UnHide: Decolonizing Veganism with Amy Quichiz
Amy Quichiz is the Founder of Veggie Mijas, a women of color collective that highlights the importance of veganism through the lens of those with marginalized identities. Through this collective, she has opened new chapters in several states and cities and is organizing vegan folks of color in a national perspective. Amy also provides resources for folks in these cities on how their food can be more accessible and to learn more about the food system.
UnHide sat down with Amy to talk about her vegan journey and advocacy.
UnHide: Where did your vegan journey begin?
Amy Quichiz: My vegan journey began when I was in college and I was sitting a women's and gender studies classand my friend said, 'well, appreciate you're a feminist but you should be a vegan too.' And I didn't know what that meant. And she gave me a book called Sistah Vegan and I read it, but it really wasn't until I also watched Earthlings and I realized that the animals go through a lot of pain and harm and I didn't want to be a part of that. So I became vegan because of the animals.
Tell me more about your work in vegan advocacy.
I'm the founder of Veggie Mijas and it's a collective where we advocate for plant-based foods and just overall food in our communities. It's run and led by, queer folks of color. And, my advocacy through that is helping people organize, teaching folks how to be organizers, setting up anything that helps bring awareness of food and environment and climate, and discussions that need to happen in various spaces.
What does it mean to decolonize veganism?
I think that we cannot talk about decolonizing veganism, without fighting for land reparations for indigenous folks, I believe that is number one. Number two, when we talk about decolonization, I think it is truly makes you rethink and deconstruct Western beliefs, question your food options, question your history with food and why we don't have the best produce in my kind of neighborhoods when we are the people from the lands of where our crops came from. I think that when we talk about decolonizing our food--period, it can look like a system that is truly centering earth, truly honoring our tierra, which can look like plant-based foods or ethically honoring animals in some cultures. I don't think you can necessarily decolonize "veganism" since it is a white-man term, but I think that we can question our history with plant-based foods and return to that little by little and in small ways if we are capable of.
What do you wish people knew about veganism who aren't familiar with it?
I want folks to know that they can learn about veganism and take things with a grain of salt. I want people to try new things, advocate for better food in their neighborhoods, and I want people to know that they have a community of plant-based folks of color they can ask all the questions to and not be shamed for eating dairy or meats when transitioning to veganism.
What are you up to now? What do you hope to achieve in the vegan space in the future with Veggie Mijas and beyond?
I'm currently still building a community within Veggie Mijas and truly want to make our internal team powerful. We want to learn from each other, we want to learn how to write grants and have financial stability, we want to learn more about each other and continue to build true connections. We want to continue building awareness about food justice, continue working on our community fridges, and giving resources for our various communities. In the future, we hope to build physical spaces where people can get together, build gardens together, and take various food studies classes for everyone including young adults, kids, and elders. We imagine a green world, a green economy, and that mission will never change.
What's your favorite thing about doing this kind of type of work?
My favorite thing I think is getting to know a lot of different people and getting to know the reason why they became an advocate or an organizer for their community and hearing all of the personal experiences that they have had with this work as well.
What's your favorite vegan food?
My favorite vegan food or vegan dish vegan dish... I'm trying to think of all of the dishes that [my partner] Joanna makes. She makes the delicious vegan Shepherd's pie with Trader Joe's vegan meat, and then she seasons it herself and then adds mashed potatoes with vegetables. It's really, really delicious.
I know there's this whole mentality of, ‘I'm just one person, what good can I do?’ How would you respond to someone who says that about going vegan?
It can be overwhelming if you put everything on yourself especially when corporations and governments are to blame for all of the decisions that they make that can harm the planet. However, we can always, we can always do better. We can always bring awareness to the issues. We can always question why there aren't better food options in our communities. Always question and reflect on environmental racism for your own personal experiences. I think that we all have a duty to work on ourselves, in order to be the best that you can and to help others around you.
And what advice would you give to someone who's interested in going vegan, but doesn't have a clue where to start.
I would say, start with looking at the foods that you already eat and thinking about what has been plant-based or can be plant-based. Then start taking it little by little. If you cannot go vegan because you're obsessed with cheese, then let it be that you can eat all the things that are vegan. And then when it comes to cheese, you can make your own exception and then you can try to explore different vegan cheeses, right? Like it's really about what makes you comfortable and what makes you feel good.