Maite Arce

A photograph of Maite Arce smiling for the camera.
Maite Arce

Photo courtesy of Maite Arce.

Article Written By Emma Chapman

Maite Arce is a nonprofit leader and activist who has spearheaded environmental justice and equity, as well as encouraged Latinx communities to enjoy outdoor activities and advocate for conservation of the natural world. Through this work, she supported the establishment of new monuments in the California Desert, including Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monument.

Arce spent her early childhood near Ensenada, Mexico.1 Her life in Baja California often revolved around the Pacific Ocean—her neighbors were fishermen, her mother fed the family on fresh seafood, and her grandfather took her fishing. These experiences fueled her appreciation for the beauty of nature and her understanding of the connections between communities and their environments.2

In the 1970s, while still a child, Arce moved with her parents and siblings to Santa Ana, California.3 She watched her parents navigate the challenges of raising a family in a new country with limited help. When she became an adult, she resolved to assist other Latinx families obtain support and services.4 She served as vice president of operations for the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO). In this position, she collaborated with Latinx community and religious leaders on public policy and educational programs.

In 2010, Arce founded and served as CEO of a nonprofit that united her community and environmental interests, the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF).5 As she wrote, “People of diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds, including Latinos, are more likely to be the first to experience environmental hazards and climate change impacts.”6 Guided by this ethos, Arce organized numerous programs promoting Latinx community environmentalism. The MANO project (My Access to Network Opportunities), for instance, offers Latinx youth paid internships at environmental, cultural, and natural preservation organizations such as the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Credit Union Administration. Every year HAF also partners with the National Park Service and other environmental groups on Latino Conservation Week, a nationwide series of events to inspire conservation efforts and draw media attention to the community’s commitment to protecting nature.7

During the 2010s, Arce mobilized local communities and religious leaders to demand that public lands in heavily Latinx southern California be preserved.8 She lobbied government officials and published articles in high-profile venues such as the Huffington Post and The Seattle Times.9 Such grassroots efforts contributed to President Barrack Obama’s designation of Castle Mountains and the two other California Desert sites as national monuments in 2016.10 The presidential proclamation that created this national monument highlighted its natural and Indigenous cultural resources.11 Arce, by championing Latinx voices in environmentalism, has pressed a further point—that access to the outdoors is essential in individual and community Latinx health.12 As she asserted in 2016 about Castle Mountains, “This is their neighborhood. This is their backyard.”13

1 - “Hispanic Access Foundation - About Us: Our Story,” Hispanic Access Foundation - Home (Hispanic Access Foundation, April 9, 2019),

2 - Maite Arce, “We Must Act Now to Protect Our Oceans, Preserve Their Cultural Importance,” La Noticia (La Noticia, December 3, 2019),

3 - “Hispanic Access Foundation - About Us: Our Story.”

4 - “Hispanic Access Foundation - Maite Arce,” Hispanic Access Foundation - Home (Hispanic Access Foundation, December 13, 2019),

5 - “Hispanic Access Foundation Founder, President, and CEO Maite Arce Joins Rachel's Network as Advisor,” Rachel's Network—News (Rachel's Network, June 5, 2018),

6 - “Hispanic Access Foundation Founder, President, and CEO Maite Arce Joins Rachel's Network.”

7 - “Hispanic Access Foundation - Conservation,” Hispanic Access Foundation - Home (Hispanic Access Foundation, May 31, 2019),; “Hispanic Access Foundation - MANO Project,” Hispanic Access Foundation - Home (Hispanic Access Foundation, May 13, 2020),; “Hispanic Access Foundation - PUBLIC NOW: Celebrate National Parks During Latino Conservation Week,” Hispanic Access Foundation - Home (Hispanic Access Foundation, July 17, 2020),

8 - Suzanne Potter, “Latino Clergy Push for New National Monuments in Southern California Desert,” (Public News Service, December 9, 2015),; Jed Kim, “Latinos Flexed their Power in Creation of New National Monuments,” (Southern California Public Radio, May 6, 2017),; “Latino Conservation Alliance: About the LCA,” Latino Conservation Alliance,

9 - “Maite Arce,” HuffPost, accessed August 21, 2020,; Sally Jewell, Rue Mapp, and Maite Arce, “Protect Public Lands That Reflect Nation's Diversity,” The Seattle Times (January 6, 2017),

10 - Kim, “Latinos Flexed their Power.”

11 - Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Presidential Proclamation—Establishment of the Castle Mountains National Monument” (February 12, 2016),

12 - “Maite Arce,” Chesapeake Conservancy, January 31, 2020,

13 - Kim, “Latinos Flexed their Power.”


This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation.

This project was conducted in Partnership with the University of California Davis History Department through the Californian Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, CA# P20AC00946

Part of a series of articles titled Women's History in the Pacific West - Lower Colorado Basin Collection.

Castle Mountains National Monument

Last updated: February 22, 2022