Vegans of Color

Veggie Mijas Founder Amy Quichiz Is Decolonizing Her Lifestyle

The founder of a collective for women and non-binary POC reflects on how she found her community when she looked beyond white veganism

Photo: Bridget Badore

We all come to veganism differently — and we should all challenge ourselves to question, learn, and think critically at every turn. For Amy Quichiz, the journey began with passionate advocacy against animal abuse, but turned into more as she began to question the overwhelmingly white spaces she encountered.

“I started to be more passionate about veganism through my experiences, and the experiences of other folks of color. I think that’s when I truly became more food justice oriented, rather than just supporting veganism.”

That passion for intersectional food justice eventually led Quichiz to co-found Veggie Mijas, a collective by and for women and non-binary POC. Originally, the site was meant to be a platform for sharing recipes, but as the site was shared, interest for a meetup grew. “I thought that was amazing — I really didn’t know any of these people, and they all wanted to come together. To talk about veganism in our communities, and how that affects us.” The collective now has chapters based in 12 different US cities.

Whether it’s addressing the lack of fresh food in POC-majority neighborhoods by restoring a community garden, or feeding protesters on the streets, Veggie Mijas builds anti-racist actions into the fabric of their activism. Quichiz spoke with Tenderly over the phone about her own journey to veganism, co-founding Veggie Mijas, and how she’s getting through this current moment.

Tenderly: What’s your ethnic and cultural background, and where did you grow up?

Amy Quichiz: I’m Colombian and Peruvian, and I grew up in Jackson Heights [in Queens, NYC].

When did you become vegan, and what led you to that decision?

I became vegan during my sophomore year of college, in 2014. Some of my friends of color were vegan, And they were like, “Amy, if you really believe in women’s rights, and all of the issues that you’re really passionate about, you should really look into going vegan.” One of my friends gave me a book called Sistah Vegan. And while it was really inspiring, and made me want to be vegan, I felt like I needed another push — and I watched Earthlings. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is horrible, animal abuse is insane.” I didn’t want to be a part of that, so I became vegan instantly. After watching that, I was like — no more!

‘I started to be more passionate about veganism through my experiences, and the experiences of other folks of color. I think that’s when I truly became more food justice oriented, rather than just supporting veganism.’

I remember, at that point, being super passionate about veganism, animal exploitation, and speciesism. But then, in my last year of college, like, yeah, in the beginning of it, I started realizing how [animal agriculture] — meat production, factories, environmental racism — all affected people of color specifically. And I started to be more passionate about veganism through my experiences, and the experiences of other folks of color. I think that’s when I truly became more food justice oriented, rather than just supporting veganism.

Did those realizations, and the vegan community you found, lead to you founding Veggie Mijas?

Yeah. When I was in the phase of being vegan just because of animal rights issues, I met a lot of white vegans. They made me uncomfortable, just by saying a lot of things that were not aligned with what I believed in. And when I started meeting more vegans of color, it just made more sense that those were the connections I was drawn to.

‘I thought that was amazing — I really didn’t know any of these people, and they all wanted to come together. To talk about veganism in our communities, and how that affects us.’

I started Veggie Mijas when I left college. It started with just me and my sorority sister Mariah, who’s the other co-founder. We were like, “Oh, like let’s make something where we can share recipes with other people,” because in college we had a hard time trying to consistently eat healthy. But that’s not what we ended up doing at all — I was like, “You know what, I think that we should ask other people for recipes.”

So we came up with the idea to make it a collective. And people were like “Oh, we should meet up!” and I had never thought about that, I thought it was just going to be a platform to share recipes. And I remember I initially said I wanted the meetup to be really small, just want a few friends, nothing big.

But then I created a Google Drive, with a tracker document that had the locations of everyone who wanted to join. And I saw that there were a lot of people in New York, and they all wanted to meet up and have the first potluck. Some girl that I didn’t even know offered to start it, she said everyone was welcome to come to her house! And I thought that was amazing — I really didn’t know any of these people, and they all wanted to come together. To talk about veganism in our communities, and how that affects us.

The first potluck was in the Bronx, and there were about 30 people in like this one house, and I remember just thinking how incredible it all was. And I think that even though the idea of Veggie Mijas started in 2017, it was really 2018 when it became a collective, rather than just a place to collect recipes. And it started in New York, and now there are 12 chapters across the United States.

Can you tell me about a Veggie Mijas event that you feel truly encapsulates your mission, or that you’re particularly proud of?

There have been so many events that I feel proud of. And not only events that I’ve organized myself, but ones that our organizers have organized. I remember one of the earliest events was when we went to a community garden in the Bronx, and we had a lot of volunteers there. And we started cleaning up this community garden that really hadn’t been touched in a while. People from the neighborhood started walking by and saying things like, “Wow, I live two blocks away from here and I didn’t even know that this was a community garden.”

And just the impact of people coming in and asking things like, “I used to grow peppers back home in my country, can I come and grow them here?” And the owners, the people that were in charge of the garden, were like, “Of course you can!” and invited people in, and got their names and their numbers to follow up with them.

There was this lady who came in with her kid, and they were like, “Whoa, this is amazing!” And [the gardeners] were showing them plants, like, “This is basil, this is mint.” And [the gardeners] gave them some herbs to take home — and [the daughter] was so excited to pick them herself. And it was so beautiful to see this little girl having that experience in her own community. I think that event was the most impactful.

