Carlos was born to a Mexican American mother and a Mexican indigenous father. His early years were spent traveling between San Jose CA and a rural community in the Autlan Valley of Jalisco, where his father was a small farmer. His experience growing up was informed by the beauty of the Mexican countryside, his large extended
family and its customs, as well as the struggles of his immigrant father, his Mexican culture, and the lower income communities where he was raised.
At the age of 7, Carlos experienced an awakening moment where the death of a family member connected him to the concepts of the infinite (the eternal afterlife), and zero (death). His obsession with the existential meaning of the human journey caused many sleepless nights trying to make sense of the higher implications of being sentient and self-aware but facing imminent end. Thus began his process of living life in the now, while perceiving every significant act from the moment of his last breath. While he was surrounded by violence, alcoholism, and the sufferings of impoverishment, Carlos’ fascination with being alive enabled him to stay above the shackles of the trauma.
While his friends all dropped out of high school, Carlos decided to go to college. After two years in junior college, Carlos was accepted into UCLA to study biology and anthropology. Despite working 30 hours per week to pay for
his tuition, Carlos was able to graduate in 1993 with a BS in biological anthropology. He then spent 3 months living amongst the Achuar of the Ecuadorian rainforest to connect with the indigenous ways of humans in nature and to learn of the life of a hunter-gatherer community.
While in Ecuador, Carlos received a letter informing him he had been accepted into the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science where he received a Masters of Environmental Science degree in 1995, with emphases on conservation biology and political ecology. Coming to the realization that all efforts at creating a sustainable relationship with nature and each other is first and foremost political, Carlos chose the path of becoming an organizer.
In the 1990s, Carlos honed his craft of social organizing as an early participant in the nascent environmental justice movement. In the 2000s, Carlos focused on developing his political organizing and legislative skills by working as a congressional aide and then a chief of staff to the Oakland City Council president, and then as a registered lobbyist for a firm he created. His early lobbying days were on behalf of urban infill housing projects and cannabis legalization policy. Coming to the realization that all efforts at creating a sustainable relationship with nature and each other is first and foremost political, Carlos chose the path of becoming an organizer.
From 2018 and 2022, Carlos had experiences with entheogens, including mushrooms, ayahuasca, DMT, and Peyotl, which introduced him to the transformative power of these natural substances. Recognizing their capacity (with good education and integration) at expanding compassion in society, and the implications for political transformation toward greater sustainability in how humans live, Carlos co-founded the Decriminalize Nature movement, which has decriminalized now in 15 cities, and is helping shape policy throughout the United States.