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Meat-free in Mazatlan: vegan and vegetarian community builds businesses to serve their tastes

Mar 5, 2021 | Best Bites, Community

In the land of aguachile and carne asada, avoiding animal products is not always easy. Not long ago, meat-free food options in Mazatlan were almost non-existent. Vegans didn’t see the food options they wanted–so now they began creating them. Over the last few years, non-meat and non-dairy options are increasingly common thanks to motivated entrepreneurs and their customers.

The vegans and vegetarians of Mazatlán have all kinds of reasons for their dietary choices, ranging from compassion for the suffering of animals and concern for the natural environment to health and other personal reasons. Here are a few of their stories.

La Ruta Vegana

La Ruta Vegana is a well-established staple of Mazatlán’s vegan community. When the restaurant opened six years ago, Mazatlán had fewer options for vegans, according to Pamela Cutiño, one of La Ruta Vegana’s founding partners.

“We weren’t sure about opening the restaurant because here in Mexico, in Mazatlán, we have no culture of eating more vegetables or fruits or vegan or any of that. We are tacos, carne asada, mariscos, camarones,” said Cutiño. But the restaurant was a success. “The first year, it was really amazing to see all the people that got really interested. Maybe just for curiosity, but they tried it, they liked it and they came back.”

Cutiño herself had stopped using and eating animal products several years before, when she was rescuing and fostering stray animals. The reaction from her family was tough, she said.

“I don’t know why but they don’t like it. Now they understand and now the jokes and the mocking has stopped a little bit. But the first two or three years were really hard… my argument all the time is I just don’t want to harm anything, anybody.” As she sees it, being vegan is the natural result of an awareness of animal suffering, she said.

A cook prepares a quinoa bowl and papas gajas at La Ruta Vegana restaurant. Photo by Rose Egelhoff.

“At first, I wanted to stop people in the street and tell them, so they’d stop [consuming animal products],” Cutiño said.” And sometimes we get very angry because we cannot do it and we fight and we argue. We look like crazy people, I know. But it’s not because we are mean people, it’s because we really want other people to understand what we have already understood, and make the decision to change.”

Her philosophy focuses on the impact of consumption. Becoming vegan is about more than what food choices, she said. “It’s more about a change of your living, of your mind, of your consumption. Checking the labels of the shampoo, soap or toothpaste. Maybe becoming a little bit more aware of your trash and even companies that exploit people in huge factories all around the world, if you really care about doing less harm to others, it means to animals and humans. We are not just talking about animals, we are talking about humans… You try to buy from the people here, maybe a small company and not huge companies that takes advantage of people… Veganism is not just about food, it’s about the impact on everything. Health, animals, [and] environment.”

Comiendo Sano, mi Tienda y Restaurante Saludable

Comiendo Sano has sometimes been a store, but currently is a restaurant. The hours have varied over the years, making this spot an underground favorite of those who know when to stop by. The menu is health-focused, vegetarian with many vegan options, MSG-free and organic whenever possible, according to the owners, Isabel and Luigi Moscuzza. “It’s simple homemade food. We are not sophisticated but healthy, yes,” Luigi said.

Luigi Moscuzza prepares a smoothie at the restaurant Comiendo Sano. Photo by Rose Egelhoff.

The couple themselves are vegetarian, with an occasional exception for fish when eating out. “We still eat fish once in a while and we don’t cook it here [in the restaurant]. But we eat it less and less,” said Isabel, describing their journey towards vegetarianism. “You start gradually. You say, I’m going to stop eating this or that animal product… now we don’t eat chicken, any kind of red meat, etc.”

“The long-term vision is harmony between our way of eating and our philosophy of life,” Luigi added–a vision that applies to both their personal food ethos and the goals of the business., which aims to create a nourishing environment to go along with the food it serves. “The people who come here, who eat, who sit outside, they stay a while… This is a place that lends itself to connecting with other people, it’s very spontaneous.”

Comiendo Sano restaurant. Photo by Rose Egelhoff.

Food delivery services

Pamela Langarica runs Cacao Sabor y Vida, vegan restaurant turned home-delivery food service. She said that in her experience, attitudes towards veganism in Mazatlán have grown more and more open.

“Personally, I know a lot of people who are not vegan but are open to the possibility of trying the food I prepare, of going out to restaurants where there is a vegan option for me. I think people are becoming more open and more inclusive in that respect.”

For the owner of Bliss Tienda Vegana, Iris Cornejo Gutiérrez, her decision to stop consuming animal products was based on concern for animals, she said. She became vegetarian at 15 and turned vegan 9 years later, when she learned about the conditions for animals that produce dairy and eggs. She would have done it sooner, she noted, if she had had access to more information on the topic.

Cornejo opened her business in 2016 precisely because of the lack of options she saw for local vegans like herself. “I was interested in getting vegan products and making them easier to find for vegans and vegetarians around the city. Before, you couldn’t even get tofu here. Now there are more options.”

For Diana Briseño, the owner of Lemmon Tacos Veganos, cutting back on animal products began when she witnessed a pig’s slaughter at 10 years old. “It was honestly a trauma… I remember I closed my eyes, and I could hear the animal screaming. At that time, I didn’t know what it meant to be vegetarian, much less vegan. But I stopped eating pork, obviously, and beef. “ She continued to eat a more and more plant-based diet, and became vegan as soon as she moved out of her parent’s home.

Many of her clients are not vegan, she commented. “Some vegetarians, but many people just have an open mind and make orders… which I love. They try it out of curiousity.”

Restaurants mentioned:

  • La Ruta Vegana. Healthy and not-so-healthy options, including vegan takes on Sinaloan favorites like ceviche and tacos de asada. Vicente Guerrero #216, Centro.
  • Luigi e Isabel Moscuzza, Comiendo Sano. Simple vegetarian (optionally vegan) food such as tacos, tortas and pastas. See Happy Cow for current hours. 16 de septiembre 614, Centro.
  • Lemmon Tacos Veganos. Sunday taco delivery twice a month. Makes tacos ahogados and tacos al vapor, with soy chorizo, gluten chicharron, lentil picadillo and shredded jamaica (the flower prepared in the same way as shredded beef).
  • Cacao Sabor y Vida. Vegan desserts and occasional main dishes offered weekly (online only), made to order.
  • Bliss, Tu Tienda Vegana. Online store with home delivery, currently offering vegan cheeses, cold cuts and taco “meat.” (Due to the pandemic, offerings have been temporarily reduced). Instagram. / Whatsapp: 66 91 66 2045

Otherrecommended resources for vegetarians, vegans and curious eaters

  • Some soy and gluten meat substitutes available in Ley and Walmart.
  • In the seed-selling area of mercados like Pino Suarez, some vendors now have nut milks and tofus.

Natural foods stores:
Mercado Verde
Vive Sano

Written By Rose Egelhoff
Rose Egelhoff is a freelance journalist and science writer, and was previously the staff reporter for the Moab Times-Independent. She studied biology at Pomona College. Sometimes she tweets.