My name is Alcides Fuentes, and I am a recently graduated transfer student. My family and I are from El Salvador and immigrated to the United States in 2007. I grew up in the Bay area and became interested in Political Science and Climate Change during my time in community college. I transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 2021 to finish my double major in Global Environmental Justice and Latin American Latino Studies. In summer 2022, I studied abroad on the Agroecology Practicum global seminar in Guatemala.
During the program, we visited various farms to learn about their sustainable farming practices, met many local and indigenous farmers who taught us traditional methods of indigenous land care and food sovereignty, learned about the rich history of Agroecology, the Campesino a Campesino movement, and indigenous culture, shared delicious meals, and explored remote parts of Guatemala. Through this experience in Guatemala, I learned about the importance of food systems, eating locally, and knowing where your food comes from. Our local hosts taught us about the ways in which growing healthy, sustainable food and teaching people how to do the same can improve a communities well-being, spiritual satisfaction, economic prosperity, and many other aspects of their lives. We also learned about the rich connections between indigenous people, their lands, the things they grow and eat, and their perspectives on how they live their lives.
As a native Latino, I also got to exercise my translation and planning skills, oftentimes helping to plan out the day’s activities or translating the topics that we were learning about from Spanish to English or the other way around. I practiced my interviewing skills as well as video journalism, and while I wasn’t able to capture every single thing on my camera, this trip became an amazing learning experience for me.
While I was away, I felt challenged by the familiarity yet newness that was traveling to Guatemala. Because of my identity of being a first-generation Salvadoran immigrant, I was physically close to where I used to live with my family when I was younger, but also emotionally close to the content that I was learning about during my trip. When historical events such as the civil war in Guatemala were mentioned, my emotions arose, having known about the civil war in El Salvador and having experienced firsthand the secondary impacts of the armed conflict and how it had impacted my parents and their well-being as well as my own mental health growing up. However, it was great “being from there” since I was able to connect easily to the people with which we were staying, as well as my student peers. It was a weird experience being from both worlds, but it made me realize how important my experiences were and how my identities allowed me to navigate different environments and social settings.
As a transfer student of color, double majoring in Global Environmental Justice and Latin American Latino Studies, I gained insight into the possibilities that exist for traveling and possibly working abroad in similar social or environmental justice-related fields. Through the program, I made lifelong friends and connections and I am excited to apply these new perspectives and skills to the world and my life going forward.