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Enriched by Her Connection to the Land

July 24, 2021

Green 2.0 Team


Johana Vicente, Chispa National Senior Director at League of Conservation Voters

A Q&A with Johana Vicente

By Betsy López-Wagner & Alfredo Ramirez

Johana Vicente is a climate and environmental justice advocate working to grow the political power of Latinx communities. In celebration of Latino Conservation Week, Vicente, a woman of color and immigrant from Loja, Ecuador, shared what keeps her inspired in the fight for climate justice and equity.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your work, and what keeps you inspired to work in environmental conservation.

My name is Johana Vicente. I am an immigrant, a woman of color, an aunt, a sister, and a daughter. I serve as the Chispa National Senior Director at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) based in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region.

I was raised by my parents and grandparents in Ecuador, in a small town surrounded by mountains and all the beauties mother earth has to offer. I grew up en el campo, in the countryside and while we did not have a lot of monetary resources growing up, we were always enriched by the connection to the land, to the mountains, to the rivers, and to the community around us who always made sure we took care of each other.

My parents migrated when I was very young. They desired better economic opportunities and a better future for us. My siblings and I followed in migrating years later when I was 12.  How I was raised, and my immigration story has really defined who I am today. Like many others, migrating came with loss and grief – I lost the connection to a lot of my family, and I also lost a connection to the land, to who I am.

Working for Chispa, a community organizing program that builds the power of Latinx communities to fight for climate justice and make sure that our communities are a strong voice in the environmental movement has helped me reconnect with my roots. As the Senior Director, I support programs across the country in building community power through grassroots organizing and pushing for bold federal climate solutions centered on communities of color and low-income communities.

Photo courtesy of Johana Vicente

Q: How do you define the work you do?

When I started working with Chispa as an organizer in 2015, I felt that I was regaining a sense of connection to the land that I had lost for so many years. But even more than that, I was able to make the connection that the environment is everything around us — it is the air we breathe, the water that we drink, and the land around us. And that so many families of color just like mine continue to live in the most polluted areas in this country and around the world and that it is all deeply rooted in racism and white supremacy just like our broken immigration system or our education systems. More so that, I realized that transformative, bold solutions to the climate crisis will not come from the top. They have to be centered and led by the communities most impacted. And that is why I do this work, to ensure that people who look like me have a seat at the table.

Q: What will you be doing, personally and as part of LCV’s Chispa, to celebrate this Latino Conservation Week?

 I will be traveling to Connecticut to reconnect with amazing women of color and sisters in the movement. We will explore the natural beauty the state has to offer. I also hope to get into local urban parks in the DMV area this week. I love being outside, going on hikes, and feeling connected to nature. One of my favorite things about living on the East Coast is the beauty of a hike in between the woods, surrounded by the peaceful sound of creeks and trees. I hope to enjoy that this week and beyond as much as I can. 

To me celebrating Latino Conservation Week also means continuing to advocate for climate justice solutions that will help to protect the environment for our communities and generations to come. With record-breaking heat waves, fires, flooding, and other natural disasters, it is imperative that we work with communities to create climate resiliency and fight for climate justice.

Q: How can we as individuals support your work and the efforts of our fellow Latino/a/x leaders?

My advice is to get involved locally! We have a unique opportunity for bold federal climate solutions that are imperative to protecting our environment and communities. If you are in Maryland, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, or Texas, get involved and support the efforts of our Chispa chapters. You can also support our work by calling your decision-makers at the federal level and demanding climate action. Follow us on social media @ChispaLCV for more information on how to get involved. 

Following, supporting, and amplifying the work of Latinx leaders can also further bring awareness and show that we are strong leaders in this movement. 

Q: Any advice for fellow Latino/a/x who are new to climate and environmental conservation, or to those who would like to help act on climate and related injustices?

My advice for my fellow Latino/a/x who are in this space is to be mindful of burnout and to practice self-care above all. We work in a field where everything can feel urgent and that can take a toll on us. Finding the things that inspire you and that restore your energy is only going to help you recharge your passion for this work. 

Also, as a woman of color in a white-led environmental space, sometimes navigating those dynamics can be a challenge. In my time at LCV, I have worked to build community with other people of color, and especially women of color to create spaces of learning and sharing and it has made such a difference in my life and professional growth. My advice is to find those spaces. You can learn so much from each other as peers. 

Q: What was the last motivational or wellness-related news you read that may be useful to others luchando – fighting – for power and Madre Tierra?

The Cartwright School District in Arizona recently got their first electric school buses. This is something that Chispa AZ and the local mamas and young people had been working on for years. I found it to be so motivational to me – to  see this happening reminded me of how important it is to invest in long-term community organizing and what we, with the power of comunidades, can achieve. 

For more information about Johana Vicente, follow Johana on Twitter @johana_iguana.

To learn more about Chispa LCV, visit and follow on Twitter @ChispaLCV.