1)How did you first get into veganism, and what were the reasons behind it?
I went vegan at 16years old. I didn't even know what veganism was or anyone who was vegan when I decided to go vegetarian. I had been in the punk
scene since I was about 13 years old. I started out in really into street punk, some oi and 77 then fell deep and head over heals in love with anarcho, peace
punk, and crust. I was 15 when I read Crass's book Last of the Hippies. There was a quote in that book that changed the very fiber of my being and it
reads, "This is our world. It is ours and it has been stolen from us. We have to set out and demand for it back, only this time they won't call us hippies, they'll
call us punks. " Although this quote may have meant nothing to anyone else, this made me question everything I had been hearing in these songs and
reading in these zines, We needed to learn from the mistakes of the hippies. Become sober, stop holding up signs and getting militant to save lives and
save our world. I began to do research and became very interested in earth, human, and animal rights and even started switching my focus in poetry and
writing to political work. I had acquired a handful of animal righs VHS tapes and got the gist of what was going on. I was so destroyed after watching these
that even though I was a very Cuban meat and potatoes aspiring chef kind of girl, who hated veggies, I had to stop eating flesh. I think I lived off of
mushrooms and toast for the first few weeks, haha. I was only vegetarian for about a month and a half before a went strictly vegan and I never went back.
I have a crass tattoo in honor of what Penny wrote in that book. I am forever grateful to you my friend, Penny Rimbaud.
2)You played in a vegan straight edge band, and there were a few times that you spoke at Anarcho Punk shows. What was the difference between the
straight edge scene and the Anarcho Punk scene?
Yes, I was a political speaker for about 8 years in both scenes but I let it take a back seat when I joined Tears of Gaia. I was in Tears of Gaia for a few years
and I love my boys Eric and Hector very much. It was an odd transition for me though. I grew up going to both hardcore and punk shows however I was, and
will always be, a punk. The style of music I was writing at the time was more of a crusty, dbeat, grindcore, street punk, black metal mash up kind of thing,
haha. Hardcore, although I dug the music, didn't have my heart. Both had great pits and amazing enthused fans who were very supportive of my/our
message and had some wonderfully intellectual minds. If I must sum up the differences in the two, it would be this: It really came down to the negatives in
both scenes. For every amazing brilliant militant political punk activist at my side, there was some other ridiculous american womanizing drunk punk
screaming anarchy in the UK and trying to start a fight with a fire hydrant, haha. We fought and drank too much which always ended in our venues shutting
down or not playing punk anymore. We destroy our own scene with our recklessness. In the hardcore scene, same thing, brilliant minds with massive
potential... yet on the other side were these elitists who would shut people out for thinking for themselves. They would rip bibles in half on stage and just
vomit up these words so passionately with such vigor… than off the stage I would see first hand how it was such a farce. A penis contest that had the most
childish hatful sexist close-minded buffoons I had ever met. How ridiculous, to continue to buy or steal same thing for a good ol' fashioned primitive book
burning??? Arn't we supposed to be better than that? Some of these people ran this scene and I couldn't believe how in both of these scenes, how blindly
some of our people would follow. Luckly, the followers, usually within a years time, were out and had moved on to something more suitable, like hair metal,
haha. Over all, I have love for both but there is still just such a need for community and education. I felt like we did that and I'm proud to have been a
member. Know that TOG isn't over, and probably never will be. We had amazing fans and I love them all and still keep in touch with a lot of them. I had the
pleasure of touring with some amazing people, made great friends in both scenes, and I'm grateful for all of it.
3)What did you have to go through to become a Massage Therapist and a vegan chef?
I went to fullerton college for massage school. At the time, it was one of the best in the country. Sadly, the woman who made it the best fell on hard times in
life and no longer runs the program. It was a 3year program where we were trained like doctors. Not only studying massage techniques from the east and
west but then also taking classes like pathophysiology, pathology, anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, body mechanics, exercise physiology,
nutrition, body mind connection, and the list goes on and on and on. Just my massage classes alone were 5 hours long with one 15minute break and so
much homework you wouldn't even believe. It was amazing though and I'm glad I did it. What started out with a passion for massage opened my mind to
everything else I ended up studying and becoming in those years to come: a personal trainer, a nutritionist, an athletic trainer, a yoga instructor, a Jr
olympic swim team coach, an lastly a vegan chef. I worked in those fields for 6 years then I had an opportunity to go to a raw vegan culinary school so I did.
