VEGANA SPOTLIGHT: Norma Perez
Vegan Since: 2015
Heritage: 100% Salvadoran
MY VEGAN STORY
My initial reason for going vegan was my health, since being diagnosed with osteoarthritis was the worst thing for my career as a dance instructor/choreographer. My doctor mentioned to me that certain foods could help alleviate the pain, like turmeric, ginger and blueberries since they have anti-inflammatory properties. This sparked an interest in looking at food as a source of relief instead of pain pills, and led me to watch the documentary Fed Up, which spoke about the sugar industry and its affect on young kids. I was so struck by seeing their struggle that I decided to give up processed sugar.
I started watching other documentaries such as Forks over Knives, Food Inc, Vegucated, GMO OMG, and countless others, consumed in learning more. The documentary that completely did it for me was Earthlings. Within 5 minutes of watching I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I remember someone saying, "If it's not good enough for your eyes to see, why is it good enough for your stomach?" so I kept watching, but was an emotional wreck throughout the rest of the film. Once the documentary ended I just sat there thinking about everything I just saw and my involvement in it. After I composed myself, I got up, went into my kitchen, got a huge trash bag, opened up my refrigerator, and started throwing away everything that was animal-based. Then I went into my bedroom and started throwing away all my shoes and clothes that had leather, silk, and wool. I went outside and threw away absolutely everything. The next day, I was fully vegan with a whole new way of thinking that I was excited about and I never looked back.
As a Latina I thought this decision was going to be my downfall since eating meat is customary, but I actually found many substitutes that were very similar to the taste and texture I was used to. Since I liked cooking even before going vegan, experimenting in the kitchen with all types of plant-based food was a new experience that gave me a new passion like I had for dance.
Coming out to my familia was one thing that had me worried since our family celebrations typically included dishes like carne asada. To my surprise, they were extremely supportive, probably because they witnessed the extreme pain I had been having for awhile that kept me from going to gatherings. They said, "Hey, if this can help you, then by all means go for it." Also, I brought them some of my food and they were surprised how tasty it was. I received so many good comments on my food that it started to spark an interest in having my own food business, and The Salvi Vegan was born. Eventually this will be a food business of vegan Salvadoran food which I am highly excited about!
- Remember Earthlings. If ever I was presented with eating meat, I thought about what I had seen in that documentary and that deterred me from ever wanting to consume meat again. Knowing that every time I eat plant-based foods I am saving animals keeps me going.
- Try meat substitutes (especially Gardein products). Yes, it is processed but that allowed my transition to be easier.
- Research, research, research! Look up everything that has to do with getting enough protein and Vitamin B12, and anything else that comes up by those who will question your choice. Before going out to restaurants with non-vegan friends or family, research vegan-friendly places on the internet to see what you can eat.
- Be respectful. I believe that this lifestyle is my choice, and to each their own. If someone asks me about my lifestyle in a respectful way, I am glad to let them know more about it. I do not ever want to push my decision to go vegan onto anyone because this is my journey, my choice.