A New Journey

9 Jun

I have taken a long break from Vegan La Raza because I underwent a very low moment in my life and am working hard to move forward. For that reason, I am working on a new project:  http://dearxiomara.com/

Basically, I fell into a deep depression and am finding ways to move forward in a positive, holistic, healthy way. I will continue to post on occasion on Vegan La Raza and read all your comments! But for the time being I will be mostly writing at Dear Xiomara — please join me by following me at http://dearxiomara.com .  I look forward to connecting with you there (and here)!


Parmela: My Nutty Love

20 Oct

It has been three months since I moved to my new home and the cross-country transition has been exhausting.  I am slowly but surely reimplementing hobbies such as reading (books and blogs), blogging, increasing my days of yoga practice, and pragmatically addressing my rage against the machine. 

In even more exciting news, this month I am celebrating my two year veganniversary! My jaw dropped each time I met a vegan who had been vegan for yearS [emphasis on the S], and I can’t believe that is me! 

Now that I am in my new home, I’ve made Sunday my weekly grocery shopping day. The best part of grocery shopping at a vegan friendly store are the free food samples. In the past month I’ve tried raw vegan cheesecake, chai tea, and Parmela. Two weeks ago I was making my way towards the cash registers and found a table along the way where I was offered a sample of Parmela. I read the words on the lid:

Vegan Parmesan

Parmela: Vegan Parmesan

I will admit I miss cheese most of all as a vegan — I think it’s okay to reveal that, after all, I am human and veganism for a newer vegan involves plenty of self-control. I usually stay away from processed vegan replacements because the taste usually grosses me out. But I will never pass up a free sample in hopes of finding something different. I took the small cup being offered to me and tasted the parmesan “cheese.” I read the ingredients: blanched almonds, cashews, nutrional yeast flakes, soybeans, salt, tamari, vegan lactic acid; and within a second picked up a container of Parmela and put it in my shopping cart. 

I bought a vegan pizza and sprinkled Parmela over each slice — finger licking amazing! I took the container to my boyfriend’s kitchen and requested to make pasta just so we could have some Parmela. 

Parmela: Vegan Cheese

Parmela: Vegan Cheese

The aged nut cheesy flavor of Parmela is delicious! I ran to the store last week and bought two more containers of Parmela. Want to try Parmela? Fortunately, Parmela can be bought on Amazon — http://www.amazon.com/Parmesan-Style-Aged-Nut-Cheese/dp/B009F2OLOK for $3.99. 

I am absolutely nuts for Parmela!

Why I am glad not to work for SEIU

20 Jul

I recently made a huge move — I moved 3,000 miles across the country. Upon landing, the first thing I did was begin my job search. One job I have always wanted to do is union organizing. The Service Employees International Union was looking for organizers in training to enlist in a one year training program for the Higher Education Campaign. I decided to apply and submitted a cover letter and resume.

I have heard pretty negative things about SEIU both from organizers (current and former) as well as union members. The most common being:

-SEIU aims to hire people with “no experience” and at times without many choices in order to  overwork and underpay them-

I heard back from an SEIU Organizing Director in D.C. and was completely disgusted by this narcissistic individual. After and extremely brief phone interview I decided to write this person an email.

I believe it’s important to share with folks reading this what I believe the true intentions of this union are. They are clearly not interested in having organizers who care about creating change, but rather a union too busy engaging in petty political fights over membership numbers and $$ (dollar signs). A friend said the interviewer’s reaction to my comment was her attempt to take power back. Who wouldn’t want to think: I said not to you vs. she said the salary is too low. I believe I have some skills and even when I spoke to another SEIU organizer a couple of days before, I was advised to say, “I never want to teach again. SEIU is my one and only choice.”

This is the email I sent:

“I would like to take a couple of minutes to express how disheartened I felt after our conversation this afternoon.

I took personal offense to the questioning of my commitment to the labor movement. Saying my asking about salary led you to question my commitment to organizing was disrespectful. As a first generation Latina, being raised by a single mother was difficult. I have both experienced first hand the effects of low wages and witnessed the physical and emotional toll poor working conditions have had on my mother. I have come to realize and commit myself to organizing because I believe another world is possible. I believe there is an urgency to work collectively in order to create a just and fair world for all.

In addition, during our conversation you continually said I have no experience as an organizer. It is arrogant for anyone to insinuate organizing is not “real” organizing outside the context of “official” union work. I have spent countless unpaid hours outside of my full-time teaching responsibilities attending meetings, hearings, study groups, speaking with parents, colleagues, and other community members to improve both the learning conditions of students and working conditions of teachers. The previously mentioned experience does not include the extensive amount of social justice solidarity work I have been involved in both in Los Angeles and New York City.

Thanks your taking time to speak with me this afternoon and for reading this email. Best of luck with your work.”

Unsurprisingly I never heard from her. But to all you folks out there thinking about SEIU and OIT are organizing routes you’d like to take: think twice.


