VO in Mexico, 2012!
Thanks to Drew’s amazing generosity, Vic Sjodin and Jeni Haines were able to leaflet in Mexico with Israel Arriola (shown at right) of Anima Naturalis. A total of 13,311 booklets were distributed during their 10-day tour.
Over 10,300 students received ¿Por qué vegetariano? at 9 schools; 950 booklets were given to professors, teachers, and medical students; and 2,000 were handed out at various other venues. Anima Naturalis distributed nearly 700 more later in February.
Reports from Vic and Jeni are below, along with some of the pictures of people impacted by receiving a booklet; you can see the full photo stream at Vic’s Facebook page.
February 7 – Escuela Preparatoria de Texcoco
400 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Great to take the animals’ plight to Mexico! Today was a day of scouting out universities, but we did stop at the local high school, quickly gave our IDs to security, went to two offices and got permission on the spot to walk on school grounds. To my pleasant surprise, found massive interest in the lit. Saw dozens reading between classes or walking and reading. One student came back to us and said he wanted to volunteer and get involved, we put him in touch with Israel, the volunteer coordinator for this state. Another student came back and said this was really crazy, he has been thinking of going veg for a while and now he will. A teacher expressed interest and we spoke to him for over 15 minutes and he agreed a plant-based diet would be better for a multitude of reasons and expressed his sincere interest in going veg.
The local activists here have generally focused on opposing bullfighting, getting rid of the circus, and animal testing, but Israel is very passionate and enthusiastic about doing vegan outreach. Very tall, athletic, and well spoken in Spanish, he has been veg for 3 years, and already is giving talks everywhere on his own time and dime, and getting people to go veg and get involved. His extended circle is full not only of activists, but vegetarians and the veg friendly. He seems to know everyone and is very affable, walking around Texcoco he must have said hello to something like 25 people.
Being on the ground, I have already learned a lot, Mexico to me is about 15% American, all our brands Starbucks, Coca Cola, Walmart, Goodyear, Staples, etc. are here, TV and film have many English language shows with subtitles or voice-over, even on the buses. American music can be heard on the radio, the Super Bowl parade is covered on TV, many speak some English, so the culture gap is not as wide as I imagined. And I have been floored by the interest in helping animals from all I have met so far, and it’s only been two days!
The flight over was very bumpy at the end and then we had a hard landing. People were very friendly giving directions and we decided not to get a rental but to use public transit as much as possible. Two subways, a bus ride, and a taxi cab later we got to Israel’s house, which is more of a compound. When we pulled up there was a dirt road, no cars or people, rain, and what looked like a warehouse. We called Israel from the cab and in a few minutes his mom let us in. After a few hours of talking in the dark, candlelit since the power was out, we translated many jokes and had a good time; then I left dinner and fell asleep for no less than 12 hours, while Jeni continued hanging out.
Very excited for tomorrow, I hope the weather holds a bit and things continue to go well. Many thanks to Jeni and Israel and all the donors for making this exciting and effective outreach possible. Hasta luego, “Bictor”
February 8 – Metropolitan Autonomous University, Xochimilco
2,200 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
What a day! Met around 15 people who explicitly told us they were vegan or vegetarian and had a unique leafleting experience. We mainly leafleted a long causeway to off-campus starting during lunch. There were garbage cans everywhere yet we kept seeing hundreds of leaflets in people’s hands after lunch, almost none thrown out while other stuff handed out was thrown out. A truly ridiculous amount of people were reading as they walked to and from lunch, many showed us the leaflets hours later, several asked for more to show friends, many came back to get the leaflets.
Had some great conversations. Adriel [shown at left] stopped by and we spoke to him for a few minutes then we handed him off to Israel. They spoke for 45 minutes; he wants to get involved locally and I asked if he wanted to help and boom, instant activist. Saw a girl on the back of a bike with long seat holding herself on with legs while both hands had leaflet open and pressed against her boyfriend’s back and she read as they slowly cruised down the walkway; looked so cool, wish I had a pic. Many others read outside classes or the library, or while walking.
Jeni has been invaluable and I’m so glad she is here. She worked as a professional translator before and is like a human dictionary; some don’t realize we are foreigners, and yesterday a teacher thought fair-skinned Israel was American.
