Latinx Heritage Month: Culture, Environment, and Metzali

Throughout Latinx Heritage Month, we will be profiling the experiences and perspectives of Latinx SFPUC staff. In celebration and acknowledgement of the rich diversity of our teams and the role that culture plays in enriching our work, we’re proud to present the unique perspective below.

Metzali Andrade

My name is Metzali Andrade, I am an environmental justice educator, an indigenous woman, and dedicated to working towards a healthier and more sustainable future. 

I am a Pipil-Purepecha Mexican-Salvadoran-American. I was born in Los Angeles as the first generation on my father’s (Pipil Salvadoran) side and the second generation on my mother’s (Purepecha Mexican) side. I was raised to have respect and love for both sides of my heritage and throughout my life, I have rooted myself deeper into these bonds. As an indigenous person with mixed heritage and a part of two diasporas, I find it important to honor my lineages and sense of responsibility to the indigenous communities still living in our homelands.

Answering that call, for me, meant following the path of traditional ecological knowledge and watershed restoration. I have dedicated my time to urban farming, gardening, native seeds and foods, along with watershed restoration efforts. Education is key to expanding our minds on a personal, social, and intellectual level. 

Mentors, teachers, and professors throughout my life have inspired me to utilize my experiences and position as a woman of color to tackle the injustices in my community. This has often meant finding the balance between addressing difficult conversations in the spaces where it mattered and finding compassion and patience when processing collective unlearning. Environmental injustices are normalized into society’s day to day needs, especially for lower income families and BIPOC families. As a person raised in Bakersfield, California, I grew up believing that active oil rigs near a waterway or neighborhood was the norm. Not until I started learning more about  environmental justice and the empirical impacts environmental policies and the fossil fuel industry have had on my community’s health and wealth that I was able to connect the dots between the financial and health disparities my family and community suffered as a result of toxic air quality, pesticide exposure, etc. The legacies of colonization continue to impact our environment and shape policies that are detrimental to our youth and local ecologies. 

In my work, as a site steward and an educator at College Hill Learning Garden, I create a space for youth to process, relate, comprehend, and generate passionate solutions that will equip the next generation with the inner tools they need to address past, present, and future challenges. Inspiring change through passion and creativity is critical to fueling the next generation’s inner fire and love for learning. 

The College Hill Learning Garden is a unique learning site engineered to reflect a curriculum of eight stewardship principles. The seven principles are intended to foster the next generation of environmental stewards. Among the seven are: Healthy Watersheds, Planting for a Healthy Environment, Our Shared Habitat, and Power in the City.

Metzali Andrade conducting a session in the College Hill Learning Garden in 2019.

It is important for all industries to be inclusive, welcoming, and justice-oriented environments. Considering the history of utilities in California and the nation, the proprietorship of land and water continue to have lasting impacts on BIPOC’s communities. From indigenous displacement to enslaved labor to policies institutionalizing discriminations and disparities. It is our responsibility, no matter where we are, to acknowledge and cut these ties in order to move towards a more just and healthy future. A critical part of moving towards this future is centering BIPOC voices and solutions in all professions.