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09 • 09 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Alicia Maratos With the Florida International University Student Club

By Surfrider Foundation

This Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month we will be featuring activists, friends, and colleagues of Latinx and Hispanic heritage from within the Surfrider network. Throughout the month, we will recognize those who inspire us—both individuals and like-minded organizations— as we celebrate the achievements that they've made to help protect the world’s ocean, waves and beaches for all people to enjoy. 

Q: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself.

My name is Alicia Maratos and I am a mechanical engineering student with an interest in sustainability as my future career goal in the engineering world. I come from a large family, as many Latinx people do. My parents come from the Dominican Republic and I also have family from El Salvador and Cuba. In my free time, I love to lift, read, draw or spend time with friends and family.

Q: What is your current job or role in your local club?

I am the Chair for the Surfrider Foundation Florida International University (FIU) Club. I started the club in the hopes to promote the activist network to more students on campus and to ignite a passion for our ocean in those around me. As a Latina in the Florida community, the ocean’s health is top priority. Having a club in Miami’s largest University is vital.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I began my engagement with the Surfrider Foundation because I wanted to align my life more with my passion for sustainability. As a student in engineering, I was mainly involved in engineering-based organizations - however, I wanted to broaden my scope of involvements. Because of my love for the ocean, I did a search on beach cleanup organizations. Given I live in Miami, the ocean’s health is important to me and those around me. The Surfrider Foundation was the top result. After going through the organization’s site, seeing their goals, programs and vision, I instantly wanted to be an active member.

I got involved in November 2020 and officially started up the club in January 2021.

Q: Has your experience as someone from the Latinx / Hispanic community framed your perspective as an activist and as part of the Surfrider network? And if so, how?

As a Latina, I see the importance of being an advocate, not only for myself, but also to influence those around me. Growing up in a family-oriented culture, I find myself bringing my family along with me to my club’s cleanups and other events. It’s always insightful seeing my little sister comment on how clean the beach looks until the trash bags pile up by the end of a cleanup.

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

A big concern for South Florida right now is sea level rise. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicts that Florida will be seeing a rise in about 18-20 inches in the next 10 years. This is an enormous threat because it means higher risk for storm damage, potential loss of wetlands, mangroves and suffering of coral reefs, due to a warmer ocean.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

I have been heavily involved in participating in my club’s beach and mangrove cleanups, cleaning up our shores about every other week. I help in planning our cleanups and collaborate with other student organizations on campus and outside collaborators, including Waste Connections, Evolution Bags and Archer Western Construction. All collaborations have been a great opportunity to expose more and more volunteers to the importance of being sustainable.

Additionally, I like to participate in my local chapter, the Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter. Recently, I attended my first dune restoration where I helped in planting native species to the Miami Beach dunes.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

The highlight of my Surfrider experience has been getting to expose my local community to the Surfrider Foundation. As a new club, we have gotten to promote cleanups as a frequent volunteering experience and have had a great turnout.

Aside from exposure, I have paired up with Florida Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) representatives in working together to get Florida International University to commit to being sourced entirely by renewable energy by 2050.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

I like to tell my friends and family that any activist work makes a difference. Where there’s passion, there’s change.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share with our network about your journey?

Getting involved with the Surfrider Foundation has helped me set a clear track on what I want to do with my future, and I am eternally grateful! I hope more people get involved and are able to sense the community and activism surrounding the Surfrider Foundation.