Culture

Haters Gonna Hate: Vegan Mexican Restaurants Are Opening Up And The Backlash Is Next Level

It seems like vegan food is everywhere these days. From the fast food menus at Taco Bell, Burger Kind, and Carls Jr., to the grocery store shelves, it’s never been easier to try eating less meat.

For many people, veganism has seemed to be a diet of the privileged. It tends to have a reputation has being a bit more expensive and a little more difficult to follow than your typical diet – especially for Latinos – but from New Hampshire to Arizona and California, Latinos are embracing veganism with new restaurants.

And apparently, not everyone is happy about it.

First, what exactly is veganism?

Credit: Unsplash

Veganism is based upon eating a diet free from all animal products – typically this means no meat, no eggs, no dairy. Many people go vegan because of animal rights or to help the environment. But the largest reason cited by many people recently is because of their health.

Adults in the U.S. have a 40% chance of getting type 2 diabetes, but Hispanic and Latino adults have more than a 50% chance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Latinos also are at greater risk of developing diabetes at a younger age and getting complications like kidney failure and vision loss. The CDC says some of the factors contributing to this are genetics and the cultural value in eating meals high in fat and calories.

Ok, but like what does vegan Mexican food look like?

While most American vegan restaurants offer a few basic Mexican-inspired items, this new wave of Mexican-driven restaurants is reimagining classic Mexican recipes, the foods they grew up on, with plant-based ingredients.

Las Vegas and Austin, Texas, each have at least a few eateries or food trucks that are exclusively vegan Mexican. Across Southern California, there are a slew of options, including a vegan panaderia peddling traditional pastries.

The vegan Mex wave now seems to be sweeping Arizona.

Mi Vegana Madre expanded into a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale last year. It offers vegan takes on carne asada, al pastor and nachos with a cashew cream-based cheese sauce. Another restaurant offering vegan Mexican and Mediterranean dishes opened in January a half-mile away. In September, a third place opened in Phoenix, also led by a Mexican American family.

But many people don’t realize that pre-Hispanic Mexicans – our Indigenous ancestors – ate a diet that was largely plant-based.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

While some may say veganizing is misappropriating Mexican food, the country’s indigenous natives actually ate mostly plant-based foods, according to Arellano. Colonizers from Spain irrevocably altered the food culture with introductions of beef, lamb and pork.

“They don’t realize, if you’re real Mexicans, you’re not supposed to be eating this meat in the first place because colonizers brought it over,” Gustavo Arellano said in an interview with KTLA. “I eat everything, but I’ll eat vegan Mex if it’s good.”

And books like Decolonize Your Diet by Luz Calvo, while not focused on veganism, help connect Latinos with their Indigenous roots through their diet. Many of the ingredients and recipes popular among Latino cultures today actually originated during Colonial times. So many are turning to the diets of their ancestors and many of those diets happen to be overwhelmingly plant-based.

Vegan Mexican food definitely seems to have its haters among the Latino community.

“That’s not real Mexican food,” ”My grandma would slap you” and “sellout” are just some of comments Jose and Leticia Gamiz received when they started their pop-up vegan Mexican food business, Mi Vegana Madre, four years ago.

People saw them doing something new and took it personally, Jose Gamiz said. “We even had somebody write (online) in Spanish, ‘They’re probably not even Mexican.’”

Despite the haters, the couple’s meat- and dairy-free endeavor has built a following. It’s part of a growing vegan Mexican food industry in the U.S. that has seen Latinos take control of the kitchen and plant-based Mexican cuisine increasingly plant roots in areas with large Latino communities.

Yet for some Latinos, going sin carne can still feel like a sin.

Linda Sepulveda, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has virtually no all-vegan Mexican restaurants, would find it hard to give up an omnivore’s life. Her house is always stocked with ground beef, tortillas and salsa.

Telling KTLA News, she said “I’m intrigued by (vegan Mexican), but I think a part of me knows it won’t taste the same,” she said. “We are always trying to find where we can add veggies, but there always has to be a main meat and everything else dresses it up.”

But all despite the haters, veganism seems to be on the rise all around the world.

