Family Love: a vegan latina in a meat-eating family

 

The Boo and I went to visit my family a couple of weekends ago. Well, we went to Harry Potter Land aka Universal Studios and also visited my family! A two birds, one crumb kind of situation which always works out great. Universal was not very vegan-friendly, I should write them about that, but my family on the other hand, had prepared a entire vegan brunch for me and The Boo! It was awesome. And this wasn’t no toast and coffee continental breakfast, this was a full on delectable menu: vegan quiche, zucchini pancakes, fresh fruit and of course, mimosas!

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Vegan breakfast courtesy of my godmother, my sista and my Tia!

As I started to think about my next post, my mind immediately went to the kindness and acceptance of my family and how I wanted to share that with others. For me, one of the major reasons that I was hesitant to go vegan was because of the people around me; my social circle. And no matter how far I may live, that will always include my family. And so when I went vegetarian, I got some shit from my family, and still do, but they were accepting. My Tia always making me special dishes without meat and saying “Esto es para la Minina!” and shooing others away who were trying to eat my specially-made dish. My mom stocking her fridge full of veggie treats so that I always had something to eat. At those moments, I felt like my decision was not making me isolated but making me feel more loved by the people that I love most in the world. Through food, they showed me that no matter how out of their comfort zone my decisions were, they would always support me in the ways that they could. And becoming vegan was no different. It took some time to adjust because, like me, it was new to them. But they tried and succeeded at making a delicious vegan meal. I’m part of a family of over-achievers. We don’t do anything at less than 100% and the menu above proves that. They really went above and beyond to make me and The Boo feel at home and loved through what they served us. No judgements and not as an after-thought but as the center of our gathering. It was beautiful and reassuring that my decision was not going to isolate me but bring me closer to those that I love.

I wondered if others were so lucky to have a family who supports your decisions or if I was one of the few.

STORIES OF TRANSITION

Earlier this year, I interviewed some amazing Latina vegans for a blog series, that I hope to finally put up this coming month, and one of the questions I asked was related to this topic: how did your family feel or react to your decision? And to my greatest surprise, all 3 of them said that their families were supportive. Some maybe more than others or supportive in their own ways but none said that their experience was overly negative. I was excited to know that most other folks had had similar experiences to mine, accepting families even at their most uncomfortable. It gave me comfort that brown families were accepting of values different than the ones they grew up with.

But then I had the thought that maybe it was just us 4 but i was wrong because The Boo’s family has been super supportive of his transition into veganism as well. His mom always makes us vegan Mexican dishes like ceviche de tofu, taquitos de papa and even for his birthday that just passed, his sister made him a vegan cheesecake! A vegan cheesecake! She’s a great baker and it was delicious.

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Vegan blueberry cheesecake. YUM!

So I started thinking about how we got so lucky to have families that were so willing to bend over backwards to make sure that we’re being included. And to be honest, I still don’t know. But there are a few things that I have noticed over the years that i think helped with making life transitions easier on ourselves and those we love.

TAKING IT SERIOUSLY

Sometimes I let things slide. Like I’ll eat something even though milk is an ingredient or I wasn’t able to find out if something was made using eggs or milk, just out of either laziness or feeling tired. And what I mean by that is a tiredness of having to say yes or no to something because it may or may not be vegan or honestly sometimes feeling left out of the mix. But those moments are now fewer and farther between because I told myself that if I wanted people to take my new lifestyle seriously, I had to take it seriously. Simple concept, I know, but sometimes common sense isn’t so common. And so when I started taking it more seriously, asking if it was vegan or if there was going to be vegan food, others around me started to take me seriously. At work, for instance, they’ll try and let me know if something isn’t vegan. Same with my friends about something they’ve made because it might have milk or cheese or even whey,  Thanks Boo Boo! So I’ve learned that the stronger you are about asking and saying no when something isn’t vegan, the more likely others will also take a stronger stance on your behalf.

Of course, that’s not a universal thing. There will always be those that like to make fun of you or trick you into eating something that isn’t vegan, yes even in your own family, but I’ve found that those people are rare. And it’s usually about them and not you or your new found way of life.

LATINX FAMILIES!

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me, The Boo and the rest of the fam!

I’m a Latina! Besides being lucky in my good looks and charm, I’m also blessed of having been born in a latinx family. If you can’t tell, I LOVE BEING LATINA! I don’t know about any other families from other backgrounds but Latinx families are super accommodating when it comes to food. In my family, we aren’t happy if everyone isn’t eating or drinking something as soon as they walk in the door. The first thing they say is “que flaca estas. Ahorita te hago algo para comer” and before you can say your not hungry, el pancito is in the toaster and the gallo pinto is in the pan.

My family shows love through food and I feel loved when I’m sitting around the table with my cousins and tias talking politics, literature and the funniest meme they saw on Facebook that morning, it’s not all serious talk, with a plate overflowing with something delicious that my Tia made.  My tia is the cook of the family. She’s even opening her own restaurant, WITH VEGGIE OPTIONS! YAY!

And the same was the case with this last trip back down to SoCal. We weren’t planning on heading to brunch at my godmother’s house but she invited us when she found out we were going to be in town and remembered and planned for  what was one of the best brunches I’ve had in a while because everything was vegan! I felt loved knowing that she, and others, went through the trouble of making something that was out of their comfort but were doing it so that The Boo and I had something to eat. So if you’re reading this, thank you! I appreciate  the support that you all give me so much even when you may think that it’s a little extreme. I feel like having a close family like mine and The Boo’s helped in having made the transition much easier; made the transition not just bearable but joyful. I was able to still partake in one of my greatest joys, eating, while living out my truth: that non-human animals shouldn’t suffer just so that we can eat them.