Mexico City is a trip, lots of crowded buses playing English-language music, top 20 hits to Madonna, UB40, Depeche Mode, makes for a pleasant ride. NBA game on TV now. Also wanted to mention we found vegan hamburgers and turkey locally in Texcoco yesterday to my surprise. There are a lot of stray dogs, even on the gated campus there were two we saw. In sum, we have been really floored by the marked interest in the lit, the almost bizarre high rate of readers, and the extreme kindness of the students toward us. Onward! Vic
February 9 – Autonomous University of Mexico State, Texcoco
600 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Small campus, but amazing outreach. After getting permission, we each grabbed the entrance to one of the four buildings, missing the smallest one, and everybody in or out got a leaflet during the class change. Israel also left a few leaflets fanned out at the front desk in the library and at some kind of info booth, and we saw one student grab one show it to her friend and read it cover to cover. Roughly 85% or more of students got a leaflet; after the class change we saw numerous people reading the leaflets cover to cover in the main square. Israel overheard some students discussing the lit, one girl saying how being veg is easy, “there’s soymilk, etc.” We only found one leaflet on the ground. Mind-blowing to walk around after the class change and see so many reading; really wish I had a video camera to show you. In 4 years of leafleting at over 350 schools I have never seen such a reception to the leaflets. In solidarity, Victor
As Vic’s posts have illustrated, outreach in Mexico has been overwhelmingly successful thus far. The reception of students has surpassed that of any other places where I have leafleted. We have met several vegetarians and I have had many, many conversations with people who have been immediately impacted by the power of the literature. Prior to our arrival, I had my apprehensions (riddled with excitement, of course) about pioneeing Vegan Outreach’s work here in Mexico. The response, however, has transcended all of my former expectations. Even today, after distributing a leaflet to a young woman, I immediately heard her say, “hay que ser vegetariano” (translation: you gotta go veg!) And this is certainly not the first statement of this kind that I’ve heard.
Our host, Israel Arriola, has been so indescribably amazing. His family has kept us well fed with delicious vegan Mexican food and tropical fruits. He is a fantastic activist and is thoroughly thrilled about our lit and the veganization of Mexico.
The potential for outreach here in Latin America is limitless. From the crowded universities to the bustling streets with constantly busy foot traffic, there is endless access to reach open hearts and minds. Bienvenidos a la revolución, amigos. Jeni
February 10 – Panamerican High School and Licia High School
657 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
A few bumps today, but another successful day. Raining, first went to scheduled college, the smallish Universidad de Valle de México where we had permission to leaflet earlier in the week, but the director of Culture, who gave us permission, was not in, so we couldn’t leaflet. We went across the street as planned to get the other students at the preparatory high school where we had great success earlier in the week. (Two different sets of students go to the school, an AM session and a PM session.) But with the rain, not many students were walking around campus since students don’t change classrooms through the day, teachers change classrooms, so with the rain minimal foot traffic.
We then went to Panamerican school, where our contact was very enthusiastic about the lit and we left lit to be distributed. We went on to the private Columbia High School, the Harvard of the local schools, and eventually spoke to the principal and we will give a talk on vegetarianism in English to the high school students next Thursday, it’s an English/Spanish school. All thanks to Israel.
Lastly, we went to the Licia school, another private school, and after a few minutes they agreed to distribute the leaflets to each of the high school students! Pretty amazing. One thing that strikes me here is that no adult is ever turned off by the pictures in the lit, whereas I would find it hard for administrators in the US to be so open about teaching students about the true nature of things, or worried about parents’ reaction or bureaucratic resistance. Another general note of leafleting I have recently appreciated is how nice the leaflets are: colorful, informative, and really well made. I think I may have taken that for granted, it’s like a small book full of fascinating and important information, easy to read, well cited, and stimulating. It is especially good in contrast to black and white lit we have seen once here, which was often discarded. I think the high caliber of the lit makes people take the information more seriously and thus saves more animals.
A few cultural musings, we have not had hot water, our shower is so cold it feels like it is being drained from an invisible glacier and I have not really showered in 5 days. Further, I am very punctual and take time kind of seriously. If I say I will meet you at 6, I will be there at 6. Here things are different, we are ready at 8 and sit around until we are out the door at 9:30 or say we will meet and leave at 9 and end up leaving just after 10. Dinner starts at 4, we will eat at 6:30, so we are quickly adapting to say we will meet earlier than we really intend.
Making a collage of the stray dogs of Texcoco, excited to report the first sterilization program will start here soon at Israel’s family’s little compound, funded by the city. Their family has a rudimentary “front tennis” court adjacent to the house in this little compound where people pay to play a game similar to racquetball on steroids. The wall goes four stories high and back maybe 35 yards. There are five dogs in the little yard, 4 rescues. One rescue, a super energized Boxer named Lebsabe, has a penchant for biting Jeni and me as we walk from the little house past the court to our rooms above the showers and office of the “front tennis” business. Sometimes we have to face her as we walk and fend her off with boxes or a backpack or just run for it, which is not good, makes for a juicy target. I have bites on my legs, thigh and posterior but nothing too bad.
Excited for a big week coming up! Have a great weekend!
February 13 – National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico City
1,900 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Long day, great outreach again. Asked to leave campus since we didn’t get permission after a little while, but it worked in our favor; we just went to bus stop and metro station, and most students got a leaflet before going on the train or while waiting for the bus. Captive audience = score! Saw many reading leaflets, unfortunately camera out of batteries so got batteries from little stand, horrible, lasted only 30 seconds so no pics. Jeni quickly made friends with the man in charge of the bus stop, and he expressed a lot of interest in going veg and they left hugging and exchanging emails.
The Polytechnic is a vast campus and foot traffic is okay but not bustling. I believe it’s like the MIT of Mexico. Three different people came back to me to get more leaflets, a professor and two students. It was very loud at my spot, but had a few very nice conversations and hopefully conversions. Even though this was a privileged and science crowd the take rate was very good.