Have the Veggie Mijas chapters been participating in actions for Black Lives Matter?

Yeah, this isn’t something new to us. We’ve always made sure that Veggie Mijas’ mission isn’t just about food justice, but food justice that intersects with everything. We always talk about race issues, we always talk about gender issues, we always talk about disability issues. This isn’t something that we just started — the movement has always been there, and that’s been in our mission. In the past we’ve had events where we make signs to protest, for the Women’s March, or any cause we have seen.

This protest sign event is in Dallas, and the organizer — her name is Destiny, and she’s incredible. She’s always making sure to have these kinds of events, and so do the other organizers.

We’re having an event to screen The Invisible Vegan, and having an amazing facilitator to be part of that talk about Black veganism and anti-racism in the vegan community. So I feel like there have been, and there has always been, events to talk about race and food because they intersect.

I noticed you’ve been addressing the necessity of amplifying specifically Black voices as a non-Black POC — how is this handled within Veggie Mijas, as a diverse POC collective?

Of course! Within our group of organizers, we’re actually having a workshop training event on anti-racism within vegan spaces. Because with Veggie Mijas, it’s really easy to say oh, we’re a WOC collective, but if you’re not centering those people — what really is the truth, right? It’s really important to have these conversations. And especially as a non-Black person, it’s important for me to listen and hear other experiences. Specifically listening to Black vegans, Black plant based people, Black farmers, Black educators. [It’s important for] everyone involved in the food justice community to listen to their experiences and hear the reasons why they got so involved in this work. So that we, as non-Black people, can support them and truly make a change with this movement. I think that’s the most important thing.

And also individually, it’s important to check in with your privileges, check in with your family, and with your friends as well. Addressing racist comments, prejudiced comments, or anything like that. Breaking the cycle is so important.

So, yeah, we definitely have these conversations and veggie meals and we always try to live up to these voices and always supporting the movement in any way that we can.

What’s your go-to dish to make for a dinner party or a potluck?

This is a great question — so it’s funny because the one that usually cooks for potlucks and events is my partner. She’s really the chef of the house! And I’m just the food justice person.

She’s an artist; her work is the Unapologetic Street Series. She incorporates a lot of food into her work as well.

I don’t really have a go-to dish, but her go-to dish that I love… she makes so many things! I would say empanadas. She makes bomb empanadas, with guava and vegan cheese.

Yum! What advice do you have for someone who’s new to veganism, or considering switching?

I would say it depends. What kind of veganism are you looking for? I would start there. My plant-based work is decolonizing my lifestyle, meaning that I really do question where my food comes from. I ask whether this a practice of food that like my parents have had in their family, or in my culture.

And also, if you’re not vegan and you want to be vegan or plant-based: start thinking about things you’re already eating that are already plant based. I feel like a lot of people have this misconception, and they think, “Oh, I have to start from scratch, I don’t know what I’m doing, and to get all of these mock meats!”

‘My plant-based work is decolonizing my lifestyle, meaning that I really do question where my food comes from.’

But it really isn’t that serious, if you go straight to what you already know and what you’re already eating. And if you’re eating like a bunch of meat, then you can start with a couple of mock meats. And then centering on like what kind of vegan you want to be, and building on the [vegan] things that you already consume.

What’s the last thing you read or watched that inspired you?

It’s a double edged sword — because I’m obviously always hearing about what’s going on in the world, and how the government treats Black people. But at the same time, I’m really excited for the movements that have been happening, and people really getting amped, and people really trying to educate themselves and educate others. And like the way that the community has helped themselves and our own people.

Seeing what’s happening in Seattle right now, and with CHOP is incredible. [Editor’s note: after this interview, CHOP was forcibly broken up on July 1] The way that they’re feeding and caring for people, it’s just so beautiful to see what you can make in a world that oppresses you. Seeing people dancing — because you need dancing the revolution — and it’s beautiful how people can come out for one another.

Veggie Mijas’ organizers in Seattle hosted an event in their home to cook a bunch of burritos and tacos, and a bunch of food for protesters and people in CHOP. So I think just seeing the way that our organizers have come, and have done their own events and stuff to help others is always beautiful and inspiring.

Veggie Mijas has organizers leading events in 12 cities and metro areas. Events are announced on the central Veggie Mijas Instagram, and you can find the organizers by city below:

  1. Arizona
    • Phoenix — Crystal Carillo
  2. California
    • Los Angeles — Melina Cruz Bautista and Alejandra Trolley
    • Oakland — Priscilla Sandoval and Ingrid
    • Orange County — Ivanna Frances
  3. Florida
    • Orlando — Mónica Divane
  4. Illinois
    • Chicago — Luisa Ibarra and Daniela Medrano
  5. New York
    • NYC — Ashlee Dume, Anna Magnuson, Josie Tejada
  6. Pennsylvania
    • Philadelphia — Rebeca Cintrón-Loáisiga and Estefania Orozco
  7. Texas
    • Austin — Maya
    • Dallas — Destiny and Kat Lopez
  8. Washington
    • Seattle — Alexis Mercedes, Vanessa Moyonero, Gloria Gonzalez-Zapata, Christian Galindo
  9. Washington, DC
    Mikita, Estrellita, Liza Marquez

Writer, vegan, heavy sleeper.

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