I tried to find some other stories of people who maybe didn’t have the greatest experience with their families but I couldn’t seem to find them, which may be is a good thing? But what was your vegan transition story like? Or if you’re thinking about living a vegan lifestyle, did this touch on some of your fears? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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I Learned It From My Momma

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This is an excerpt from a longer piece that I submitted to be added to an anthology about Latina vegans. Fingers crossed that it gets chosen. But either way, enjoy!

My family has always supported my choices in life, especially my mom. She’s never been one to say estas loca, except maybe once or twice, but always with a big, bright smile on her face. She smiled when I brought home a small black kitty who I found wandering the streets when I was young. She smiled when I told her that I was going to stop eating animals and she smiled when I told her that I was taking the plunge and going to be vegan. She was always supportive of my profound and infinite compassion. She should be, she’s the one who taught me.

I remember when I was little, my mom would always tell my brother and me that everything had feelings, even inanimate objects like chairs and walls. She would tell us to never hit anything because it would hurt them and she would say, “porque le vas a pegar. No te hiso nada”. I think she mostly said it because she didn’t want us to kick chairs when we got angry and break one or walk through the grass in our front yard because she liked a green landscape. But growing up, learning and being told that everything has feelings, had a profound impact on the way that I see the world. I still apologize to grass as I walk across it!

With these small lessons, I feel everything very deeply and my compassion feels unlimited. Even as a 31-year-old Latina, I feel that living out my values is important and knowing deep in mi corazon that my actions can make a difference. My mother taught me that, she’s really the one who taught me the true meaning of compassion, which is what motivated me to be vegan.

Being vegan, to me, is to live a life of profound compassion; a compassion so deep que lo sientes en los huesos. I wouldn’t have this level of compassion without the guidance of my mother. She taught me to be kind, generous and loving, all traits that I find I can live out further by being vegan. She taught me all of this through her words and her actions. My mother is a caretaker for children who are gravely ill, children who can’t walk or speak. She takes care of these children when their parents can’t come to the hospital and keeps them safe throughout the night. She guards these children from the bad of this world. She treats them as she would treat my brother and I. She has undying love and compassion for the sick and innocent. I remember asking her what her favorite part of her job was. She said that is was being there for someone that, at that moment, needed someone on their side, to fight for them and to comfort them. She liked being there for someone at their worst and at their best. My mother taught me to be strong, to fight for justice, and to never let the world harden my heart.

I became vegan because I felt like it would help me live out my values and my truth. I had been vegetarian for almost 10 years and in the last 5, I wanted to take it a step further and switch to veganism.  I don’t have all the answers nor do I think I ever will which made it difficult for me to transition. A little backstory on this: I’m a biologist by trade, I guess. I say I guess because I got my degree in biology but I don’t really use it besides when something happens and I try to explain it to someone scientifically. But I love science and have loved science since I was a child. I got a microscope for Christmas when I was 10, which my mom bought me because she supported my love of science. I love science because you can open a book and find the answer to a problem. With a little, or a lot, of research almost any answer can be found. Because of this, I want to have all the answers; I want to be able to open a couple of books and get an answer to my questions. But being vegan isn’t really like that, just like most of the social justice world. There isn’t a book with all the answers and so becoming vegan seemed daunting. And then add the intersections of being a Latina! Ay no! I felt like it would be too much. That feeling stayed with me until this year, when the feeling of being a phony became more overwhelming than becoming vegan.

Feeling phony was my own thing, no one made me feel that way but it came from not doing as much as I possibly could to live out my values, which is what my mom taught me. She is my biggest fan and my toughest critic. I knew she would ask why didn’t I just do it if I knew that I wanted to and knew that I could. And it was true. I knew could give up cheese, milk and eggs but I just didn’t. I hardly ate these things in the first place, especially dairy-based milk, which I haven’t drank in years but I didn’t. I didn’t until I realized why.

Being a Latina is hard when living in a country where being white is the standard. I can’t hide being Latina; my skin and eyes are brown and my hair is curly. I could straighten my hair, and I used to, but I can’t whiten my skin and can’t lighten my eyes nor do I want to. I love being me but being a vegan Latina seemed like I was pushing myself farther into the margin, into a smaller part of a small minority. Why would I want to do that, I thought. I also found that vegan spaces weren’t very welcoming. I felt out of place and isolated. Most didn’t have Latinos as part of their membership nor did they intentionally outreach in Latino spaces, or even POC spaces. Being the only Latina in a room full of white folks took me back to being a child and always feeling super different, never feeling like I fit in and I just didn’t want to feel that way. I thought about creating my own space for Latina/o vegans but I didn’t know where to go and how to do it. To be honest, I just wanted to be able to pop into an already created community of POC vegans. I wasn’t that invested yet to create my own space. Plus, and this is the biggie, I didn’t want to lose the friends that I already had, to burden my partner who is a meat-eater and burden my family when I come to visit. I didn’t want to make their lives harder because of a choice that I made. And so I didn’t. I lived with the feeling of being a phony until I couldn’t anymore; until I became a vegan.