When Yoga Makes Alcohol Go Bye Bye

2 Jun

I have always wanted to join a yoga studio, but memberships at studios are out of my budget. A studio close to my apartment charges $130 per month for an unlimited classes membership with a 3-month commitment or $165 for a month of unlimited classes. Fortunately, they have a 3-week $39 introductory rate for new students. 

With the school year coming to an end and my after school work commitments being over I decided to sign up and get the most out of my 3-week membership — in part the reason I have been a little off the radar this month. 

I began my journey with a “Vinyasa Foundations” class and a couple of days later took a “Hot Yoga” class.  Of the two I really enjoyed “Hot Yoga” and committed to it for the remaining 3 weeks. My body’s response to practicing in a 90+ degrees heated room has been unexpected and I want to share it.

I want to focus on how practicing yoga has positively affected what I put (or don’t) in my body: 

1) Wanting raw food

I immediately began to crave rawness. As a vegan, I have always taken a lot of pleasure in eating vegetables and fruits, but my body’s desire for a mango or a bowl of spinach was overpowering.

2) Rejecting coffee

Most recently, I have been unable to drink coffee. Last Sunday, I had coffee in the morning and a bitter, odd taste overwhelmed the taste of the coffee. I drank a little more thinking I was imagining things and a couple of hours later was completely sick. I gave coffee another chance on Friday. This time I had iced coffee (different blend, different business) and the bitter taste was still there. I took 5 sips and dumped it. 

3) Reducing alcohol consumption

A few yoga classes later I lost interest in alcohol. Thoughts of going out and hanging out with friends come to mind along with the “pleasant” thoughts of having a nice cool margarita on a hot day, but once the opportunity to drink alcohol comes — I do not want it. I could drink it if I want to, but don’t care for it.

It’s hard to unquestionably attribute my intolerance to coffee, disinterest in alcohol, and cravings for raw foods to my limited experiences with yoga, but I’d like to think it’s related. 

Sadly, my 3 week membership expires today, but my amazing neighborhood has a yoga studio that offers $5 classes. I plan on checking it out this week. 

Cinco de Mayo — La Lucha Sigue

5 May

During college I was a member of the student group, El Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MEChA). “Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.”  -http://www.nationalmecha.org/

 Cinco de mayo was quickly approaching and as the only Latin@ organization group on campus we were excited to plan something big!

 At the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California and best friends with the racist former governor, Pete Wilson. Putting pictures of their faces on a piñata and letting people have a go at it was at the top of our planned activities list — sadly, we didn’t know any better.  After many debates and meetings, we finally came up with a plan to present to our advisor.

 She was not fond of the Arnold and Pete Wilson’s faces on a piñata idea. She sat me down and explained why it lacked relevancy to the historical significance of cinco de mayo and its relation to the Chican@ movement of the 1960s.


 On May 5, 1862, the French army, at the time the most powerful military force in the world sent nearly 6,000 soldiers to Puebla, Mexico. Standing up against a highly trained, well-armed military were 4,000 agricultural workers with machetes and rifles – brave people who defeated the French army. 


Chican@s are people with a history of conquest living on their own homeland, one that has been stolen by the United States in the name of Manifest Destiny. During the 1960s, the Chican@ movement put at the forefront the injustices and oppressions experienced by brown people every single day.  Poverty, racism, inadequate education, xenophobia, and eurocentricity were (and still are) the basis for the dehumanizing lived experiences of people of color in the Southwest and all over the world. 

 At the time, teachers in education schools were taught Mexican children were inherently dumber than white children and only 25 years prior to the creation of MEChA, Mendez, et al v. Westminster desegregated “Mexican Schools” in California; a case that both preceded and was referenced to in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.

 The repressive situation led to organizing in the 1960s. Student walkouts were blowing out and Brown Berets and Black Panthers were present forces aimed at dismantling the oppressive systems that effectively maintained (and continue to maintain) the status quo. 

The Chican@ movement placed a strong emphasis on cultural preservation as well as cultural awareness by educating new generations of our history and denouncing acculturation and assimilation. In order to introduce and preserve knowledge of Mexican history and culture in a Eurocentric land,  Chican@s decided to celebrate el cinco de mayo. El cinco de mayo was adopted as a day that would broadcast Chican@s history and presence in the United States, but most importantly, Chican@s’ commitment to continue to fight and struggle for the liberation of the people.

And what happened with the cinco de mayo celebration we organized on our college campus? MEChISTAS visited small businesses in the community and received food donations, piñata donations (for the kids in the college’s day care center), decoration donations, and used the money we had to stay true to our philosophy of cultural preservation by inviting a mariachi, Aztec dancers, and folkloric dancers.  We also prioritized people’s education by inviting Chican@ studies professors to speak about the history and true significance of el cinco de mayo. It was a beautiful day. 

