Meet Ileanna Santiago

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My name is Ileanna Santiago, I’m a proud Puerto Rican, fur parent of 3, backpacker for the less traveled faction, and vegan. Though my kickstart to being vegan came late and not too long ago, I can confidently say it has been one of the more important and easiest decisions of my life. 

While living on the island, I was introduced to a “natural” way of living, which of course included killing goats and pigs for food and centerpieces in family/community celebrations. The jubilation behind having a pig, for example, in these gatherings was notable, and parties, particularly during Christmas, would run the risk of being seen as incomplete if there wasn’t a roasted pig among the food alternatives.

And yet staple foods in Puerto Rico were and even continue to be vastly plant-based despite the outspoken naysay towards diets that are meat adverse. And like anything else, distance between cause and effect, and decades of narrative-shaping tradition, dictate that the Latinx community see these festivities and the consumption of meat or dairy as necessities, not alternatives. Because living on an island keeps you from experiencing other realities, concurrences, and novelties. The thought of things done differently is foreign and therefore questioned. 

Though this example is particular to Puerto Rico, it's not unique in its construction, and reminds me that it's totally fine to let go of aspects of my cultural heritage that deviate from a cruelty-free lifestyle.

In many ways, for a Latinx to “come out” as vegan amounts to fierce rejection of all things considered “normal” for the community. Veganism is met with disapproving comments on lifestyle, morals, and the hapless linkage between being vegan and the rejection of our culture to assimilate to the “white community." Of course, these are untrue statements that come from a place of misunderstanding, but if you’re curious/interested in expanding on this, check out the Food Empowerment Project's website. They do a beyond stellar job expanding on this matter: http://www.foodispower.org/colonization-food-and-the-practice-of-eating/

Being vegan may now be at the cusp of an awareness revolution that has made it’s way into many communities now making a connection so they too can live compassionate lives. One community I’m proud to say will continue to gain traction and shed past teachings is the Latinx community.  For them, for us, tackling a paradigm of how to relate to food and animals is a narrative that requires reshaping.

I'm pleased that the vegan community continues to grow with rising Hispanic support revealing a surprising point for convergence with other groups who favor a cruelty-free lifestyle :)

Si se puede, poco a poco y un día a la vez.

- ile

Karla Vargas