This column honors BIPOC in Cannabis every day in every way, but this month, we celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community in America, by celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15- October 15).
Celebration means different things to different people. Corporate America highlights the spending power of the hispanic community, I highlight the history and sacrifice. Like the history and sacrifice of:
- Pedro Albizu Campos, who is recognized as someone who was more concerned with the progress of the Puerto Rican people than with his own personal gain. He was the President of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and was passionate about leading Puerto Rico in its political battle against the United States for the island’s independence.
- Cesar Chavez, who was known to fight by nonviolent means, to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers and formed both the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers.
- Sylvia Rivera, who is recognized as a pioneering, Venezuelan-Puerto Rican trans- woman that fought for the rights of trans people. She is credited for putting the “T” in LGBT.
In honor of this month, cannabis, hispanic owned business, and to celebrate the fierceness, contributions, rich culture, and ancestry of Hispanics; I highlight BIPOC owned: Mujeres Valley Campground; a 20 acre oasis in New Mexico, owned by Ixchel Mooney and Asad Mooney, who have fought tirelessly like the names above.
Ixchel is a first generation latina born in America and leads the interview. In the Q&A below, you’ll hear from Ixchel about being a latina/BIPOC business owner in cannabis, her ancestry, her experience launching a cannabis business in New Mexico, and beautiful insight into the campground and the history of the mountain.
But first, Mujeres Valley Campground, where mother earth is the first priority, is centered around giving back to and taking care of the land and spaces that humans have the privilege to occupy. The owners have endured hardship, hate, and evil; however, they are still fighting the good fight backed by the strength of the land.
The Mujeres Valley Campground occupies Shiwinna (Zuni) Territory. This territory was stolen during the Homestead Act. Over the last 100 years, the land has been used for ranching, but in 2017, the Mooney’s became the new owners and caregivers of the land. Part of the mission here is to create a safe space for the BIPOC community to reconnect with themselves and mother earth by offering camp experiences and hosting festivals/events. One of the other missions is to grow cannabis the natural way under their cultivation company, Crooked Arrow Farms. And one that is very obvious, saving Earth.
Q&A with Ixchel Mooney, Mujeres Valley Campground
In your words, please tell me a bit about the campground, the land it sits on, and the journey to ownership.
“This business is owned and operated by my husband and I. We initially secured the land with the dreams of welcoming community members who wanted to build homes and live in community with us. However, we learned how much of a challenge it can be for people to live in an area that doesn’t have many amenities within walking distance so we shifted our focus.
We took a 20-acre sliver of land off the 63-acre homestead of reclaimed Indigenous land we secured, and started advertising it as a rural campground. During the time of us getting established, New Mexico was a medical-cannabis only state and there was still a hefty amount of targeting of people of color for cannabis crimes still very active when we arrived in 2017.
My husband and I became the target in this all white subdivision and beat unfounded claims of us trafficking cannabis from Colorado to New Mexico. As brown people with dreadlocks we’ve experienced a great deal of this type of harassment in California, Colorado, and New Mexico. However, we followed our ancestors and guides calls to this land and we intend to see our mission through.
So we claimed victory over those ridiculous charges and are now the only 20-acre, BIPOC-owned, cannabis-friendly campground in the state of New Mexico! We have plans to expand the campground into a sustainable resort with a history of the land and the Zuni people whom this land was stolen from and in April 2022 we hosted our grand opening and 1st recreational cannabis event, the Ganja Freedom Fest!”
Please share a little about your ancestry and family tree.
“My mother was born and raised in Mexico. Her and some of my aunts and uncles arrived here when my mother was about 8 years old, and that makes me the first generation in the U.S on my mother’s side.
My mother’s parents were both born and raised in Mexico. My grandfather was a business and community man and my grandmother raised 8 children on a farm and ranch very similar to our land in New Mexico.
My father was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California through a long lineage of law enforcement, military, and government service. My father’s parents were both born and raised in Los Angeles County, California.
I’m the eldest of my parents two daughters and I was born in Hollywood, California. I lived there until 2013 when my husband and I relocated to Denver, Colorado and spent 6 years there before being called to the western mountains of New Mexico.”
Being a Latino/Latina/Latinx in America, what has been your experience?
“Being a first generation Latina in America has been challenging in the sense of my desire to connect to my ancestors and people here that look like me. I wasn’t taught to speak Spanish and it was confusing growing up and not being able to speak to people that came from where my family comes from [Mexico].
