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These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.

Jose Reyeros sees his Latinx culture as a pathway to climate resilience. Co-founder and leader of Ritmos Climáticos, the 23-year-old University of British Columbia graduate from Mexico merges a good time with the hard work of community organizing.

Tell us about your project.

Ritmos Climáticos is a youth-led movement mobilizing culture for climate justice. All the facts and strategy won’t save us without our stories, food, music, rhythms and values. Our co-founder Mackenzie Kuenz’s samba dancing is just as important as her climate justice activism. My passion for scuba diving defines me, as does my interest in systems. Other group members’ talents for playing the Brazilian pandeiro, cumbia dancing, storytelling and caring for each other inspire and ground us as much as their support for Indigenous sovereignty and community organizing.

Our culture is the product of our ancestors’ wisdom. Their connection to the land kept them going. It will also sustain us. It is key to our future.

We have come together just by being friends in the most informal way possible. We are not “COP-28 people.” We are ordinary students, immigrants and workers who believe everyone has a superpower rooted in their own culture. If we practice using it, we can find the collective strength to stay present in the deep conversations.

At the beginning, we came together to enjoy music and food and build community through our Latinx roots. We noticed a pattern. If we felt connected to each other and our cultures, it might feel safe to allow the discussion to turn to the political. We could stay together while we asked hard questions and explored the tough answers.

We began to co-sponsor events. For example, in collaboration with the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation and Ocean Wise, 30 people joined us in downtown Vancouver in early 2024 as we hosted two storytellers from Brazil and Mexico connected to water through their spirituality and culture.

They taught us that, like Indigenous people here, they see their lands and waters as part of an ecosystem which is also their home and not as commodities separate from them. The relationship is based not on extraction and oppression, but on reciprocity and mutual empathy. We shared songs that remind us our ecosystems are embedded in our music and reflect the spiritual relations our ancestors had with waterways and oceans. Our food is a direct connection to the land. If we remember to listen, smell, see, taste and feel, we can remember the connection in our bodies.

Jose Reyeros sees his# Latinx #culture as a pathway to #climate resilience. The 23-year-old University of British Columbia graduate is co-founder and leader of #RitmosClimáticos. #youth

Other events have raised topics like how yoga is being actively colonized, creating collective well-being, re-centring Indigenous knowledge and the oppression of Indigenous people in the Global South by Canadian mining companies. At all these events, as we ask about our respective responsibilities to act, we share music and food and build deep community.

Jose Reyeros diving in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Photo by Aoki Yamada

What brought you into this work?

I am inspired by my older brother and sister who work at the intersection of youth empowerment and climate change in Latin America. They are often engaged with deeply corrupt, complex systems and yet stay connected to themselves as whole people and strongly encourage those with whom they work to do so, too.

What makes this work hard?

I have to figure out how to make a living and keep up my studies. I would like to think that this kind of organizing could be my livelihood, but it doesn’t always seem that way. I want to help more youth get paid green jobs. I would like our activism experience to be seen as valuable for employers.

What keeps you awake at night?

For a long time, it was the urgency. But it was not sustainable for me to feel how close the catastrophes are on an ongoing basis. I build resilience with a different question, which also excites me enough to keep me awake but in a positive way: “How can I use my privilege, knowledge and synergies with young leaders to be part of the radical change that we need?”

What gives you hope?

My vision for the future is best said in the poem Co-sensing with Radical Tenderness by Dani D’Emilia and Vanessa Andreotti: “To break our hearts open but not apart.” I attended Starfish Canada’s 2024 Youth ChangeMakers' Summit and saw and felt many spiritual connections being made. It made me hopeful and connected.

What would you like to say to other young people?

We don’t have the time or privilege to reinvent wheels, so do listen to your elders. But if their ways are not making the positive changes we need, hold onto the radical ideas of your imagination. Just be smart about what you do with them.

What about older readers?

Divest your pension funds from oil, gas and coal. Follow calls to action for Truth & Reconciliation. Reconnect with the land.