The brisk morning temperatures couldn’t stop our dedicated volunteers from showing up for this year’s Caja del Rio Earth Day celebration on April 22nd. More than 100 people from student-led organizations, native youth groups, and eco-conscious community members joined the activities – and with the theme titled “Invest in our Future,” we certainly demonstrated the shared investment we feel for the Caja.

The day began with a welcome introduction before ascending into the cliffside for a guided hiking tour of the La Cieneguilla Petroglyph site – an area of the Caja that holds significant cultural value to the many Pueblos and Tribal communities throughout Northern New Mexico

Groups were led by Caja coalition members: Brophy Toledo of EarthKeepers 360, the Flowerhill Institute, and Jemez Pueblo, Rev. Andrew Black of EarthKeepers360 and the National Wildlife Federation, and Reyes DeVore of Pueblo Action Alliance and Jemez Pueblo. Each guide shared stories and information of the deep spiritual connection to the Caja del Rio and why it’s vital to protect these areas that hold such cultural significance. 

For many of the volunteers, this was their first time visiting the Caja, while others had participated in previous clean-ups and events in the past. In either case, there’s always something new to learn and explore when it comes to the Caja

Recently, the Caja has seen an uptick in direct vandalism and misuse. Coalition members and tour guides explained the widespread emotional damage this causes our communities who have cherished these sacred lands for centuries

After the hike, we led teams of volunteers further into the Caja for a quick lunch break with burritos from our local favorite, La Posa’s (a huge thanks to HECHO for supplying the food!) After fueling up, we guided everyone to the areas that needed the most attention. Descending upon the massive piles of household appliances, mattresses, tires, and a slew of other items, people immediately got to work filling trucks, horse trailers and industrial-sized trash bags.

It wasn’t long before we began to uncover the true beauty of the landscape around us. Bit by bit, we hauled items off to a larger dumpster the coalition rented for the day and before we knew it, had the entire thing full by the end of the day

Proud doesn’t begin to express the feeling we have for the amazing community members that joined us this Earth Day. These collective efforts are what motivates us to keep pushing for permanent protection. As we celebrate this major success, there’s still work to be done to prevent the continued misuse and illegal activity that plagues this area. The more we educate, inspire, and motivate our communities of the importance of protecting the Caja, the more we can save the lands that New Mexico is known for.

Special thanks to Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth and Santa Fe City Councilor Carol Romero Wirth for spending some time with us this Earth Day!

Make sure to stay tuned to our website, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow our social media channels for information on future hikes, clean-ups and events.

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