In Part 1 of this series, we covered climate refugees. In Part 2, we covered Military B.R.A.T.s and nature. In this final part, we hear from Bianca Acosta, an immigrant who through the natural world, reconnected and found her way back home.
The natural world can bring a sense of familiarity for some Third Culture Kids (TCKs). In an unfamiliar world, nature can be common ground. But a strong connection with nature can also have its downfalls.
Connection with nature turned to culture shock
Bianca Acosta (she/they) grew up in a small village in Zacatecas, Mexico. Acosta is a two-spirited woman. Two-spirit refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and feminine spiritual identity. In the village, Acosta had a very close relationship with nature.
“I grew up knowing that I am a part of nature. That I am the youngest sibling of my brothers and sisters that are the animals and the plants, the spirit of the mountain and the river,” Acosta said.
At the age of 15, Acosta emigrated to Aurora, Colo., U.S.A. for a better education. Accustomed to living in a village where everyone knew each other, she immediately faced a big culture shock.
Furthermore, the connection with nature that Acosta considered to be one of her “biggest blessings” began to diminish.
“Coming into the unites states, one of the first things that really culturally shook me was how that [nature] was not very accessible for communities,” Acosta said.
Inaccessibility of nature for immigrants
“I was seeking to have that connection I grew up with, with the land, and with nature,” Acosta said. But as an undocumented immigrant, she couldn’t obtain a driver’s license, making recreational areas harder to access. So Acosta attempted to turn to parks to connect with nature. Instead, Acosta received a clear message: Her way of life would not be honored in Colorado.
“Even going to parks as a person of color, there was always that caution from our family members,” said Acosta. But going to the parks meant questions from the police and complaints saying their group was being too loud. Acosta soon fell into a deep depression; going through education only made her feel more disconnected and less assimilated.
Reconnection with Mother Earth
Acosta graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and a focus on multiculturalism. An opportunity to visit Peru came to Acosta. She went on the trip.
“When I was there and I started to see the children just being one with nature just like I grew up, I started to remember. I started to remember who I am, where I come from. The wisdom of my ancestors, and how valuable what I had to bring was, anywhere that I was. I started to remember no matter where I am, Mother Earth is always sustaining me,” said Acosta.
She returned from the trip with revelations and memories. However, Acosta had to set her new memories and findings aside in order to fit in. But then, Acosta began a deeper journey of reconnecting.
Importantly, Acosta became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This allowed her to get a license, a job and a car.
Journey to healing
Above all, Acosta began to heal.
“I started to go back, to remember the teachings of my grandparents, the teaching of my people, my ancestors,” she said. “As I reconnected to the land, to the people that were here, I started to heal myself from going through those experiences as an immigrant, as a person of color.”
Following graduation, Acosta began working as a teacher. She began sharing what she learned from her journey as an immigrant with her students. She shares teachings about the importance of connecting with our roots. For instance, keeping native languages alive, highlighting the beauty of brown skin, and learning about our resilient ancestors.
Meanwhile, Acosta took her students on a field trip to the Growhaus. The Growhaus’s goal is “to cultivate community-driven food justice through education and food access,” their website says. She immediately knew that she belonged there.
Growhaus allowed Acosta “To be in spaces where I could be my most authentic self, and could feel that I’m allowed to be me, that I have a lot to bring from my journey,” she said.
A meaningful and long-lasting impact
Acosta ends with notes about how a meaningful and long-lasting difference can be made. She wants people to go deeper, to connect with nature, but not just as a form of recreation or hobby. “Go deeper into the teachings of Mother Earth,” Acosta said.
Furthermore, she suggests reflecting on your access to nature. Question if you have the privilege to have access to those spaces. What you can be doing to ensure other folks also have that access like communities of color and immigrant communities?
“It’s been a blessed journey and always having the opportunity to reconnect with nature gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m home,” she said. “Like this world is my home.”
It’s been a blessed journey and always having the opportunity to reconnect with nature gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m home.Bianca Acosta