At the heart of every great adventure there is a love story. And for National Geographic Emerging Explorer Juan Martinez, the long journey from the streets of Los Angeles to the craggy peaks of the Grand Tetons took a romantic turn on the day he met National Park Ranger Vanessa Torres. Both dedicated to introducing a new generation of American citizens to outdoor recreation, Juan and Vanessa have begun a life together in service to the wild places they cherish as well as members of their community whose legacy they now protect. Having made a promise to themselves to bring a message of conservation to the many who need it most, they exchanged their vows as man and wife in the great cathedral of the Rocky Mountains. And in a tender portrait of devotion, they share an intimate view into their life together made complete in communion with nature. The first of a new series of films by Amy Marquis and Dana Romanoff, Love in the Tetons premieres this week in Boulder Colorado.
Raised in the urban center of L.A. Juan had few opportunities to experience the natural world. An “angry kid” prone to mischief he took advantage of opportunities to learn about the relationship between humanity and the environment in which we all live. He’s now the Director of Leadership Development at the Children & Nature Network.
The daughter of migrant farm workers, Vanessa applied her hard-won education to a career in the National Park Service. A proud woman of Mexican descent she now works as a youth program analyst for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. As they begin their lives together Juan and Vanessa celebrate their union surrounded by friends and family in the place the two have grown to love most in the world. Grand Teton National Park isn’t where they were born and raised but rather the spot where their dreams were realized, where they hope to create their future.
The National Park Experience film series aims to help audiences create similar relationships with the wild places that are intrinsically part of both the American heritage and birthright. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and matching funds from REI, the project enjoys broad support among hundreds of individuals dedicated to storytelling that inspires conservation. Juan and Vanessa represent the emerging demographic of citizens who in decades to come will stand to defend environmental preserves like Grand Teton through legislative action as voters or financial security as taxpayers. As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the National Park System, filmmakers Marquis and Romanoff aspire to demonstrate the enduring love of the American people for the natural treasures embodied in these special places we as a nation have set aside to protect, but continue to be vulnerable to the shortsighted ambitions of development for real estate or for natural resource extraction.
Love in the Tetons depicts not only the coming together of two people, but the continuing journey of a free people in the purest pursuit of happiness. This short film reveals the passion and warmth that reside within the clear skies, tall trees and green meadows of the great outdoors. And regardless of national origin, race, ethnicity or economic status we are all members of the same tribe, each of us welcome to abide in the magic and beauty of our sacred American land.
“The trees don’t judge where you come from or what language you speak. The river won’t look at your economic value,” Juan says in the film. “This is one of the few places where we as an American people can truly call home. That’s what love is at the end of the day. You are part of that family and you feel whole.”
- Nat Geo Expeditions