How to also become a Latina vegan: tips, tricks and advice

I’ve been getting quite a few questions about veganism and how I went vegan so in honor of Oakland Veg Week, I thought that I would share how I did it and then maybe some advice on how to transition.

So, I did write about my transition in my very first blog post. But I didn’t share how I did it, just why I did it. And the how is definitely just as important as the why.

The How

How did I do it? Well, I had a bit of a head start. I was vegetarian for a while, like 7 years, before I took the plunge and became vegan. I don’t know exactly how long because I stopped counting after about 3 years. But anyway,  it’s been a while since I’ve had meat but transitioning from a meat-eater to vegetarian took me about a year or so. I don’t remember how I did it; I don’t remember the details but I do know that I took my time. I probably did it the way that they say now, I took it slow. One meal at a time.

I also know that I failed miserably some of the time. I caved to the smell of fried chicken, milanesa and those little mini-burgers at McDonald’s (a number 1 with fries, please!). But as time went on, that desire started to vanish and eventually I didn’t enjoy the taste. The thought of eating another animal made me feel sick. And that’s my first how-to tip:

BE GENTLE AND FORGIVING TO YOURSELF!

You are going to do the best that you can every day. And every day will bring a new struggle, that birthday party that’s at your favorite meat-filled restaurant, the fiesta con la familia full of carne asada and even that intimate dinner with your significant other who still eats meat. All of these situations, and so many more, will bring on a case of social anxiety if you are too hard on yourself.

You are doing something against the grain, against the status quo. You are living out your beliefs in your everyday life, whether you become vegan for the animals, for the planet or just for your own survival through health. And even forvegan image 2 all the conviction in the world, you’re still going to slip. It’s okay. Just do better on your next food choice. When I went vegan, I didn’t ask if things had eggs, or dairy or anything else. As long as there was no visible cheese or dairy in it, I was good.
I wasn’t ready to start reading ingredients. Now, I do. I read every ingredient before I buy anything packaged that doesn’t have that beautiful “v” on the package. Sometimes I even Google ingredients on my phone if its not a familiar ingredient. You will get to this point, if that’s where you want to head. And this leads me to my next point.

THERE IS NO “ULTIMATE VEGAN”

So stop worrying about being perfect, because you’ll never get there and you’ll just feel bad for “failing”. We live in a meat-eating world. We were taught that eating meat and drinking milk was good for you, that it made you stronger. This was the messaging that we received, and still receive, from media, doctors, and some nutritionists. And so every plate revolves around animals. This is the norm, eating animals is the norm. And so because of this, everything will be connected to the meat, dairy or vivisection (animal testing) industry. So there is no ultimate vegan. Just be as vegan as you can be.

Maybe that means just not eating meat, cheese and dairy but you don’t check ingredients. Or maybe you don’t eat at non-vegan restaurants (if you have it like that, I want to move where you live!) or maybe you go all in and veganize your entire life, from food to clothes to beauty products. Thats great! All of these choices help non-human animals and human animals alike. All of these help the planet and your health. So don’t let others get you down, vegan or non-vegans. As long as you have las ganas to make the change and know why you’re doing it, just let that fuel you. Let that guide you into why you are doing what you’re doing.

The next how-to is:

BUILD OR JOIN A VEGAN COMMUNITY (probably have to build one if you’re not white)

As a person of color, this may be difficult. I’m just going to keep it real right now. Most vegan spaces are white. Like super white. Like blindingly white; Snow White. And that can be uncomfortable. It’s one of the reasons that I was hesitant to go vegan. I felt like the vegan community didn’t represent me.  Also the reason I started this blog was because I didn’t see any Latinas talking about being vegan or what it was like; how they did it and kept connected to their roots. I wanted to share my experience on this journey along with just sharing my life as a vegana. The only way I saw to be able to do this was to start my own community.

Just like anything else, food is part of our culture and when you make changes in that, it could feel like you’re isolating yourself, making yourself more marginalized. But I’ve learned that when you connect with other vegans of color, they understand your intersectional struggles. So search Meet Up or Facebook to see if there are already people in your area meeting and being in community with each other. If there isn’t anything close by, then build one! I know that sounds scary but it’s not. Just start a group on Facebook. It’s easy,  free and will help you keep on track. Just put yourself out there and watch the magic happen.

Community building is so important. It will be hard to continue without others who understand you and understand why you have made the decision to go vegan. It could even just be a completely online community (that’s where most of my vegan community is) that helps in finding vegan foods, spaces, support and resources. I can’t stress this step enough. Build. Your. Community.

