Jennifer Chavez

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I went vegetarian over 6 years ago thanks to my aunt. I was working at her restaurant, and one day she was scrolling through Facebook and saw that someone posted the benefits of not eating meat. So, we made a deal that we would both go vegetarian and see who would last the longest. We made a straight transition, and it was easy since she owned the restaurant, and we both spent lots of our time there. She would just cook something up for the both of us, and in the process, teach me some meals I could cook for myself at home.

I didn’t go vegan until almost 2 years ago because there were a lot of complications. First of all, I didn’t tell my parents until about 2-3ish years later, and it didn’t go well. My dad totally supported me, but my mother didn’t. After the fact, she tried to sneak meat in my food, or she would just plain out put a chicken leg on my plate and say, “You are not moving until you eat it.” Of course I never did. I started taking other animal products out of my ‘diet’, like milk and yogurt, until one day I just decided to go vegan. My mom found out shortly and wished I would go back to being vegetarian; she still begs me to this day.

I am Mexican so there is a part of me that thinks this takes away from my culture, and it doesn’t help that my whole family reminds me of it, but some do understand the cruelty farmed animals go through. It’s also very hard to find someone who would understand my situation and circumstances because I personally don’t know any person of color who’s vegan. I do have very supportive siblings, cousins, and aunts; they try and make me feel included in family reunions by making food for me, but none of them would want to cut meat out of their lives even a little, as much as I ask them. But they respect my decision.  

I remember when I was in middle school - during lunch, I would sit at different tables in the lunchroom and tell the people around me how these animals were being treated and little facts about global warming and how much water it takes to produce meat. They would always say, “Shut up, I’m trying to eat.” Because if they thought too much about what I was saying, they would lose their appetite. But the best thing happened this year. I was at my friend's birthday party, and my friend from middle school, who I had told all these things about the meat industry, came up to me and said, “You were right.” At this point, I was confused, but then she added, “You are saving the earth, and all those things you told us are true.” I’m glad I was able to impact one of my peers at a young age, and I’m glad it stuck with her all those years.

Now that I know a bit more about veganism and the meat industry, I want to share my experience and knowledge with other people in my community to try and let them see how eating a little less meat can have a big impact. And of course I am not asking them to give meat up as a whole - I get how food connects with your culture and how tasty it might be - but to see how America treats their animals and how messed up our food system is. My hope is just to see a plant-based lifestyle become more accessible within communities of color.

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Claire Howe