Veganism is a rapidly growing movement – from just a few million in the early 90’s to around 550–950 million world wide as of last year. The search term for veganism has gone up by 550% according to google and veganism in the UK has risen over 300% in the last 5 years. But it’s not just limited to the US and the UK.

Even in Mexico, which many consider to be a country that loves its meat, veganism is on the rise. According to data collected by the Gourmet Show, a major Mexican food festival that showcases new products and highlights the latest trends in the gourmet food and drinks space, 20 percent of Mexicans identify as vegan or vegetarian. And, according to Maria Fernanda, manager of Villalobos Vegan Inc., the majority of these people are women, representing between 60-70 percent of this vegan demographic.

Nopales Are Now Being Used To Make High-End Vegan Leather Goods Thanks To Two Mexican Designers

Things That Matter

Nopales Are Now Being Used To Make High-End Vegan Leather Goods Thanks To Two Mexican Designers

Desserto / Facebook

If you’ve always thought nopales were the answer to the world’s problems, prepare to be validated. Two entrepreneurs from Guadalajara and Aguascalientes have just debuted a luxury, organic vegan leather entirely made from nopales. The material is made to last over ten years in your car, purse, or wallet. While creators Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez have named their innovation Desserto, the people have already started calling it Cactus Leather. 

The material itself is made without phthalates, toxic chemicals or PVC. Also, because nopales grow without much water, the material is far more sustainable than animal leather options, which require water to grow all the plants that feed an animal throughout his or her life, plus water for the animal themself. Desserto made its debut last month at the International Leather Fair Lineapelle in Milan. López Velarde told Fashion United that, “the enthusiasm for our Desserto sustainable materials at Lineapelle was overwhelming.”

The duo’s inspiration for innovation was seeing the density of environmental pollution their respective industries were producing.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you already know what they’re talking about. López Velarde and Cázarez saw a need to reduce the environmental pollution they both bore witness to. They were so dedicated to creating a sustainable option, they left their jobs and started Adriano Di Marti, the company that created Desserto. They’re not done innovating just yet. Desserto is Adriano Di Marti’s first product, and it won’t be the last. They plan to continue researching and developing new products that can revolutionize the leather industry for the better.

They chose the nopal, in part, because it’s a symbol of Mexican identity.

Credit: @desserto.pelle / Instagram

 López Velarde told Fashion United, “The idea of using this raw material was conceived because this plant does not need any water to grow, and there is plenty of it throughout the Mexican Republic. Also, symbolically, it represents all of us Mexicans and everybody knows it. Besides, to be able to incorporate this material into various industries, it is essential to count on a stable, abundant supply of raw material.” They spent two years researching and developing a product that met all the technical requirements to be used in the automotive and fashion industries.

The International Leather Fair Lineapelle created significant buzz for the brand. After sampling all the alternative leathers at the fair, a presenter announced that they felt Desserto was the “most appropriate for use in luxury brands thanks to its flexibility, softness, touch and color.”

The company is already producing handbags and is working with big brands in other industries.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

López Velarde teased some “very interesting projects” in the works with “high profile companies in neighboring countries,” according to Fashion United. Will the new Tesla boast nopal leather? Will the Birkin bag finally leave alligators alone and use the luxuries, organic, sustainable Desserto leather instead? We dream.

Companies can reduce the water consumption of their products by 20 percent when using Desserto instead.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

López Velarde cited some shocking statistics in the interview, saying the fashion industry uses as much water as it would take to fill 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to López Velarde, the fashion industry is projected to increase its solid waste by 60 percent by 2030. Their nopal vegan leather will remain durable for a minimum of 10 years, and afterward, will biodegrade. It’s made from organic materials, after all. 

López Velarde and Marte Cazáre were born the same day and year in México, because of destiny.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

In an interview with Heraldo de Mexico, the 20-somethings recalled how they met as students in Taiwan. The two were studying international business when the met. They immediately clicked and discovered that they were, not only two Mexicanos sharing culture in Taiwan, but that they also shared the same exact birthday.

Their advice to other jóvenes with “crazy” ideas: Go for it.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

People told them they were crazy. They told reporter Adriana Luna that their youth has been an asset, because they had nothing to lose when they embarked on this dream, and everything to gain. They hope to see Desserto used to create armchairs, luxury couches, car seats, and in the fashion industry. 

