summer I will be working with the Partnerships department in the National Parks Service’s Southeast regional office. I will be engaging the Atlanta community, more specifically the Latino community, with several projects to increase use of national and local parks! I especially look forward to collaborating with Latino organizations to promote these green spaces.
Until next time,