12/18/2020

Advocate Spotlight: Monserrat Alvarez Matehuala

Monserrat is the Membership and Inclusion Coordinator for the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). Since starting the position in 2018, members of the guiding community have noted amazing policy changes that have created a more welcoming guiding culture. “I’ve personally felt more comfortable and open in my profession, and I know that her work has opened up the narrative of who can be a leader in the climbing community,” says AMGA Guide Lor Sabourin. Monserrat is also the Outdoor Program Director for Brown Girls Climb (BGC), where she works to create inclusive opportunities for underrepresented communities to climb and explore outdoors.

Squamish, British Columbia, ancestral lands of Coast Salish and Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w (Squamish).

"Many people don’t realize how much energy it takes to do this work. Monserrat constantly challenges and educates herself to improve how she supports others around her. These personal standards are part of what makes her such a force. Although we still have a long way to go, her passion for accessible outdoor education has influenced many climbers and providers to move forward in this conversation. I'm incredibly grateful to call her a close friend and to witness the impact she's made in the industry," says BGC Founder and CEO Bethany Lebewitz. When she’s not working to create a more diverse, inclusive, and just climbing community, Monserrat can be found nurturing every animal within a one mile radius and celebrating her Indigenous roots through food and community connection.

5 Questions for Monserrat

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a cause at this point, but rather a collective shift in consciousness in our climbing community(ies). The many causes folks in marginalized communities have pushed for and elevated to the spotlight over the years have created this momentum. Whether we are addressing accessibility to climbing, creating inclusive spaces, acknowledging the inherent displacement of Indigenous people, or advocating for overall justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion—the many stones that we have each laid down are creating new paths for our communities. I trust that this momentum and shift will create long-lasting change in our industry.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
Being an advocate means that you use your power, voice, and social capital to elevate voices that are often ignored or silenced within our climbing community, while also realizing that the climbing community and the issues at hand are a reflection of our society at large. It means putting yourself at the service of your communities and always remembering to ask “who isn’t at the table and how do we change that?”

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Never forget that we stand at intersections of our many identities, life experiences, and passions—we don’t have to compartmentalize who we are. We can and should always show up fully in our lives, even in climbing spaces where it doesn’t always feel safe to show up wholly. By bringing everything that we are, we not only bring unique perspectives to the table, but we also show others that it is okay to show up as we are, and always be open to learning.

What excites you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
What excites me the most is that there are so many of us doing the work, from different approaches and different experiences, to push the outdoor industry to do and be better. When I started working in the outdoor industry, nearly eight years ago, I felt really alone in these conversations. It’s beautiful to see this shift in the industry and where it can take us.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
I definitely have to shout out my fellow Brown Girls Climb crew: Brittany Leavitt, Sasha McGhee, Laura Edmonson, Jael Berger, and all of our local leaders who are the heart of our meetups and organization.

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