In my search to adopt a kitten in Tijuana, a friend of mine directed me to Claudia Lomelí, an animal-rights activist who spends some of her time rescuing street animals and finding them homes. The rest of the time she is the Happy Vegan, an online food-delivery service in Tijuana.
We agreed to meet on a Friday, so I could meet the kitten and try some of her food. Unfortunately, her bicyclist delivery partner, Alexander, suffered a crash involving a taxi, and they lost three out of ten vegan pizzas that were already sold. Claudia's bike was in the shop, so she had to deliver the rest using public transportation.
We met on Saturday instead. She was selling ten more pizzas and had a kitten in a cage with her. Claudia interviewed me closely; she needs to know all the details to guarantee the kitten a happy life. I bought one of her $5 vegan pizzas and talked to her about Happy Vegan.
“Yo no soy cocinera,” Claudia said. She does not see herself as a cook; her pizza tells me otherwise. A mix of vegetables and soy chorizo on top of a garlic crust, no cheese. As a non-vegan and a cheese-lover, I always hated vegan cheese, but the pizza does not miss it. Besides pizza, Happy Vegan also makes tamales, “Andromeda” and “Zombie” burgers, avocado-pesto pasta, baked goods, and more.
“I actually learned how to ride a bike this year," said Claudia, "so it is pretty scary to go around the street, delivering, especially since my bike's brakes were basically non-existent. Fortunately, nothing happened to Alexander yesterday….
“I started making vegan juices and selling them in 2009; the next year I dabbled with food, and in 2011 I created the Happy Vegan Facebook page. The high demand made me quit my job recently in CEART [Centro Estatal de las Artes Tijuana] to dedicate my full time in this project. Happy Vegan works in an odd fashion. I post what food I will be making the next day and you order with a Facebook message with what you want, address, cell phone, and what time you want your food to arrive. Besides this, I'm also in charge of the Vegan Picnic that is held every year and is free for vendors and people.”
Claudia told me more about Happy Vegan after asking me hundreds of questions about what the kitten's environment would be like.
“It's not about the money, it's about promoting vegan culture and creating awareness of animal abuse. My customers have been the kindest and very supportive of the project so that I finally got a full-sized oven. Before this, each pizza would take me nearly an hour to cook!”
Claudia hesitantly relinquished the kitten's cage and warned me that I’d better take good care of him or that I will meet “Angry Vegan.”