By Samantha Soto and Andy García
2019 has been named “The Year of Veganism,” according to The Economist. Millennials and members of Generation Z everywhere are demanding vegan options, and the movement has made its way to Boyle Heights.
“Veganos en East Los” is now hosting a bi-weekly pop-up vegan market in Mariachi Plaza. Many vendors showcase their “cruelty-free” spin on traditional Latinx dishes. Some of their offerings include items such as jackfruit tortas with crispy cabbage, or organic sprouted lentil ceviche.
Jennifer Jiménez, 24, who is not vegan, attended the event on a recent Friday because she is a frequent visitor of Mariachi Plaza. She tried a vegan concha and described it as a “nostalgic taste” because it tasted no different from a regular concha.
“It’s crazy that this food is made without any animal products and it makes you wonder why are we eating animals if we can get the same taste in our food without eating them,” Jiménez said.
Mayra Aceves, 40, one of the Veganos en East Los founders, said she started the market to bring awareness to lower-income neighborhoods that don’t have access to healthy food options
“We wanted to create accessibility, great food, a good time, and good vibes for the community,” said Aceves. She added that vendors also slightly lower their prices, so more residents can afford to try the vegan options and come out and eat healthy, nutritious meals made without animal products.
One of the many food options at the event was Drink Leche’s “Get Cute” drink, which is a new spin on horchata, made with almond milk and pomegranate juice. For pastries, Vegan by Victoria’s serves the vegan conchas in a variety of colors, like lavender and hot pink, with edible glitter.
Steven Macedo, owner of Drink Leche, said he began his company to replace the common practice of using dairy products in the Hispanic community.
“I think that this idea of eating meat and dairy is just a concept that is outdated,” he said. “We just need to move forward in this community and just make a difference in the world and make veganism normal.”
Others said the importance of veganism is not just about the health of the community, but a return to indigenous foods.
“I think it’s important to re-educate us, going back to our roots, which are originally just grains, rice, beans, legumes,” said Irvin Lopez, who works at Vegan by Victoria.
The last Veganos en East Los event featured live music from local bands A Red Son and Apocalypsis, whose musical styles range from metal to punk. Those bands are made up of high school students whose music is inspired by issues such as politics and racial profiling.