If you’re in the area, you can visit their brick and mortar shop to learn more about the leather, or buy a bag for yourself.

READ: A Guadalajara-Based Scientist Discovered Nopal Juice Can Create Plastic And Our Eco-Friendly Latina Moms Are About To Lose It

She Broke The Internet With Her Recipe Videos And Now This Abuelita Is Being Recognized By YouTube

Things That Matter

She Broke The Internet With Her Recipe Videos And Now This Abuelita Is Being Recognized By YouTube

Remember Doña Angelita, the adorable Mexican abuelita who became internet famous by sharing her traditional recipes online? Well, she was recently recognized by YouTube as a leading influencer. And we can’t celebrate this enough! One of the things we love about online cultures when they are at their best is how everyday people who have extraordinary talents can share their uniqueness with the world. 

This amazing woman is now loved and respected by literally millions, as she has provided access to life un rural Mexico. Rural and indigenous Mexicans (and Latin Americans in general) are marginalized when it comes to sharing their lives on social media and becoming mainstream. So this case has helped spread the word on the awesomeness of traditional food and rustic cooking methods. 

She has also helped in the preservation of traditional recipes that can get lost if they are not properly archived: with her YouTube videos, she has made sure that the methods, ingredients and human touch of dishes that have been passed down generations of Mexicans are kept alive in the digital era. And we cannot thank her enough. La queremos mucho, Doña Angelita!

YouTube sent her two plaques to make her online popularity official.

Credit: De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina / Facebook

In a photo that Doña Angelita shared in her official Facebook page we can see her holding two plaques with one of her granddaughters. The golden plaque is a real achievement: it states that her YouTube channel has surpassed 1,000,000 subscribers, not an easy feat at all! Just look at her proud smile, the product of many years of perfecting her culinary skills in silence and the pride of finally being able to share it with the help of her family. This is as authentic as it gets. And for those hipsters who love organic…. just look at the beautiful produce she uses in her food. 

She will soon reach two million subscribers! Sí se puede, sí se puede…

The latest count reads 1.53 million subscribers. Not bad at all! a few months ago this total superstar lived in anonymity in her native Michoacan, hiding two unique talents: great skill in keeping culinary tradition alive through old proven cooking methods, and a charm in front of the camera that is as spontaneous as it is relatable. We are sure that her popularity will just continue to subir como la espuma. We just hope that her work continues to be as authentic as it has been so far, and that it doesn’t get watered down with corporate sponsorships. But, come to think about it, we also want her to get what she deserves!

Because we can all remember an abuelita that looks like the sweet Doña Angelita.

Credit: De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina / YouTube

One of the reasons why she has become such a star is that her charisma and tenderness reminds us of our own abuelitas or aunties who spent hours cleaning frijoles while chatting to us. Many of us remember the endless afternoons we spent watching our abuelitas stir a pot. For many Latinos, the first forays into the kitchen had to do with private cooking lessons from those strong, beautiful souls called abuelitas. These private lessons are a treasure that even Chef Gordon Ramsey would envy! 

Fame has also allowed her to fulfil some of her dreams!

Credit: De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina / Facebook

And of course all this fame has come with some much deserved perks! Our favorite online celebrity was able to take her husband and her family to a beach holiday thanks to the support her YouTube channel has gotten. She had never been to the beach, and the photos she shared on her official Facebook page are beautiful, so joyous. It is things like this that make us believe in humanity again! 

And she gets her viejo to help with the cooking too! Her success is a communal, family effort.

Credit: De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina / Facebook

Just look at this adorable moment. In her Facebook page Doña Angelita makes it clear that her success is not a one-woman-show. Her success is also a testament of the support and solidarity that many Latinos find in their immediate family. We also love how her success story counters gender stereotypes. Her story also defies the notion that once you are over 50 your working life, particularly if you are a woman, is over. Her success story also makes us wonder how many people with hidden talents are out there. We hope for many more of these viral personalities to emerge, as they are nice change considering the huge amount of empty and narcissistic messages floating around in the influencer industry.