Noelia Aponte Silva climbed with Monserrat Almarez Matehuala, feeling very alone and unwelcome.
“It just started to feel like in my like, am I the only light brown person that is coming into the gym to climb?” Aponte Silva said. “It felt very intimidating,” Aponte Silva said.
“It just wasn’t a very diverse space, like it was very homogenous, and I didn’t see anybody who looked like me,” Alvarez Matehuala said.
Sometimes they wondered if they would like to keep up the sport. However, they found nature healing. They loved the challenges of climbing, and they felt strong after figuring out the route.
They searched the climbing community for other climbers who were similar to them.
They were discovered Brown Girls Climb. Alvarez Matehuala serves as the Outdoor Program Director. Aponte Silvi is the Colorado Local Lead.
“Brown Girls Climb is a woman of color-led LLC and small business that tries to promote rock-climbing in underrepresented communities and expand the narrative of who climbs and creates leadership opportunities for women of color and non-binary folks of color,” Alvarez Matehuala said.
Unfortunately, access to climbing is not possible for women of color.
“It can be a very expensive sport, we’re talking about shoes, crash pads, robes, and it goes on and on, right?” Aponte Silva said.
Alvarez Matehuala and Aponte Silva say it’s not an issue of getting people of color into the climbing world for the first time. It’s bringing them back to a world in which they’ve been underrepresented.
“I feel like there’s this idea that the white community created climbing, and it lacks the acknowledgment that there are indigenous communities that lived in these spaces and they were also climbing these rocks,” Aponte Silva said.
“Historically, like the creation of outdoor spaces intentionally excluded us through not only resources but also literal segregation of our parks and public and so-called public spaces that we have not felt comfortable or safe or welcomed for various reasons or felt like we can access these spaces,” Alvarez Matehuala said.
Brown Girls Climb actively changes that. A shopping platform was launched by Brown Girls Climb recently. Brown Girls Climb Marketplace.
“The BCG marketplace is the platform in which people can just seek, you know, different vendors, companies, products that they’re looking for to better align with their values and the way they live their lifestyle and adapt to their own needs,” Alvarez Matehuala said.
The idea is that outdoor enthusiasts can support BIPOC-owned businesses – giving them power in an industry that makes a lot of money.
“I don’t want us to be seen as a diversity equity inclusion initiative like I want them to really see the value of the things that we can bring to the table and really embrace that,” Aponte Silva said.
Representation matters, and both ladies say they’d like to see more women and non-binary folks of color climb to the top.