I went to Living Light Culinary institute in Fort Bragg, Ca. After graduating the entire program I was hired on at head chef of the culinary schools restaurant
and taught demos for the school from time to time. After about 8 months I moved back to orange county where I worked with the #1 chef in OC as his line
cook and assisted in harvesting beautiful organic produce every morning from his aquaponic farm. It was an amazing experience, however not vegan so I
left after a few months to open Seabirds Kitchen in costa mesa with the owners. I was initially hired on as prep, but quickly worked my way up to kitchen
manager and sous chef where I made a good 90% of the food for them on my own. I was with them for 15months and then I had an opportunity to open
another vegan restaurant in Downtown LA, The Springs. I was head kitchen manager and Executive sous chef there as well and I worked until a week
before my daughter was born and returned to work 2 months later. It is an amazing place to go. Not only do we have raw vegan organic gourmet whole
foods, but also serve local beers, wines, sake, cold brew coffee, house made cold press organic juices, we have live music, pop up shops, a yoga studio,
and a wellness center where you can get anything from a session in an infrared sauna to hot stone massage to colonics. It was kind of an oasis. The
kitchen now is under renovations for a few weeks so I'm coaching swim and working for a vegan meal delivery company called Floret in Glendale.
4)Tell us about your job, like what you do on the job?
As a chef I am constantly creating, tasting new things, helping build menus, putting out specials, adjusting recipes for whats in season and we can not get
organic, finding the best quality foods at the best costs, I maintain a very efficient well run strict kitchen, I hire and fire, take inventory, order, meet with
farmers and food reps, I teach, try to inspire, order for the kitchen, hop on line, do payroll, and anything needed to make it a great day making people
palettes dance keeping guests, staff, and bosses happy. I am the person that cracks the whip and I'm also momma bear and I take care of my people.
I've taken a break in personal training, athletic training, and massage therapy. It was my primary dream to be a chef and I'm not going to lie, every time I put
on my chef coat it's as if I'm a little kid putting on my cape. It's still surreal.
As far as coaching, I still dabble. I love working with kids and I'm also teaching my 7 month old daughter to swim as well. I love the water and will probably
never stray too far.
5)Let's say someone is a high school drop out or has no college degree, and does not know what to do with their life, what suggestions would you give?
That's rough. I suppose my first step would be to reassure them that its okay to be uncertain, uncomfortable, and let them know that is possible to
overcome fear, procrastination and distractions. I would ask them what they like to do for fun, what they have passion for, what are the things or type of
people they like to surround themes;yes with, observe what catches their attention, and what comes naturally to them. Advise them go to a junior college or
a community center and just try things out. It's cheap enough and there are JC"s everywhere and it's day to hop in a class that catches your eye, it doesn't
have to take a lot of your time and you can still work full time. I was taking 19+ units a semester for 7 years and still worked 2 jobs. It is possible but you
have to real want to learn and br open to grow. If still nothing catches your eye, it may even help to take an aptitude test and see what that tells you.
6)Since you are a parent now, how has your life changed?
It's been a whirlwind. I was told I could never have children when I was 19 years old. For some reason, In July of 2014, I had a gut feeling I might be with my,
at the time, fiancé. I had blood work done at kaiser and they told me it was negative. I saw other doctors, took other tests, including 4 at home tests, and
they all said negative or were inconclusive. It was the 4th test that said I was. I went to the doctor the next day and turned out I was 13weeks along. I saw her
and she had all ten fingers and ten toes. I Couldn't wrap my mind around it. The tests had all been wrong. She was born on May 7th, 2015 c-section 6pound
13oz 19.5 inches and very healthy.
