BIPOC Portraits is a series in which Best of Vegan contributors Val & Mani Latifi of Plant-Based Passport profile one BIPOC vegan creator each week over the course of 16 weeks, to shed light on the unique challenges BIPOCs face in making the decision to embrace veganism. For BIPOCs, the prevailing narrative that veganism is a white-dominated movement can often mean a perceived loss of cultural identity. The hope of this profile series is to make veganism a little less lonely for BIPOCs and to give courage to vegan-curious BIPOCs out there. In the third installment of BIPOC Portraits, Anna Rios of Healthy Simple Yum shares her journey to veganism as a Mexican-American. She also provides a delicious recipe for Vegan Enchiladas Verdes.
[The acronym BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color]
Anna Rios is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in the Northern California Coast. She went vegan in 2019, after coming to the realization that all animals are sentient. She compared her dog to a pig and asked herself: Why love one and eat the other? That’s when it clicked for her. Going vegan has enabled her to contribute to animal liberation, the environment, and her health. She also appreciates that veganism opened her up to a wider variety of foods and recipes and believes that being vegan makes you a great foodie. When she’s not baking cookies, photographing food or recipe developing, she enjoys biking, hiking, and playing with her dog. Follow Anna: Instagram | Website | Pinterest | YouTube
When you first went vegan, did you see the vegan community as diverse? Did you see yourself as having a place in the vegan community as a BIPOC?
To be completely transparent, I did not. I did not see much diversity when I first started looking for vegan recipes online. It was very difficult to find authentic Mexican recipes that were vegan or created by vegan creators. However, I slowly began finding BIPOC creators and bloggers. Even though we are still the minority, I am now happily connected with a great group of BIPOC vegan bloggers.
Did you have any fears or reservations about going vegan? Did you feel like you might lose part of your cultural identity in your transition to veganism?
I was a little hesitant at first, but I knew that I had to make it work. I also knew that the flavors of a dish came mainly from spices, seasonings, and sauces! After a few weeks of “veganizing” Mexican dishes, I knew it was possible and even better than non-vegan versions. I believe that any cultural dish can be made vegan. Some may be challenging, but in the end, it is very rewarding to create a delicious vegan recipe that connects you to a specific culture.
Even though we are still the minority, I am now happily connected with a great group of BIPOC vegan bloggers.
Did you worry about how your friends and family would react to your decision to go vegan? And how did they react?
YES! This gave me anxiety but luckily they were very supportive and even participated in making vegan dishes for me. I think this is one of the hardest parts of going vegan. If my significant other wasn’t vegan, it would be a little harder. My best advice is to surround yourself with like-minded people! Follow vegan food bloggers, make friends online, join vegan groups, etc.
My best advice is to surround yourself with like-minded people!
Did you have challenges finding vegan substitutes to make your cultural dishes? What substitutes did you make?
There are definitely challenges when finding substitutes, but I’d say that there is a substitute for almost ANYTHING. It is hard to find a substitute to make vegan “queso fresco” and “queso cotija” but I am currently working on them and am being pleasantly surprised so far.