#DefendersofFun is a look into the adventurous lives of outdoor advocates who are working to better the outdoor community and protect the wild places we have fun in. Their story, their own words. Share your outdoor story on Instagram @DefendersofFun #DefendersofFun.
“My name is Marciela, born and raised in Los Angeles. I come from a working class family that had no true exposure to the outdoors, physical activity, or healthy living.
My dad hoarded National Geographic magazines. I remember sitting on the floor, flipping page after page. I would look at the cover and be blown away by how majestic each adventure was. I aspired to be an outdoor person, but I didn’t know where to start or who to ask or what my ‘thing’ was. It was unheard of in my family; I was the black sheep.
I was also facing a physical disability that deterred me from participating in those things: At the age of seven, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. Physical pain became my worst enemy and my companion. I wore a back brace for the majority of my life. I still participated in a lot of sports, though, because I just yearned to be active.
My freshman year in college, my dorm mate invited me to the student recreation climbing wall. I talked to my dad about it and he said, ‘Es para locos y peligroso [it’s for crazy folk and it’s dangerous].’
My dad was battling colon cancer at the time. I wanted to be strong emotionally and physically for my family. I sought out a job at the Student Rec Center and was hired to work for the Outdoor Excursions challenge course, and I began to find my sense of self. Climbing humbled my state of mind and pushed me to take appropriate risks, even in my daily life.
I had long talks with my dad about climbing, showing him videos and pictures, talking about it like it was the boy of my dreams.
My dad passed away from colon cancer in March 2012. By the next spring, I was climbing pretty much every day. It was my senior year and I was super scared and excited, figuring out my next move in life. Then I met the head honcho from Mad Rock without really knowing who he was. We started talking and I told him ‘I have to put my big girl pants on and go home and help my mom out; climbing will have to be put on the back burner.’
He basically offered me a position at Mad Rock the very next day.
Now, I work for Disability Rights Legal Center—the work I do impacts the disability litigation in LA by connecting the disability community with critical legal information and resources. I’ve also worked for several years with Mad Rock Climbing, and I’m a volunteer for Latino Outdoors as the Lead Coordinator for Los Angeles.
I’m working on getting under-represented communities from different areas of LA out to their local state and national parks. We do monthly hikes, climbing events, and work on expanding accessibility to different types of outings. I want to create a snowball effect that enhances the experience of Spanish-speaking families while building a new wave of outdoor enthusiasts.
I started climbing and heading outside later in life, and I am sure that many are in the same boat as I am. Just because we started later in life does not mean we live under rocks. Everyone has their own story but we all can relate with one another and realize despite our socio-economic status, religion, capabilities…the outdoors is awesome.
I’m not a fan of heights. I know I’m a climber, but there’s just something about jumping off a bouldering problem that doesn’t sit well with me. One time, I was bouldering in Joshua Tree and had to jump down from about 10 feet. There were maybe six stacked crash pads below me, but for the life of me I just couldn’t jump. Well, at this point a group of 10 climbers were counting down for me. Pressure much? As I’m about to jump, my butt wanted to keep me on the boulder while the rest of my body was ready to go down. Face plant. Now I always check if there is a down climb.”
—As told to Dirtbag Darling