When she was young, Mireya Mayor never thought she'd be where she is now.
"When I was a little kid growing up in Miami, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, I was never allowed to join the girl scouts, I had never been camping, had never traveled outside of Florida," she said.
Today, after a career as an NFL cheerleader and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she works as a National Geographic correspondent and conservationist, traveling the world on a mission to study endangered primates' population genetics, and to raise awareness about wildlife and habitat issues.
Mayor is bringing the story of her journey, titled "Pink Boots and a Machete", to the Newmark Theater on Monday, Mar. 5.
National Geographic Live - Pink Boots and a Machete
Mar. 5, 2018. 7:30pm.
The talk follows Mayor's winding life journey – from a first-generation Cuban-American girl on the streets of Miami, to NFL cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins, to finding a love for anthropology and pursuing a doctoral degree, to discovering a new species of lemur on the island of Madagascar, becoming a Fulbright Scholar and National Geographic's first woman wildlife correspondent, and the grueling adventure of motherhood.
She believes that the first step to getting people to love and protect the planet is to open their eyes to the parts of it they hadn't known before. That's why Mayor says that she'd like to give people a look behind the scenes of her conservation work, and to share photographs and video from her expeditions.
"What you see on TV is only part of it," she said. "There's obviously a lot of adventure, but there's also a lot of misadventure."
Another important aspect of Mayor's talk is to inspire students and young people, particularly women and girls, to pursue their passions in the sciences, because "you ask people to name a female explorer, and they're pretty hard-pressed." She says that she wants to be a role model for girls that never knew that they could be scientists and explorers.
Portland'5 Centers for the Arts has included "Pink Boots and a Machete" in its 2017/2018 season Education Program, which provides free tickets and transportation to students and teachers from Title-I schools in the greater Portland area.
"At a time like this, when we are facing major climate change and the mass extinction of a number of species across the planet, what more perfect time to get kids inspired and excited about our natural world?" said Mayor about the inclusion of her talk in the Portland'5 Education Program.
All in all, Mayor views education and raising awareness as a vital part of a much larger goal: to try to save the planet and its non-human inhabitants while we still can.
Since 2000, she has been working closely with the people and government of Madagascar, reforesting and protecting large areas of the island that are home to more than 100 of species of lemurs – the most endangered mammal group on the planet.
"Every single one of us has the potential and the ability to make a difference in the planet," said Mayor. "That's what I aspire to: to make a positive difference. To see that maybe an animal doesn't go extinct because of my work – education being a part of that."