An Accidental Outdoors Love Story & Sopa de Verde Recipe
Though her parents originally hail from Ecuador, Luz Lituma’s (@Luz.Lituma) early childhood was spent in Queens, New York, where she rarely went outdoors. That changed after her first trip to her parents’ home country.
“I didn’t really start feeling nature until I went to Ecuador as a preteen,” says Lituma. “My parents are from Sucua, found in the Amazon basin in Ecuador, and it is gorgeous. It’s so green everywhere and there are mountains left and right. I’d heard stories about how they grew up — they were outdoors people all their lives — because being outside was just a way of life.”
That trip primed Lituma and a few years later an unexpected adventure changed her life.
“One of the first actual hikes I went on was an ‘accidental’ hike,’” says Lituma with a laugh. “Six years ago, I traveled to Peru to see the ruins and Machu Picchu, and we were walking around the city center and a tour guide was trying to sell one of her trips. She told me it was a really cool walk and all I needed was comfortable shoes.”
The guide may have underemphasized the challenge of the hike, which turned out to be the Vinicunca (“rainbow mountain”) hike. “It’s almost 17,000 feet above sea level. I was wearing jeans and a light jacket and some comfy old sneakers,” says Luz. “It was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. I had to stop and sit down multiple times [on the way up], but the guide kept telling me I could do it. She pushed me to finish, and I appreciated it so much. When I reached the top, all I could think was, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything!’”
Sharing Her Passion and Encouraging Others
After that trip, Lituma started spending more time hiking and camping. Then in 2017, she founded the organization Latinxhikers with her friend, Adriana Garcia, to help make the outdoors more welcoming to all people.
“Adriana and I would talk about the lack of representation [for people of color, varying body types, and capabilities],” she says. The pair kicked around the idea of creating a podcast or vlog, and then on a 2017 trip to Arizona in Havasupai, the idea came together. “We were hiking to beautiful waterfalls and we noticed we encountered a lot less white people on the trail,” she says. “It was a feeling we had that was so relaxing and different than the outdoor experiences we were used to … it was a different feeling to have a bunch of brown folks around us in the outdoor space.”
Since its inception as an Instagram account, Latinxhikers has turned into a community outreach initiative that hosts hikes and events for people of color nationwide. “We’re trying to plant a seed, create community, and create a space for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] groups to meet other like-minded folks,” she explains.
In 2020, Lituma hit the road in her SUV to host Latinxhiker events throughout the US and bought her current camper in 2021 which includes a Dometic CRX Pro 65 refrigerator, a PLB40 battery, a CFX3 25 powered cooler, and a 976 toilet.
“I love the new Dometic Go collection too,” says Lituma. “With limited storage space in the camper, it’s great to have multipurpose items like the soft storage. I can even put the insulated insert and use it like a cooler to carry some hiking snacks and then use it or organize and store my personal items when back at home.”
She travels with her dog, Milo, a basset hound/corgi mix who joined her for the adventure about a year ago.
Lituma admits that she’s careful being a woman of color traveling alone but refuses to let that keep her from exploring the world. “To be honest, I’m pretty much always on alert all the time,” she says. “As a woman, and a Latina, you can never be too cautious and too safe… but I think it’s important to take up space and take precautions. And having Milo around makes me feel safer.”
Food + Outdoors = Amazing Memories
Since that initial hike, Lituma has lost no time making lifetime memories in the outdoors with family and friends.
Many of those memories involve food. “We like to bring meals when we camp out,” she says. “Food is so central to how we have fun.”
Last year, Lituma’s parents came to visit her to take part in the Latinxhikers event she was hosting in Yellowstone. They took some time to explore the area. “We saw the Tetons and then went to Big Sky. While we were at the campsite my mom told me she had brought all the ingredients to make sopa de verde. It’s my favorite Ecuadorian soup made of plantains. It’s so comforting, especially in chilly weather!” she says. “It’s a long process to make it and she made it. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The ingredients are very central to the region of Ecuador my family is from. My uncle grows Yuca in their yard, the plantains are always available and never lacking. It’s part of the reason why it's so comforting to all of us. It’s a dish that warms up our hearts and stomachs with memories of ‘back home.’”
We all sat at the campground picnic table and enjoyed a meal like we usually would back in Ecuador, outside and with the whole family telling jokes. These jokes were a little different though - centered around bears and them wondering what this delicious smell was and where it was coming from. Luckily there was no bear encounter, just us enjoying each other’s presence with no interruptions or distractions. It’s always so touching to see how my mom lights up when she cooks for us, it's her way of showing love. It’s a moment I'll never forget.
Lituma is excited about getting back out on the road and continuing her work with Latinxhikers. “I want to host as many hikes as possible and in as many states as possible,” she says. “The ultimate goal is to inspire people to go outside. Once you’re out there, you’re like … ‘I’m so small but these places belong to me as well, and I should also take care of them.’
“My ultimate goal is for people to feel a connection to the outdoors, so they take care of it for the future,” she adds. “I used to care minimally, and if I can change, anyone can.”
Sopa de Verde
A comforting Ecuadorian soup
|Photo by Edgar Lituma|
This isn’t your typical outdoor meal, that's why it was so special to me. It takes time but was so worth it in the end.
Cooking time: 2 hours
- 2 Liters of water
- 4-8 pieces of beef rib
- 6 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 packets of Sazon Goya with Coriander and Annatto
- 4 pealed green plantains
- 2 large ears of corn
- 2 lbs of Yuca (casava root) or a small bag of frozen Yuca
- In a big pot put 2 Liters of water to boil.
- After it boils add the beef ribs, boil for 30 minutes or until it’s soft on high-medium heat.
- Add minced garlic, chopped onions, corn. Then 2 sazon goya packets (this is a must, it gives it the correct color and flavor). Let it boil for 20 minutes on high- medium heat.
- With a grater or a spoon, grate the 3 out of the 4 plantains into the soup (this makes the soup thick). Then cut the last plantain into little pieces and put it into the soup. Let plantains cook for 30 min on medium heat. keep stiring every 5min..
- Add Yuca, cook for another 10-20 minutes on low to medium heat.
- Make sure the ribs are soft and the plantains and yuca are fully cooked. It’s important to occasionally stir the pot once the yuca and the plantains are in the pot. They will burn if you let them sit.
- The soup is ready to serve! Cut up some cilantro and scallions for garnishing the plate.
***Like any Latin American mother’s recipe, measurements are a rough estimate. While you’re preparing make sure to give it a taste to see if it's to your liking! The most important ingredient is love.