Paying for Our Own Destruction

I was recently given the opportunity by the incredible creators at La Liga Zine to write about what I’m terming the New Genocide in Latin America. The New Genocide is colonialism raised from the dead and dressed up no longer in the clothes of conquistadors but in those of consumerism. It’s through this deeply embedded capitalist lifestyle that colonialism has risen anew and is actively exploiting Latin America’s indigenous populations all over again, through a barrage of one billion tiny cuts. 

There is a bright side to this new enemy that’s both its strength and weakness; there is no leader, only millions of individual people who must decide to help. You can see how this new form of war is both an optimist and pessimist’s playground; decide whether you’ll be one more person, or whether you’ll be only one person.  

This essay originally published by La Liga is now home here at LunaGemme. Please share your thoughts and feelings with me in the comments or on social media.

Paying for Our Own Destruction

                               A Guarani woman (Photo courtesy of Sarah Shenker/Survival)

Disclaimer: If you feel that for some reason your situation does not allow you to change any aspect of your diet, even if that is simply a vegan Monday, then use this essay for its educational value to help those who can change their diets and store this knowledge for the day you might be in a situation where you too can change your diet. This statement is not meant to erase the existence of poor vegans, those vegans living in food deserts and all the others who despite a popular narrative to the contrary, still eat with ethics in mind.

Veganism calls to mind white people with dreadlocks who spend their trust fund at Whole Foods and thousands on a trip to India to discover the virtues of poverty. These people do exist, but just as white women are unfairly often the face of feminism, just as white men have become synonymous with rock music, we know that a lack of representation does not mean a lack of contribution.

 The idea that something is not “for” your race or ethnicity is a tool of limitation. One that, once broken down, allows for the creation of a beautiful and unique interpretation of something that previously was lacking, something that was smaller before you took a piece of it, molded it and added your own vision.

Reasons such as environmental destruction, health, and animal welfare are relevant to and can be sympathized with by all identities. To say otherwise is to grossly underestimate a human’s capacity for care. There exists an extensive list of the ways in which animal agriculture exploits not only animals but humans as well, however, I will focus on only one of these ills now: the violation of indigenous rights.

To fill the demand for meat, Latin America is being forced to exploit its own resources once again. While the destruction of one of Latin America’s most precious resources is tragic in and of itself in addition to the loss of animal habitat that leads to extinct species as well as the loss of an important environmental balancing mechanism that mitigates climate change, there is yet another loss in this situation, that of human life.

            Vegan Cuban-inspired sweet potato and platanos maduros bowl

Screaming into the void of consumer demand, many distinct indigenous groups have already organized and continue to speak out against the destruction of their homes for pastureland. Consumer demand has placed the value of meat and milk before that of indigenous peoples lives. Both the Yukpa in Venezuela and the Guarani in Brazil have detailed the violence they’ve experienced at the hands of cattle ranchers, who have gone so far as to murder indigenous people on contested land. Murders that go largely uninvestigated and unpunished. Damiana, the wife of the Chief of a tribe of the Guarani people, lost her husband as well as her three sons all to what has been dismissed as “roadside collisions” with the same cattle ranchers encroaching on their ancestral lands.

Activists have called for companies like Starbucks and universities like Harvard to divest, that is, to end their monetary relationship with harmful practices. We cannot hold these businesses to a higher ethical standard than we hold ourselves as individuals in everyday life. For the same reasons we sought divestment from these companies, we must divest our own money from companies and practices that are not in line with our own beliefs.

The act of protest has the power to influence, but only in so much as it controls the flow of money. A protest is effective only when it presents a possible loss of income; this is the point at which negotiation begins. In a capitalist society, money often weighs more than words and acts faster than law. Why then, would we ignore our most constant and accessible form of protest? The mundane act of grocery shopping is the single most politically powerful tool available to the working class, as with every purchase, support is either extended or rescinded. We already utilize this power in responding to new flavors, distasteful advertising, and bigoted CEOs; now is a more crucial time than ever to divest our support for products that are born out of exploitation and cruelty.

As activists and ethically minded people, we cannot ignore our role as consumers whose purchasing choices have consequences. Animal agriculture is a decrepit means of feeding ourselves, propped up by all the ancient methods of unconscious consumerism and violence that we have no choice but to move away from or face the consequences of a world prioritizing cheap perks built on a chain of absolute cruelty. We need to do better; if that means just one meat-free day a week, then repurpose the old business adage and remember, every dollar counts.

Eating vegetarian in staying with family in Cuba

Do you have any tips for cutting down on our consumption of animal products? What do you think is the best way to fight against the usurping of indigenous lands from afar? If you’re in a rough position of your own and unable to make any ethically minded changes, help share this article with others who can!


*If you like my work centered around Latin America, you’ll enjoy my photos and essay from my trip to find family in Cuba.*