I joke that I’ve always been sustainable-ish due to my Cuban upbringing. Cubans are known to be resourceful, but a lot of that has been out of necessity and lack of accessibility to the rest of the world (and its resources). Still, Latinos are some OG’s when it comes to sustainability. I know we’ve all had the metal galleta container only to find sewing needles, threads, buttons, and whatever else would fit. Lentejas o frijoles in the butter container. Resourceful repurposing.
I remember my teenage years when my abuela would expertly sew a patch on the inner thigh of my jeans, constantly ripping thanks to my thicker thighs. In a world where it is so easy to dispose she would renew. Socks were her speciality, she would never throw away a sock. If it had too many repairs then she would use it to clean. Our socks lived many lives.
Parties were no different. I think we ate on the same set of plastic plates for at least 10 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were even older than that. Red solo cups and gold utensils would be used for every celebration and family get together. I used to think “why are we washing these when they were made to be thrown away?” I get it now.
Plastic bags were folded into little triangles and placed into another, bigger plastic bag to hold them all. Take out containers would be stacked and threaten to fall every time we opened the cabinet. In them would be my daily school lunches (bistec con moros, usually) and leftovers from our weekly extended family meals. We kept every. single. container.
My family didn’t set up to be sustainable, it was out of necessity. Like many first generation Latinxs, my family came to this country with nothing and started from scratch, never forgetting where they came from. I used to be embarrassed from these practices at home. Little did I know the foundation it was setting for me. Hay comida en la casa also translates to stop food waste and use what you have.
While my sustainability journey may be a bit more upgraded, my roots lie in that brick building in Corona, Queens. I still save any plastic bags, while that rarely happens anymore. My containers are now glass. I still do it out of necessity but necessity for a better world.
Con mucho amor,
Leave a Reply