Brazilian-born Gabriela Iannaccone, vegan IBM Project Manager in Mexico City, talks about the Latin America vegan boom and her vision of veg employee initiative at IBM. As a savvy world traveler, Gaby easily found vegan options during her recent month-long work trip to Kenya.
Where are you originally from, and how did you end up working for IBM in Mexico City?
Gaby: I’m from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I have been working for IBM since Dec 2004. I initially supported the Anheuser-Busch InBev account from Brazil. Once Anheuser-Busch acquired Mexican company Grupo Modelo, they signed a major contract with IBM Mexico and asked for me to be brought in as the project lead. My husband and I always thought about living abroad, and this opportunity made it happen for us!
What had led you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?
Gaby: I already did not eat red and pork meat for many years when I found out about the shocking treatment of all other farm animals, especially chicken. At that time I wasn’t too familiar with the vegan concept but luckily I enrolled in a “How to become a vegetarian in a healthy way” course. The teacher was a vegan nutritionist and she challenged me to be be vegan for 24 hours. This prompted me to learn about the milk and egg industry and about veganism. A few months later, I made up my mind to become a vegan as I could no longer endorse the atrocities inflicted on farm animals. The truth is that veganism brought a new meaning to my life.
Are you seeing any encouraging vegan developments in Mexico or Latin America (more options at restaurants and stores, a shift in societal attitude towards veganism and so on)?
Gaby: When I left Sao Paulo, veganism was booming with many vegan events and restaurants. After moving to Mexico, at first finding vegan options was tough. Then a few months later, someone organized the Vegan Fair of Mexico City, which was so successful that it led to a recurring event now being held bi-weekly. Many new veg restaurants opened and veganism is growing in popularity. I see more and more people interested in the subject.
You recently spent a month in Kenya on a work assignment. Was it possible to eat vegan there?
Gaby: Since Kenya’s cuisine is highly influenced by Indian cuisine, this was not a problem except at very traditional local restaurants (where bone soup is served for breakfast!) In this case I’d order a chapati bread and cooked vegetables such as kale or cabbage. Generally speaking I ate a lot of great food in Kenya! (Editor’s note: See Gaby’s amazing photos and stories from the Kenya trip, including magnificent ones from an elephant orphanage she visited.)
We heard through a grapevine that you were considering launching a veg group at IBM! Can you tell us more?
Gaby: IBM is known for supporting diversity. I’m already a Straight Ally member of the Employee Alliance for LGBT Empowerment. My role is to help create a more inclusive environment for LGBT employees and raise awareness about the cause.
This concept applies similarly to the veg employees. I believe veg employees should come together and start an informal community, to get to know each other but mainly to use our group power to make the company and colleagues aware of us and our ideas. By gaining visibility we might get more people interested in the subject and we could pursue better veg options in the cafeteria and company events. Maybe start a debate on ethics toward animals since ethics is another strong element of our internal culture at IBM.