Finally, the last thing is

RESOURCES, RESOURCES, RESOURCES!

vegucated 2One of the main things that keeps me vegan during the hard times, besides community, is the resources that help remind me about why I chose to be vegan. A major influence for me was the documentary “Vegucated”. This is hands down one of my favorite documentaries/films on veganism. I may seriously go watch it after writing this post. Lots of folks talk about how Earthlings is what made people vegan but I haven’t seen it. Don’t tell my vegan friends. Vegucated did that and continues to do that for me. The reason I love it so much is it’s one of the only videos I’ve seen on veganism that has a Latina! I know, I know. Seeing Tesla move through the film and have the film show the dynamics of being Latina and going vegan was really eye-opening for me. I felt her and her struggle, through and through. I felt connected to her. She talks about how hard it was because it felt like she was losing a connection to her family, to her roots. I totally understood that.

Resources are an amazing way to move towards being vegan all the time, or most of the time and to help remind you about why you became vegan. If you become vegan for the planet, Cowspiracy may be your Vegucated; the one film that you watch when you need that boost. It’s great film that touches on how agriculture isn’t talked about when we talk about environmental impacts even though it contributes more to global warming than the entire transportation system!

Another good one is Forks over Knives. That’s a great film on how changing the way you eat, changes your health. And I’m not talking about weight, like how much you weigh. I’m seriously talking about your health. Like do you have high cholesterol or diabetes. That health. No fat-shaming on this post. I don’t believe that weight equals health. I know some skinny people that have terrible health habits and fat people that are active and healthy! Plus, I also care about happiness. But that is another post for another day.

eating animalsIf you like to read as well, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is great! He writes about his journey into vegetarianism. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to convince you to become vegetarian. He’s merely doing research in Big Ag and his research changes the way he looks at food and will change the way you look at food too.

Another classic is called The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Many attribute the changes in how people saw the meat-industry to this one book. It’s also a great book on the intersections of slaughterhouses and worker’s rights.

I’ve watched and read these books and movies countless times when I’m feeling low about being vegan. And that can happen. Maybe I had a rough day finding something good to eat. Or had one too many people crack one too many bacon jokes. Or maybe all I want is to go to a fast food joint but I can’t because they have no vegan options. So when this happens, I take a deep breathe and remind myself why I chose to be vegan. I turn on a film or start reading a book and remember that I didn’t choose to be vegan because its the new cool thing. I chose it because I wanted to live out my true self; live the life that best fit my belief that every sentient being has the right to live out their life. And so that’s what I do with my food and lifestyle choice.

These are just a few tips that helped me get through some of the tough times of being a Latina vegana in a meat-eating world.

Any tips that I missed that have helped you? Write them in the comments!

Feeling like you might need more support? Maybe one on one? Too overwhelmed to start your community? If you live in the Bay Area, I can help!

I am a vegan transition coach and can support you in making more vegan choices without having to do it alone. Email me at vonnie4897@gmail.com for more info and prices.

 

 

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Running while being a womxn: My reflections after a scary run

So, I was going to write about tips and tricks on transitioning to veganism, and I will, but I had to get something off my chest.

Fuck. The. Patriarchy.

Obviously these words shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that follows this blog, or follows me on Instagram or I’m friends with on Facebook but I felt I needed to state that just right off the bat, just in case anyone had any doubts.

I’m writing this because I had a clear reminder that as a womxn, particularly a womxn of color, I am not safe in this world. I’m not safe because of the color of my skin. And I’m not safe because of the gender that I present myself as and I identify with.

I am a runner. I love to run. I don’t always like it but I always love it. Right now I’m training to run my first full marathon; 26.2 miles of hard work and sweat. So to get to that amount of running at one time, I have to train a lot. And most of those training runs I do on my own in the morning before work.

On one of these runs earlier this week was when I had that moment of clarity; that fuck the patriarchy moment. I run up this big hill by my house to get in the practice of having to run up a hill. And on this run, I ran next to a car that had it’s door open. I ran a little away from the open door with caution and then went on my way. I then see the same car drive up the hill. I think nothing of it because it’s a pretty busy street as it leads to a freeway. But I then see that the car has pulled over and is idling. I freak out a bit and stop. I pretend that I’ve reached my goal and am just resting while I look at the car through my peripheral vision. But the car doesn’t leave. It’s just there idling on the side of the road. Finally, after about a minute or so, like the driver can tell that I’m not going any farther, it speeds off.

I start to run down the hill with tears streaming down my face. I’m frightened and I look over my shoulder every few seconds or so just to make sure that the car is not following. To some, this might feel like an overreaction. Like what if the guy was checking his phone? Or thought he forgot something and puled over? That could have been the case. But in my mind, this guy is following me. Plus, I’m not taking nay chances. I’d rather be wrong and offend this guy than be right and be in a bad, or even fatal, situation.