It was heartbreaking to hear “You’re not Mexican enough” when I look in the mirror and see indigenous features, when I look down at my skin and it’s browner than my own mother who was born in Mexico. It was lonely but it also set me on a clear path to find my soul family, people in this life that feel my pain or have experienced similar loneliness and want to build better, safer spaces with healthier relationships than the ones we were exposed to.
As a brown woman in America I feel drastically under appreciated when it comes to business or being seen as an equal in the workplace throughout several different industries. However, I’ve seen that this under appreciation for what we bring to the table is a great initial feeler to see if a person or company is able to accurately allow me the space and honor to show up as my divine self in any collaboration.”
I’m an Afro-Latina, one of my parents was born and raised in Puerto Rico, another was born there and raised in Miami, in my family, cannabis as a NO, what about you?
“I was raised under the cloud of reefer madness. I used to be that kid in grade school who would tell other kids smoking cannabis that they were killing their brain cells haha! Oh how the tables turn!
Although I said those things, a part of my being could sense when certain things I said weren’t something that came out as a result of my own beliefs. As I got older and started experiencing the need for healing from my chronic migraines and all the scientific research I found on my I was pointed away from it being a drug and pulled toward it being medicine.
It changed my entire family dynamic. I generally like to say it ripped us apart at the threads because it did. I went from “the responsible big sister” to “the one that smokes weed” in an instant, I stopped being invited to birthday parties for my baby cousins that I helped to raise like I hadn’t been showing up to parties high for years before that.
Over the past 10 years feelings have changed and my family and I have been able to have logical conversations about the scientific developments of the healing benefits of cannabis and how people of color are targeted within the field of law enforcement. Those two conversations with my family have been life altering and I know I’ve done massive justice to the healing of my medicinal family lineage.”
In 2021, Forbes reported that Hispanics owned less than 6% of the businesses in cannabis, what’s the thought and feeling you have right now- seconds after reading that?
“My initial feeling is disappointment and frustration. People in this country can be so quick to classify “hispanics” as gardeners so I’m not happy about that statistic at all. Cannabis is a plant that bears fruit like an apple tree so why shouldn’t we be first in line to have an opportunity at being a massive part of this industry.
However, I know the politics that go into the number of people of color in jail or still facing cannabis related charges or charges that have nothing to do with cannabis, and everything to do with being a brown landowner in a predominantly white community. Although this is frustrating it’s also encouraging.
To me it means there are still opportunities to be had, opportunities we as Latinx people haven’t had our taste of just yet. And that means there’s space to grow, expand, and learn how to support each other as a community again.”
BIPOC in cannabis, how do we collaborate, support each other, and win?
“I think that the way we support each other is by supporting our self care first, tending to our needs and our personal healing so we can recognize when our ego shows up in our business and collaborative actions.
I feel that this level of awareness and love is what is going to help us all on a personal and business level. I’ve noticed that our ego’s and unhealed childhood wounds are what sometimes get in the way of BIPOC collaborating together.
I think that the way we collaborate is by seeking out other already established companies or people doing work similar to what we are being called to do. Even if the mission is slightly different we still need to surround ourselves with people who have similar or complementary goals to ours so that there’s some crossover, and contribution coming from all ends.
And topping this off with community-based communications and learning how to create safe spaces so our team members feel safe in speaking their mind and contributing to the efforts is so important.
I think that we win by not recreating the wheel. I’m a huge supporter of reaching out to people who are doing what you want to do and offering your services, see how you can help, learn what they have to give while giving of your time and effort.
Additionally, be willing to line each other’s pockets. Whether that be by way of referrals or purchasing something someone is insisting on gifting you when you know they should be charging you for it, just find a way to support your brothers and sisters when you can.”
CLS Med-Can: a medical marijuana transportation service based out of Missouri.
Sky High PEO: a full service employment organization that helps companies manage benefits and payroll.
The Florida Hemp Olympics is a BIPOC woman owned organization hosting various games and events, testing your knowledge of hemp.
Veronica Castillo is a writer from Miami, with a pre-cannabis and psychedelics background in insurance and human resources. Currently, she is a resident of the road covering cannabis, psychedelics, and plant-based lifestyles all over the U.S and soon abroad. Follow her journey on IG: www.instagram.com/vee_travelingvegcannawriter and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vee-traveling-veg-canna-writer/