Jared Portugal: Nomadic Leader Blends Love of Environment, Community

Jared Portugal: Nomadic Leader Blends Love of Environment, Community
Jared Portugal - Photo source: Sara Joy Tiberio

Valley local, Jared Portugal, a 24-year-old self-declared nomad, who immigrated from Veracruz, Mexico, stands at just 5 feet 6 inches, but the height of his gaze has no representation of the altitude of his determination for creating mindful leaders of communities and the environment.

Portugal is avidly involved in environmentally embedded non-profit organizations such as Earth Guardians, a youth society of activists who address climate change, and the Anasazi Foundation, an organization which helps young people with behavioral health issues. Portugal also takes pleasure in participating and organizing events for a Tempe-based community group called Desert Canvas, which is all about goal getting. If Portugal isn’t working with these organizations, he is probably off on a weeklong venture in the wilderness.

His experiences shaped his journey and passion for making a change in the world as a child and as a teenager with his family. They first came to the U.S. when he was a year old and then returned to Mexico and stayed until he was 10-years-old. The second time they returned, Portugal did not speak any English, so they stayed until he graduated high school and then returned to Mexico. Migrating and adapting to new environments, and making the best of it, became a way of life for Portugal.

“I sort of feel like it is ingrained in my blood now, taking chances and putting everything on the table for your hope, for you to hold on to for a better future,” he said.

At 18 years old, he told his mom and dad that he was moving out. When Portugal got settled in Arizona and started studying journalism, he felt like he was missing a connection with people and his surroundings. After a few months, Portugal left everything behind and began backpacking through Alaska’s expansive Denali National Park to the rural corners of the Hawaiian Islands, then a year later he returned to Arizona with just $10 in his pocket.

“I felt as if there was a stream of water and that is life, and it is flowing, and I jumped in and instead of holding onto the rocks, I just let myself go with the current and kept moving and seeing different parts of the river,” Portugal said.

Source: Jared Portugal

Since his ventures have ended, he rooted himself deep into non-profit organizations and community groups that focus on creating leaders, addressing climate change and developing wilderness survival therapy programs. He works as a Trail Walker, leading youth groups in outdoor adventure learning camps, in addition, Portugal works as a behavior health paraprofessional for the Anasazi Foundation. The organization teaches wilderness survival skills through group trips in the forest with children and young adults who suffer from mental health, drug addiction and behavioral health issues to get in touch with nature and with themselves.

“We let nature teach them; I am not a therapist,” Portugal said.

Source: Michael Gettens

He also invests his time as a crew coordinator in a youth-led organization of environmental activists called Earth Guardians. Their youth director, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 16, addressed the U.N. in New York City in June 2016, urging them to take action on climate change.

Another member of the organization, Robert Lyons, 37, said his role as a crew member of Earth Guardians is to bring consciousness to the community, “We are the hands, feet, and brains to the movement,” Lyons said.

Earth Guardians is trying to progress the movement of effectively taking action on climate change, by bringing awareness of the issues forward to those in control.

Lyons, like Portugal, is also involved with a local Arizona community called Desert Canvas. Portugal helped start Desert Canvas, a community that co-founder and CEO Todd VanDuzer, 26, said formed by accident.

Source: Jordan Neal

“We went to the park and set up a slackline between two trees and asked some guys to join us so we could be together and do fun stuff together and our group grew and grew into a community,” VanDuzer said.

Desert Canvas provides a sense of community by organizing group events all over the Valley with music festivals with activities like yoga, hula-hoop dancing and sound healing, a therapeutic practice that uses musical instruments and relaxation techniques. Desert Canvas meets once a week for these festivities on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. in a park at the Gateway Apartment Complex on University Drive and McClintock Drive.

“We help individuals meet new friends, discover new passions and accomplish greater goals,” VanDuzer said.

Portugal plans to help grow and ground the organizations in which he is involved before he makes his next big move. He’s got his eye on Costa Rica next. However, until then, he is continuing to pursue his life’s passion of nomadic adventures.

He packs his truck with what he needs and ventures out into the wilderness every other week, for a week. His favorite nomadic activities include rock climbing, slacklining on a rope between trees, highlining on a rope above canyons and playing the didgeridoo that he designed out of yucca. As blissful as he seems, Portugal still has underlying concerns that are a challenge for him.

Source: Jared Portugal

“I am still concerned with my family back home and the way things are in the U.S. with immigration,” he said.

Because of the politics of immigration and challenges with climate change, Portugal said, “I feel like Mother Earth is calling us all to come back to her, and it is bringing many people together, but not everybody.”

Another concern of his, the push back from opposing movements and their lack of action on government policies to limit climate change.

Overall, Portugal still has his hope. He said, “I feel like all of these problems that we are facing right now in the world are mirroring how we can also come together as one big family.”

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