Interview by Juan García Oyervides
Transcription and response by Allison Rebling
Yo soy Astrid García. Vengo del sur de california. Nací en el desierto de Mojave, Allí se movieron mis papás después de emigrar de Manzanillo, Colima, al fin de los 80s. Yo crecí explorando el desierto y cuando fui al community college fue cuando decidí hacer una carrera en geología. Recientemente recibí mi grado en Geología de la Universidad de California en Riverside.
Cuando estuve en la universidad fui presidente de un club de geología. Estuve ayudando a los estudiantes a aprender más de las piedras, minerales, temblores, de todas las cosas. También hacíamos trabajo voluntario donde hacíamos limpiezas en los ríos a través de la organización llamada the rivers and lands conservancy. Me gustaba mucho hacer este tipo de trabajo para mostrarle a otras estudiantes que este trabajo is not only for white people. En mi trabajo con diferentes organizaciones profesionales no he visto mucha gente joven, especialmente mujeres de color.
In this interview with Ashly Villa Ortega points out a couple ideas of how she wants to spread awareness through her type of activism and tell a story of how she links the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Through her college years, Ashly was involved in UMAS y MECHA, a Chicanx and Latinx group at the University of Colorado Boulder.
UMAS y MECHA’s (United Mexican American Students y Mecha) goal is to encourage respect, dignity, justice and equality for the Chicana/Chicano people.
Has your personal and cultural identity influenced the way you see your work as a Geologist?
Absolutely. Although I have had a lot of people who have been very supportive of my journey, I have encountered negative people as well. People with racist sentiments, who didn’t think I was good enough. So I just want to empower other people and show them that despite any of those negative sentiments, you just push that to the side and you continue pursuing what makes you happy.
The program where I am right now, the Latino Heritage Internship Program was created by the national park service and it's administered in partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation and the Environment for the Americas. This youth program is designed to provide internship opportunities to young adults, like myself, in diverse, professional fields within the national park service. And the program also helps raise awareness of national parks and historic sites and their accessibility and the need for Latino communities involvement in the preservation of those sites.
I’m currently an Outreach and Interpretation Assistant at Florissant Fossil Beds national monument in Colorado. I work at the park and I do interpretation two days of the week where I connect the scientific resources, particularly the geology and the paleontology of the park, in an understandable way to the visitors that come. At the same time, I research different ideas on how to do Latino outreach on the local and nationwide scale. I want to bring awareness to the Latino communities around this area so they can come visit the park because there’s less than 5% Latino visitors that visit, and I want to be able to relate the park to Latino culture, and I’m doing that through various projects that I’m currently working on.
How would you describe the ways in which gender roles have impacted your experience staying at home?
I think it plays a huge role for, being the only daughter and the oldest too. So in a lot of ways I think that has forced me to take on a caretaker role. I feel in the position to be a caretaker and whereas for my brother for example, I think that. it’s a very different situation for him, in relation to my parents and other family members in the household. When my cousin passed away, a couple days later I had gotten my acceptance letter to law school. I just got accepted to two different law schools, but I didn’t really tell my parents right away because I knew we were still dealing with the grieving process, figuring out the funeral plans. Immediately I realized that no, I can’t bring that up. I had to go into this caretaker role and make sure that they have food and make sure they are eating, and making sure everyone is keeping their minds busy. Not sharing those important news came instinctively... and I didn’t realize that until long after after. Why didn’t I say anything at that point? It was because of that role I had to take up -if feelt like I had to. I've been making sure that everyone was OK before anything good can happen for me.
This project was very intriguing. I have learned a couple things from Ashly, like being creative and finding new ways to present ideas to people. It was cool to learn about her experiences during the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her own form of activism.