Despues fuimos a…ooops. Afterwards we had a late lunch at a cafe run by supporters of the EZLN indigenous revolution in Chiapas led by Subcomondante Marcos. Their vegan options were a little light, so they made us a little of this and that, and we had our first cactus tacos. Last night one of the older Arriola brothers, Tomas, summoned us to sing with him and his friends, and there we were, three amazingly voiced grown men, a small guitar, and two gringos having a beverage or two and singing songs into the night. Also during the weekend we scouted out UNAM, the school with 300,000 students, and played “front tennis” for the first time. Jeni hit the ball out of the little stadium and across the street by accident, and I lost to a spry 9-year-old: 15–5. We also rode the subway on Saturday and wow, was it packed, squeezed between an ocean of men, just when it seemed impossible to add any more humanity to this thing, two guys grabbed the top of the door, turned their backs on the jam-packed train and threw their weight into the crowd and after the third time they were in. Unbelievable the waves of humanity in the subway, and this on a Saturday. A lot of fun, definitely a thrill, but don’t know if I would wanna do it every day. Quick turnaround and we are back at it tomorrow. Buenas noches! Vic
3,100 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Cesarin Lopez Arriola
Israel’s 13-year-old nephew Cesarin [shown at left with Israel] joined us. He was so good at leafleting and really got into it, it was great to have his help.
We leafleted for several hours and this was powerful outreach. Countless people reading again, I tried to be more shameless and take pics of people as they read, got a few pics. I believe nine people came back to ask for another leaflet or a few for family and friends. Many wanted to get involved with Anima Naturalis and Israel was busy a lot talking to the people we brought to him. A professor asked for more leaflets to give to his students, and he thanked us for being there doing this; a few other students said good job or patted us on the back. One student wants Israel to give a talk and they exchanged info. Others had vegan friends, had questions, etc.
We went to the library to leave more leaflets fanned out at the entrance. There we saw a security guard reading the booklet cover to cover, took a pic [at right], and then another splendid surprise, about 20 panels in the main hallway that were all about animal rights. I took a few pics. There Israel started talking to more people interested in the lit, and I kept seeing people take and read the lit left fanned out by the entrance. Also of note, out of the 3,100 “folletos” or leaflets handed out, only saw about 10 discarded in the trash or the street; we reused all but one. The day was marked by too many conversations to really get into it, I just have to emphasize the massive interest in the lit and the warm reception in general. Got good batteries and will have a few pics ready to go. Just a wonderful wonderful day of outreach, couldn’t be happier with how the trip has worked out thus far, there was alot of uncertainty heading into it and we have been just floored by people’s reception to the leaflets, can’t say it enough. Another quick turnaround, will take a car into the city tomorrow so we can get all the leaflets to UNAM super early in the day.
Final cultural musings, the air quality is horrific, especially when on a gridlocked bus or walking past a choked street with traffic, sometimes you can feel it burn your throat, and couples make out all the time and everywhere, laying in the grass, waiting for the metro, in the bus, on the street, it is quite different. Thank you for all your support via emails! Victor
PS: We started taking warm showers, very nice.
February 15 – UNAM
4,555 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Up at 6:15, leafleting by 10:30, very long day. Outstanding outreach. Sprawling campus, many plazas and wide walkways, goes on for miles, not as much concentrated foot traffic as one would think, most students who got a leaflet were in the Philosophy and Literature area or going to the library, also gave out 800 to medical students. Numerous reading, more than 25 came back to me or Jeni and asked for another leaflet to show family or friends, a professor took a stack of 50, two girls said they wanted to go veg, got pic. Had many convos, met many vegetarians and also some vegans which is always refreshing. There is a veg cafe on campus, but has no vegan options, everything has butter or cheese in it. Powerful day. Supertired, gotta work on speech for tomorrow. A great day for animals at UNAM! In solidarity, Vic
February 16 – Columbia Preparatory High School
49 ¿Por qué vegetariano?
Jeni Haines [at left]
Victor Sjodin [below]
We gave a talk today to a group of high school seniors. It went really well, the students seemed really into the lit and the teachers were also open to vegetarianism. We are out of lit, so pyramids it is tomorrow. Israel’s mom is so into it, she took a stack of 50 and gave it to everyone in her yoga class and said there was a lot of discussion; she made a list of all the other people she wanted to give it to, down to her hairdresser, there went another 50 leaflets. We also gave a stack here and there to professors who wanted to give to their students and to activists who requested them.
Many thank yous to the Arriola family and especially Israel and Animal Naturalis, and, of course, Drew! Countless animals have been saved, and I will never forget this trip, it has ignited an unquenchable thirst to keep pushing for veganism as a major solution to many of the world’s ailments and to try and prevent as many animals as possible from harm.
Thank you to the best copilot ever, Jeni, who is so dedicated, intelligent and sociable. The rest of the world will soon discover a great spoken-word poet.
Muchas Gracias! Hasta la Victoria siempre! Por los animales del mundo, Vic