As I get down to about the middle of the hill, I start to get angry. I’m angry at the whole fucking situation. I’m angry that this fear even exists. I’m angry that I do so many things to keep myself safe and yet I’m never safe. I list out in my mind all the things that I do in my life every day to avoid dangerous situations:

I don’t run when its too dark so either too early in the morning or too late in the evening

I only run with one earbud in or my music extra low

I don’t walk or run on empty streets

I run against traffic so that a car can’t sneak up behind me

I don’t park next to vans or large trucks

I walk to my car with my keys in my hand

I walk alert and not on my phone

I know where all the exits are in a room

I make sure to look people in the eye and try to memorize something about them that is distinguishable

And then I start to think of all the things that I’ve heard other women do to keep themselves safe.

They take self-defense courses

They carry pepper spray

They carry tasers

They carry whistles

We know not to yell “help” but to yell “fire” to make sure that people will actually come help you.

We go out in groups and go to the bathroom in groups

And yet, we’re attacked, raped, hurt or killed. We try to avoid bad situations and yet we still hear attacks on womxn happening every day.

But the worse part of it all is when a womxn is attacked she is asked questions like:

what were you wearing?

how much did you drink? were you drunk?

well, were you by yourself? why didn’t you go with a friend?

were you alert?

why didn’t you get a taser? or learn self-defense? or learn to shoot a gun?

We are usually blamed for the attack. We didn’t take care of ourselves, is the thinking. We know what the world is like. Why didn’t we just take care of ourselves?

It’s like fuck! Let me just not step out of the fucking house ever. Oh wait! That won’t help either because a majority of attacks are done by people womxn know so even your house may not be safe because it could be someone you live with or your related to. Or someone could break into your house and attack you in your home. So shit, I guess no where is safe.

I thought about all of this as I continued to run home, tears streaming down my face. I felt so angry. So humiliated, at first. Like I had done something wrong. Like I should know better than to be by myself. And then, I got angry for blaming myself. Because it wasn’t my fault. I had done everything I could do to “keep myself safe” but there will always be people out there determined to hurt you. They will be bigger and stronger. They’ll have a gun or a knife or be trained in multiple types of martial arts. They will get you if they want you.

if-i-had-a-hammer-id-smash-patriarchyI don’t say this to scare womxn. I say this to make my first point. Fuck the patriarchy. Rape and sexual attacks are not the fault of the womxn attacked. It is society who is at fault. The attacks on womxn are a symptom of a much bigger issue that we have to deal with as a society: sexism. Womxn have been objectified and sexualized for who knows how long. We’ve been made into things, not people. This is the problem we need to fix. We don’t need to keep womxn wrapped up in bubble wrap, hidden away so that we are safe. We need to change the way that womxn are seen in society. We need to stop blaming womxn for being attacked and start blaming the attackers and society for attacking.

When I got home from my run, after feeling all sorts of emotions, The Boo asked me how my run was. For a split second I debated about whether or not I would tell him. For 2 reasons, one because I didn’t want him to have to worry about me and two, because I didn’t know what his reaction would be. But I decided to trust him and so I told him. He came over and said that he was sorry. He was sorry that the world was so unfair and that I couldn’t even go for a run without feeling fear. That we would make a plan about how to make me feel safer. But he said, for now he’d come on my runs until I told him I felt better. And that’s what we’ve done for the last week. And we’ll continue to do for a bit. At least when I run in my neighborhood.

flat,800x800,075,f.u4What I got the most from was his reaction. It gave me a sense of safety but also hope. Hope in that if we as womxn continue to tell the men in our lives what we really endure every day for being womxn, then maybe we can start changing things because honestly, we can’t wait for men to get their shit together and change it. We need to do it, force the change, demand it. And not to feel shame for wanting a better, safer world for womxn. For me, it’s not about blaming men. It’s about dialogue around the real issues and working to change them. It’s about destroying the patriarchal society that we live in. That allows men to hurt womxn and have no consequences. It’s society that allows rape to endure, attacks on the right for womxn to choose. It about taking apart the society and building one that’s more inclusive. It’s not just about equal pay for equal work or breaking the glass ceiling. Its about changing or destroying the structures as we know it that hold womxn down or blame us for the violence that we endure.

it’s about smashing the patriarchy!

I’m sharing with all the men in my life about what it’s like to be me and a womxn in this country. Some may not want to hear it or deny that there’s a problem but that’s ok. Because it’s about transforming myself just as much as it is about destroying the system.

How will you work to smash the patriarchy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

p.s. I didn’t get into the intersection of being a womxn of color within this or gender identity which exacerbates the violence. This was just based on my own experience within this one incident.  Maybe I’ll write something more “academic” or researched. 🙂