Todos a Escuchar Radio Venceremos

22 Apr

“They would learn to fight by fighting. Near the Sapo River we heard the final chant: “For those who have no bread, no shoes, we promise to win!””– Salvadoran Guerrilla Fighter 1979. Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador’s Radio Venceremos by Jose Ignacio Lopez Vigil

The above quote struck a chord with me. I have traveled to El Salvador from canton to canton— rural towns — to deliver school supplies and uniforms to young students. I cannot recall the name of the first canton we visited, but I do remember riding in the back of a small pick up truck. The tires on the truck were pretty worn out and we were driving up a mountain on an unpaved dirt road. We passed coffee fields, which I imagined were like the ones my family worked in when they lived in El Salvador.

We arrived at a small one room school house where the entire town had gathered. People had traveled a long way up the mountain to meet us. We began sorting out the uniforms and school supplies. As soon as the uniforms were distributed, children immediately changed into them for sizing. The children looked happy with their new white-collar shirt tops and blue slacks. I looked at their feet and saw either no shoes or torn, worn out ones. I desperately wished we had also given them shoes.

After sorting out school supplies, we had empty boxes of BIC pens. The children excitedly asked if they could have the empty boxes and used them to play—pretending the boxes were little cars.

A few people had made for us chicken soup [this was years before I went vegan] to show their gratitude. After eating, the children took us to the peak of the mountain. We saw small homes scattered along the way, homes without electricity, running water, or furniture.

At the time I did not know how to feel. I grew up poor, but this was a different kind of poverty — atleast my family had had electricity, our own little apartment, a working television, and running water for a hot shower. When I was younger, I never knew there were times my mom did not have enough money to feed us and at times sacrificed her meals to feed my sister and me. The poverty I was witnessing didn’t compare to any of my lived experiences.

I was glad we were doing something “nice”, but this is the life of many people in many parts of El Salvador. A country where the average worker makes $5 per day and the U.S. dollar is the nation’s currency. To contextualize this, I went to a grocery store in San Salvador and a Mott’s apple juice cost $6. I couldn’t imagine how people managed to survive in such an economy.

Gandhi spoke about treating the illness, not only the symptoms. By raising money and delivering much needed school uniforms and supplies we were temporarily curing a symptom of poverty.

The debut broadcast of Radio Venceremos, a guerrilla radio station in El Salvador, stated, “…broadcasting from somewhere in El Salvador to accompany the Salvadoran people step by step in their march towards final victory over centuries of oppression.”

I finally understand why my feelings at the time were not clearly developed. The only way to eliminate the dehumanization of people’s daily existence created by a greedy global world is by eradicating poverty. I knew there had to be something more than visiting people one day and leaving them forever; only now understanding the liberation of the people by the people is what needs to happen. Radio Venceremos conveyed this message to the people of El Salvador.

“Ours is not a struggle for vengeance or reprisal. It is a struggle to achieve true peace, justice and liberty. Our forces fight to build and not to destroy. “    
-Salvadoran Guerrilla Commander Joaquin Villalobos

Little Caesars — Vegan Vegan

18 Apr

I consider myself an ethical vegan.  As someone who carries a history of injustice and violence I choose not to perpetuate violence and exploitation towards other living beings, including human and nonhuman animals. Only after going vegan did I begin to understand how veganism is a healthier way of living.  

Because the reasons for my veganism aren’t solely dietary I become frustrated when omnivores are judgemental when I choose to have a piece of candy or eat a slice of pizza; misinformed judgments from people who do not understand the ethical aspect of veganism, but instead mask it with health conscious reasons, which in their minds, equate veganism to solely eating meals of green stuff on a plate called a salad.

 So, to all the judgemental ammonia coated meat eating, high in cholesterol omelet loving, pus filled cow milk drinking people, all I have to say is, “Whatever, I do what I want. I’ll eat a slice of pizza if I wanna.”

Like any normal human, I do crave certain foods and if what I am craving falls within the vegan realm I may eat it.  Occasionally, I do crave not so healthy foods—like pizza. My favorite is the thick & fluffy pizza dough from places like Pizza Hut or Dominos. In most take out pizza chains, the only vegan pizza dough is thin & crispy.

 After doing some online research, I found a pleasing surprise on the Little Caesars Pizza website. 

little caesars vegan

Little Caesars’ website has a section devoted to both vegetarians and strict vegetarians, i.e. vegans. The pizza dough, pizza sauce, crazy bread, and crazy sauce are all vegan! 

Screenshot_2013-04-17-19-50-01-1I spent about an hour looking at the dough ingredients of different pizza chains and Little Caesars is the only one that clearly states what is vegan on their website. 

I do have conflicting feelings about supporting a business that sells dead pigs in the form of pepperoni and sausage, but I do not know of a vegan pizza chain. What I do know is that if I ever get a random craving for an “I know it’s vegan” slice of pizza, I can go to my local Little Caesars. 

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