Planted within the intersection of veganism, scarce resources, and a college student budget, a self-identified queer Latina would turn an Instagram account for vegan recipes into a global community for vegans of color. Reaching a demographic of vegans unbeknownst to Amy Quichiz in 2017, this Peruvian and Colombian New York City native would create the foundation of a tribe of hundreds of women, trans, and non-binary people of color eating a plant-based diet through Veggie Mijas. Originally a shared space for vegans of color to circulate affordable recipes, Veggie Mijas is now a grassroots organization with over 11 active chapters across the country with the latest established chapter in Mumbai, India. In an effort to curate a support system for vegans of color, this collective strives to break barriers towards environmental justice and decolonizing one’s diet.
While this community continues to grow and vegan options become far more accessible, a lot more could be said about the Latinx community’s efforts towards building a far more sustainable future for our minds and bodies. Specifically, within the U.S. only 3 percent of Americans identify as vegan, on the contrary, Latin American countries like Mexico have 20 percent, self-identified vegetarians and vegans, according to Vegconomist. These statistics prove there is an evident disconnect between our Latinx plant-based roots and the current environment and eating habits of Latinx folks within the United States. While Veggie Mijas is not exclusive to Latinx folks, Amy and this community are building the bridge within that gap.
“I think honestly just getting together and having a group of vegans of color is so radical,” she said. Amy spoke to HipLatina on the ancestral significance of food within the Latinx community, shifting food to mindset, and the future of veganism by people of color.
Plant-Based Ancestral Practices
When thinking of veganism as a Latinx person, it has been complicated, like any other person of color, to find oneself within this rhetoric and lifestyle when the options for plant-based foods are geared towards American foods. Although veggie burgers can be delicious to vegan and non-vegan people alike, Amy highlights how critical it is to formulate your food options in ways that are traditional to your household. Particularly in reference to introducing veganism to her Latinx parents, Amy states “If you start eating things that are already vegan like for example rice, beans, avocado, with plantains, that is literally what we eat already so just finding ways that make sense for them has been helpful.”
Amy also notes how asking questions has allowed her family and herself to think outside of “white veganism” and back towards plant-based ancestral practices. “When I would ask my parents what did you used to eat in Colombia or in Peru before you came to this country, I was actually surprised by that answer because a lot of the food was either pescatarian or just more plant-based options than they would have eaten here,” Amy reveals. As the United States reaches the highest recorded rate of adult obesity at 42.4 percent, Latinx adults have an obesity rate of 44.8 percent, according to a report from Trust for America’s Health. Despite these staggering numbers, it is no surprise Latinx folks, as well as Black folks, have far more health issues than white Americans when a variety of socioeconomic factors are at also play. Alluding to the food deserts in Black and Latinx communities, Amy explains, “Really asking a lot of questions like what are the choices of food that are given to you? Are they really choices?….we question these things and then I feel like that gets closer to your ancestry practice.”
More Than Food
It is easy to say veganism is focused solely on eating plant-based, however, animal rights, environmental justice, and sustainability have become integral forces that keep veganism afloat. As Amy recalls, her earlier years of transitioning into an entirely plant-based lifestyle, she discovered how white-washed her ideology on veganism was. “I only learned about like the animal aspect of veganism but once my veganism became more intersectional because I learned from vegans of color I was like wow this is way more than just animals.” She was introduced to books like Sistah Vegan and implemented this book, as well as countless other resources, within Veggie Mijas for other vegans of colors to think critically about decolonizing their lifestyle and food.
The Veggie Mija founder slowly discovered how her interests in a variety of social issues, as well as her literal identity as a queer Latina, disrupted the veganism that she once knew to a wider ecosystem of human rights issues. “If you put veganism in the center of like all of these other issues that you care about, you would find a correlation between them… there is no way you can see that you’re about immigrant rights and then not see how veganism is a part of that,” Amy explains. In order to have an integrated conversation on veganism as people of color, Veggie Mijas provides information on ongoing issues regarding farmworkers’ rights, food scarcity in Native communities, and more.
The Future of Veganism by People of Color
Curating a space for vegans of color to collectively deconstruct white veganism, Veggie Mijas brings the marginalized community to the forefront of veganism. “We’re challenging the white spaces that veganism is mostly discussed about, I would say even getting together itself is so revolutionary in the sense that we haven’t seen a group of beings of color together creating these changes and creating these events around their communities,” Amy exclaims. In Latinx communities that are often affected by a variety of socioeconomic issues, Veggie Mijas allows for the duality of being a vegan of color to intersect and have real discussions for and by our communities. “People are scared of the security of their children so they’re not going to be focusing on the animals, so the fact that we’re finally talking about how it all intersects in one plate is just so important to our community.”
Whether that is launching a community fridge or sharing vegan fajita recipes, members within Veggie Mijas are reclaiming how Latinx folk imagine a sustainable plant-based lifestyle. As Veggie Mijas reaches its 4th anniversary this summer, Amy shares her hopes for the future of the collective and veganism for people of color. “I see us growing in a feminist conscious way, not growing just to grow but growing because it will make a difference and people want to do the work and people see it’s a necessity to do the work.”