Getting to know Team Sloth: Meet Ceci!
What originally led you to the conservation field?
“I’ve always been passionate about wildlife ever since I was a child. I started reading when I was really young and I remember this book that was called, Nature Under Extinction. (Ceci) I remember how much it shook me. I still have the image of the cover in my mind, it had a sea turtle on the front, I think I still have the book.
My first impression of nature was that it was endangered – and that was 30 years ago. I feel quite privileged that I was exposed to this information at such an early age. I think, to this day, that is why I love sea turtles so much; they were one of the first animals that I came to learn about by reading that book.”
What is your role at SloCo Ceci?
“I help to coordinate all the projects, such as community engagement, and I am also responsible for all of SloCo’s visual communications. I am a visual artist with more than 23 years of experience in tourism. Tourism and travel are very important to me. They are tools to bring people together. Responsible tourism is a form of education, that involves new ways of traveling and connecting with local communities while protecting nature. It is an opportunity to learn about local customs, instead of the “classic tourism” where you go to a place and take a bunch of pictures for Instagram.
This kind of tourism is shallow and it can’t be tolerated anymore; it promotes gentrification and causes people to lose their homes. As we can see in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, a place where people used to log the jungle, poach the turtles, now the entire town lives off of eco-tourism, earning more money than when they were hunting and cutting down trees.”
Do you have any uplifting words to share? Something that has helped you through these difficult times?
“Oddly enough, I feel trained for situations like this. I come from a small town, Las Grutas, in Patagonia Argentina. It is crazy during summer vacation but 10 months out of the year it is basically a ghost town. During the summer, it is a town of 70,000 people but in winter there are only 10,000 people living there. During the winter months, you don’t have any neighbors, only 1 family living per block. In winter it is very cold, very windy, and because of this you don’t get to see many people anyways, the weather is so unfriendly that you just stay home.
I’m Argentinian and I’m used to a crisis, due to the history of my country, the history of democracy in my country, there are years of growth followed by crises. Somehow, I am used to living like this. When the pandemic started my first thoughts, were “I know what’s going on, I have to stay at home and there is a crisis.” We are very stubborn people, Argentinians, and when you spend so much time living crisis to crisis, you learn how to be creative and solve whatever comes across your path. This isn’t unique though, it’s true to all humankind. We have been adapting to challenges for thousands of years, and we will overcome this. I hope that we will do it together.”
Who is your role model?
“More than a single role model, I always try to find inspiration in collective enterprises. I really believe that together we are stronger. My favorite author Eduardo Galeano, who really understands the history of Latin America, once said, “A lot of small people in small places, doing small things can change the world”.
We may be a small team here at SloCo but in reality, there are hundreds of people behind us. A kid raising $20, that contribution is important, but more importantly, is the willingness of that kid to help to a cause. All of our supporters, the people of our community. All of us are pushing together towards a better future. Maybe that is why I don’t have a particular role model.
We put people on pedestals, and some people deserve it, but we also tend to minimize the things that we do. Small things, day after day, that is what is important. Another one of my favorite quotes of Galeano is “Utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I’ll never reach it. So what’s the point of utopia? The point is this: to keep walking.”
What does a regular workday look like for you?
“I spend a lot of time on the computer doing designs, investigating, learning, and developing strategies and content for social media. I also take footage of planting, bridge scouting, and other activities that we document for the foundation. At the moment a lot of computer work but I really love doing field work as well.”
What is it like working in Costa Rica?
“I think the greatest opportunity for working in Costa Rica, is the general mentality of protecting nature. This is important for the people and the authorities as well. Costa Rica is a great hub for conservationists all over the world.”
What does conservation mean to you?
“Conservation is a tool to create a better civilization; it protects nature and also provides a source of welfare to the people. You cannot have both separately; it won’t happen.”
How did you end up in Costa Rica?
“I come from this small windy down in Patagonia, and I have been obsessed with tropical beaches and palm trees since forever. I never really had a chance to travel. My sister married a Costa Rican man and came to live here. Five years ago, we had the opportunity to meet my brother in law’s family in Costa Rica. My partner, Pato, and I came to Costa Rica with some savings, not knowing much about what was going to happen. I just fell in love with the South Caribbean and tried my best to stay. I couldn’t leave anymore.”
How did you first become involved in conservation?
“I first got involved in conservation when I started to volunteer at Iguazu National Park. It is one of the few subtropical ecosystems in the north of Argentina. There even used to be sloths there, although the records are somewhat unclear. My partner and I went because we wanted to escape one of the long winters of Patagonia and we knew it would be warmer there.
We volunteered with the rangers. We would be there all day long walking through the park. The park usually has 7,000 visitors per day. Wandering around the park when no one was there was one of the best experiences. Watching the full moon. I took pictures of everything.”
“When I started to go through the photos, I noticed that I had taken so many pictures of birds. Wondering what types of birds they were, we bought a bird guide. Growing up in such an -apparently- desolate place, we had always despised the desert. But when we returned, we came back with a different mentality.
We bought a guide for the birds of Patagonia and we became bird watchers. We came back the next year to Iguazu and started to collaborate with biologists surveying capuchin monkeys. We also worked with an organization that was tracking jaguars. In Patagonia, we started to collaborate with a local organization dedicated to shorebird conservation. We came to Costa Rica with all of that background, hoping to find volunteer opportunities in conservation. It all started with a bunch of pictures of birds.”
What do you like most about Costa Rica?
“The people. And nature. And the relationship between people and nature. Oh, and the “pipas” (the green coconuts filled with coconut water). You can’t beat those.”
What is one of your favorite things about sloths?
“Oh my goodness. Biologically speaking, they are fascinating. But I admire them because I can relate to them on a philosophical level. The world is always rushing. Our culture, our system is super fast. “I don’t know what I want but I want it now” kind of mentality. Sloths are the opposite of that. We can take the pace of the sloth and adopt their ways. Being intentional about what we do and being respectful to one another.”
Outside of work, what do you like to do?
“I love to swim in the ocean. I have been practicing a way of swimming inspired by the ways that sloths swim through the water. I’m a beach boss – I love the ocean.”