El Paso native Xochitl Rodriguez is an artist deeply rooted in the Franklin Mountains desert landscape that she treasures. Her life is driven by family, philanthropy, and a relentless desire to show her daughter just how big and breathtaking the world can be.
From the time her daughter Calista was just a few months old, Xochitl has shared her passion for the world around her, toting her daughter in a backpack in the arroyos around their home and to the peaks of the Franklin Mountains.
Now that Calista is growing up, she is leading her mother to new adventures.
“She’s older and she’s stronger and she has developed new interests,” said Xochitl. “Hiking was no longer enough, and I’ve had to up my game.”
A visit to the Big Bend region of Texas with a group of friends introduced both mother and daughter to a new wild adventure: paddling the Rio Grande River.
“It was mind-blowing and beautiful, and it definitely pushed my boundaries because I’ve always been a little afraid of water,” said Xochitl. “I’ll never forget one specific stunning moment on the river when the moon was peeking over a canyon, the sky was super pink and the river and the canoe was pointing to the moon. Calista looked back at me and said, ‘I can’t believe the world is even bigger than it was yesterday.’”
The family invested in a canoe, and Calista got a kayak for her last birthday. The two have had many paddling adventures together, and Xochitl encourages her daughter to explore wherever her interests take her.
Xochitl’s artistic adventures have also evolved in recent years. Since her daughter’s birth, Xochitl has led the Caldo Collective, which initiates grassroots projects that generate opportunities for artists through direct support from the community. She is also deeply involved with Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase to offer support for artists in the border region. In 2020, her first short documentary, Grown Without Water took international audiences on a journey with her and her daughter through their desert home at the zipper of two countries
Xochitl is also working on another project close to home and her heart. She, along with others are working to get a new friends group off the ground to support Franklin Mountains State Park.
“The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition has laid the foundation by doing such an incredible job of advocating for the protection of the mountains, which led to the creation of the state park back in 1979. Now it’s time to take the next step and set up an organization that will directly support the park.”
Xochitl will serve as the organization’s first president, and she’s hopeful the Friends of Franklin Mountains will be up and running by the end of the year. As Texas State Parks celebrate 100 years in 2023, the timing couldn’t be better.
“Our initial focus will be to raise awareness of this incredible treasure we have in our back yard. A lot of folks don’t realize when they walk out of their house and walk a few blocks to a nearby hiking trail that they are actually in the state park. It’s a privilege and a beautiful honor to access this mountain, and we all have to do our part to contribute to its maintenance and make sure it stays protected for the next 100 years.”
Xochitl is pleased to share her passion for her home ground as a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.