We caught up with Amy Quichiz, a writer, educator and the founder of Veggie Mijas, to find out about her experience growing up in Queens, New York, where she finds interiors inspiration, and why she decided to start a vegan collective for women of color.
Hi Amy! Tell us more about you. What’s your background? Where are you from? What did you study? What do you do for work?
My name is Amy Quichiz and I am Colombian and Peruvian. I was raised in Jackson Heights, Queens—the best hood there is, but I am a bit biased! I recently graduated from Syracuse University and studied Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology. As of now, I am working for a health center and nonprofit as an educator. I also love to write and I am currently a contributor for Bold Latina. I tend to write about my brownness and my mental health. Lastly, I also am an organizer and the founder of Veggie Mijas, a vegan women of color collective, where folks can share their recipes, their art, and tips for establishing an easy and accessible vegan lifestyle. Currently I am in the process of applying for graduate school and looking into continuing my studies in global gender studies in order to have my own non-profit in the future and hopefully, work with United Nations.
I’m curious if you had any expectations about what life would be like here after college? If so, has the city lived up to your expectations?
I love New York City! I love it because I have made my community here, I find amazing food everywhere and anywhere, and I think everyone is a little mean— which I love. Life here is very expensive, but it makes me want to be a little bit bougie! Like why can’t I live the Gossip Girl life and then go back home for some empanadas and Colombian drinks!? I can definitely do both, and I don’t think I could do it anywhere else. Also, for someone that moved upstate for four years, I really missed the city life and I’ve loved becoming a tourist in my own city. There is always something new and entertaining happening.
What area of New York do you call home? Why did you decide to live in that specific neighborhood?
I live in Jackson Heights and that is my home. I grew up there all my life, going to Bulova Park, attending elementary school at PS.2, middle school in IS.141. In Queens, everyone knows each other and I think that is beautiful. You can call someone at 2am, and someone will be there with a drink to sip on by your door steps. Jackson Heights is not somewhere I decided to live, it is where my parents came to when they migrated from Peru and Colombia. The area itself is very Colombian and that is why I grew up mostly in touch with my Colombian side. I grew up dancing Salsa, eating Colombian food, and singing vallenatos from the top of my lungs. I didn’t pick the place, home picked me and I am grateful for that.
What do you love most about your neighborhood? How do you feel the location inspires you creatively?
I love how open people are. I love that people will be nice to you no matter what. You can be asking for directions and people will walk with you to make sure you get there safely. I love that everywhere is home to you. As a person that has traveled to Colombia so much or someone that has a mother that does not know a word of English, Jackson Heights has become more than just a home but a serious community where people can relate to you and make you feel safe. The location itself inspires me creatively because I am around my people all the time. I can see my diasporic experiences through other first generation kids as well. Most of my articles are based on my personal experience, therefore, for me, someone who comes from the hood, someone who is the first person in their family to ever go to college, someone who came back to the hood to share that with everyone else—that is a big deal for where I come from. My surroundings make me, me.
How would you describe the style of your apartment?
I would describe the style of my apartment as a borderland space of different generations. For now, I am living with my family, but it is important for me to make my room a glimpse of how I want my whole house to look like in the future–filled with plants, greens and pinks, books and magazines, and art pieces. I would describe my room as somewhere where I made it safe to cry, somewhere I can play my ukulele, somewhere I can be my complete and full self.
Where do you go for interiors inspiration?
Definitely pinterest and some instagram blogs that I love to follow, such as @urbanjungleblog, @joandjune, @plinka.life, @organized_home, and more. Anything with plants, white, and pink designs inspires me. One day I hope to live somewhere with really big windows and a great view of greens. I’d love to have a garden and maybe a cow coming up my window to give me morning kisses! Overall though, I seriously love house hunter interior vibes. I love simplicity and small touches around the house that can mean so much to me.
What drew you to the Society 6 products you chose?
Every time I am in the Society 6 page, I have such a hard time picking what to put inside my shopping bag. I particularly picked my comforter because I love the different shades of greens and how they complimented my pink walls. I also picked brown art such as the pizza party girl and the the brown girl with plants because they are me. I love feeling like I can be represented through these pieces in such ways where both show how free I consider myself to be. I then picked my floor pillow because I love having folks over and not everyone can fit on the bed, and the pillow is SO comfortable, therefore, I am glad I got it! All the Society6 products that I chose were because I feel like they define the ideal room I always wanted: dreamy, serene, free.
What kind of topics do you explore through your writing? Where can we find your writing?
My first article was about white women wearing hoops. As a brown Latina girl growing up in the hood, there were so many opportunities to not see yourself anywhere you go besides where you live. I remember a time in high school where I did not want to be brown and hated being Latina. This came with hiding my culture, my big hoops, not playing Salsa or Reggaeton, and desiring to be white. As a women’s and gender studies major, I learned a lot about white supremacy, gender roles, what it means to be brown, and what it means to reconnect with your ancestors. My writing is about that journey, my process through that, my experience, and my now. I have written about becoming your own brown storyteller warrior and why it is important to write, I have written about veganism and how it can connect back to your ancestors through plant-based practices, and I have written about how this society needs to stop feeding us heteronormativity. Writing for me is sacred–it is one of the many reasons why folks of color are still alive. You can find my writing at boldlatina.com!
Can you share more about the Veggie Mijas project. What inspired you to launch it? How has the collective grown since you started it last year?
Veggie Mijas is a collective that highlights the importance of having a plant-based lifestyle while also intersecting race, gender identity, class, and sexuality–being brown, Latinx, non-binary, women, queer, gender-queer, coming from the hood, etc. Mariah, my cofounder, and I are very passionate about spreading awareness about the lack of resources we have to healthier foods in the hood and animal liberation. We envision this collective to be very sacred and a space where we feel connected, where we can share our recipes with each other and mostly our knowledge. Mariah and I launched Veggie Mijas first as a instagram blog for both of us to share recipes while studying at Syracuse University. However, we both wanted to learn more recipes through other people and have this be a collective rather than just us. The collective started in early February and now, only five months in, we have had potlucks in New York City, meetups in the Bronx, yoga, and potluck events hosted by Kathryn, a Dominican Yoga Instructor, and recently we had a cooking event with Erenis, a Bronx-Dominican native Community Food Educator. We have also seen it grow in other parts of the states — Priscilla Sandoval has organized gatherings in Oakland while Ruby, Melina, and Melissa organize events in Orange County and Los Angeles, California. I think what really inspires me is that other people are so excited to finally meet vegans of color in their own city and create a community based off of that.
What’s your future vision for the collective?
In the future, I would love to participate in more festivals, work with kids and teach them how to garden and plant vegetables, and really continue to grow the community that we are already flourishing in. I think that bringing awareness is definitely part of our mission, letting folks of color know that being vegan is possible and really owning the impact that we are making for our communities. I see this collective expanding across the country and continuing to show folks that they are not going through the process of being vegan alone.
If you could live anywhere else, where would it be and why?
One day, I would like to live in Paris for a few years. Having the Eiffel tower as my view and having my girlfriend pass me some expensive tea from the bodega but the french version is all I ever want in my life. I have been to Paris before and it is seriously a dream! As a pisces, I love the concept of love and being in a place where love can be given so easily. I cannot wait to eat my baguette, while I french kiss my girlfriend on the balcony. Just knowing that we live in a world where you can never escape reality, yet it is okay and completely acceptable to dream in Paris—that is exactly where I am meant to be.