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NPS Leaders Talk About Diversity

Chamizal National Memorial

National Park News

Chamizal National Memorial hosted three unique events on Wednesday, May 27th, that focused on Hispanic culture and diversity within the NPS. A discussion with middle school students from the El Paso lead off the events. This was followed by a public forum with Hispanic superintendents from around the nation, and an evening presentation by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Invited NPS leaders included superintendents Josie Fernandez, John Lujan, Michael Quijano-West, Joseph Sanchez, and Dennis Vasquez as well as Associate Regional Director for Natural Resources Richard Harris, and former Superintendent Ernesto Ortega. Filmmaker Ken Burns also participated in the public events. The group of NPS leaders discussed their life stories, touched on employee diversity within the NPS, and answered critical questions from the audience.

Local middle school audiences were invited to Chamizal to be a part of a discussion with the NPS leaders that addressed careers in the NPS. Invited students were predominantly of Hispanic heritage, which is a segment of the overall population that is under-represented both as visitors to national parks and as employees within the agency.

Ken Burns also did a special presentation on National Park Service diversity. The film producer showed the audience a special 45 minute preview of his larger documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” which will premiere on PBS stations around the country on September 27th. According to the producer, the documentary strives to show the real history of the NPS. “The true, honest, complicated past” of the NPS involves not just the Muir’s and Roosevelt’s, but also the Melendez-Wright’s, Buffalo Soldiers, and others, says Burns.

Joseph Sanchez, superintendent of the Intermountain Spanish Colonial Research Center and Petroglyph National Monument, stated that although the NPS protects the American story, “our national story is actually an international story.” The American story involves heavy undertones of Spanish, French, British, and Mexican influence, among others.


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