Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) alumna Cindy Yulissa Rodriguez ’06 is a Peruvian-American writer, producer, and storyteller who is taking her once-solo spiritual self-care routine and sharing it with the world. A digital producer at WNET New York Public Media, Cindy has created a spiritual hiking and journaling community for women of color. She recently launched The Reclama Journal, a quarterly digital magazine designed to help elevate the conversation and honor the stories of women of color.
What inspired you to create Reclama?
Creating safe spaces for women of color, especially my fellow Latinx community, has always been a passion of mine, but it wasn't until I took my younger cousin hiking that I realized I could do just that out in nature. That was in 2017 and ever since I've been leading spiritual hikes and retreats by way of reclama, which means “reclaim” in Spanish. Nature and journaling have helped me reclaim parts of myself I was convinced I lost or didn't know existed. Reclama is for those who want to get to know themselves in a more meaningful way, spiritually connect with nature, or start their healing journey. Our hikes are scheduled around the new and full moon, with the intention to either let go or set new intentions.
What can you tell us about your relationship to nature?
My relationship to nature began in Peru. I would spend summer or winter breaks there with my mom. Peru was all she talked about all year long: what the mercados (markets) near my Tia’s house smelled like, finally being able to walk around barefoot near the river, and the smokey smell that enveloped our house on my grandparents’ land. What I learned as an adult was palo santo (“holy wood”) burning. This stems from an Incan tradition that holds that the smoke from the wood of the Bursera graveolens, a South American tree, is medicinal. Guiding women into nature who didn't always feel seen in the outdoor space or see how their energy shifts after a hike reminds me that I’m serving my purpose.
What do you hope to achieve through this creative outlet?
Drawing from my family’s indigenous traditions and journalism background, my goal is to help women of color reclaim our ancestral wisdom, connect with nature, heal, help dismantle white supremacy, honor indigenous land and peoples, share knowledge and resources, and more as we unapologetically take up space in the world.
How did SC&I’s Journalism and Media Studies program help prepare you?
The JMS program's most positive impact on me stems from the passionate professors and the extended Rutgers alumna in the media world who showed us how to rise and reach back. Guest lecturers who worked in the field came in and talked to us about skills they acquired in the field or how to stay sharp in an industry that's always asking you to level up. And then there is the thoughtful, hardworking, and non-stop force that is Professor of Professional Practice Steven Miller—I've stayed in contact with him since I graduated in 2005 and I honestly don't know what I would have done without his guidance, mentorship, and willingness to lift me up when I wasn't sure if I belonged in this world or not.
What advice do you have for current students?
Follow your curiosity, know your 'why' at all times, be open to the 'how,’ and continuously remind yourself that you are a work in progress. It might take a bit for your tastes to match your skill level but keep going. If you care, don't quit—just take a break. There’s a reason why you want to be in media; the world needs your voice as much as you need media.