My daughter has been the greatest gift in my life. She is 7 months old now and I can tell you, I got really lucky with her. She was sleeping through the night
at 2months, she only cries when she is hungry, and as soon as you give her the breast milk, she's good. My life has changed in a few ways, but nothing
drastic. My sleep patterns are a bit off now but never really slept much to start. I hate shopping but I love buying her things ex. books, educational toys,
anything she could ever possibly need unit she is 2yrs old because I tend to over prepare as I feel all of us single parents should do to the best of our
abilities. I think before I spend money on anything now. She is amazing and I love that I get to see things through new eyes. I get to appreciate things more
because kids see everything and it makes me see. I've never smiled and laughed so much in my life.
7)About how much should a couple save up if they are planning to have a kid? And what suggestions would you give?
I can tell you right now, the numbers can be scary. Don't look at them, haha. first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was take out a half million dollar
30yr life insurance policy on myself incase something happened during labor. I know it's dark to think like that but worst case situation, there is money for
her college, a wedding, car, emergencies, and my funeral so that no one has to worry about that. Moving on, college money. I started putting away $50-100
every 2 weeks into an account for her since I was 3 months pregnant. It doesn't sound like a lot but over 18 years. it will grow quickly. I put half into a IRA
account for college and the other half in in a CD at my local credit union (I don't do banks) which are both great because they have higher intrest rates than
a savings account. As far as baby food I plan on growing my produce again so I can make it all but for now, besides breast milk, she eats earths best
organics. For diapers and almost everything else I use Babyganics, I trust the product and it's not very pricy AT ALL compared to Honest diapers.
Preschools: shop early. They are all expensive but the thing to remember is that this is the time they absorb the most. This is not the time to cheap out. I
think high school, go public or whatever you want. The school I chose for my daughter, Ellie, is a nationally recognized blue ribbon school and was named
best private school in orange county by parenting magazine 2014. That sounds intense, I know but this is where their brains develop the most and if they're
all 500-1000 a month , pick a good one, take a tour, learn about it's history and know the kid to teacher ratio. Know everything including the teachers
history. This is going to be their second home for the next 2-10 years depending on what kind of school. Do your research.
8)Name 10 things you are grateful for?
- Not in this order but here we go -
- My daughter
- my family
- my education/ intellect
- punk rock/music in general
- my Cuban culture
- Hurraw chapstick
- My bass
- my passion for everything in life
- my freedom
- the crazy story of my life
9)Best vegan restaurant in Los Angeles?
- LA is too hard so I'll give you a top 5
- The Springs (cause I work there, lol)
- Green Leaves
- Lotus Vegan
10)Best vegan restaurant in Orange County?
- I'm not trying to be bias, but as a chef, I'm only going to work for the best restaurants so I'm going to go with my old job, Seabirds Kitchen.
Joaquin speaking at Class Struggle Anarchist Conference 2008 NYC
1) Let's say I have a friend who got out of jail, has a felony, and needs to find work. What suggestion would you give them?
Well this depends on what city you live in. There is an organization made up of formerly incarcerated people called All of Us or None, who is working on a
campaign to “Ban the Box,” to end discrimination in the work place of people with felonies or violent misdemeanors. Los Angeles where I live still has a lot
of work to do in terms on banning the box (where employers ask if you have felonies), but other cities have eliminated the question from job applications.
For poor and working class men of color in particular but poor people of color in general, police harassment, and jail and prison becomes more likely, in a
country with over 2 million people in prison, mainly for non-violent crimes. Understanding that having a job in this capitalist society is necessary part of
survival. I would suggest going into the non-profit sector, even though we understand that these organizations are a contradiction, and are not a solution
to systemic oppression, we should just approach it as a job, and nothing else, you will deal with similar bull shit. I have a record, a “violent misdemeanor”
not a felony, but it's treated the same by most jobs. I did not know this in the beginning until I started seeing jobs turn me down. I started working for labor
unions as an organizer, because even though they check your record, they don't discriminate based on this, at least not all of them, some do. They pay
better than most jobs, but you have to deal with long hours and bull shit from union bosses. I think we need to start creating our own cooperatives as a
model, but also to provide a means to survive, while we destroy the system of capitalism.
For more info check out http://bantheboxcampaign.org/
2)Another friend is a high school drop out, and has no college degree and needs to find work, but wishes to work for non-profit groups who make a
difference. What web site should the person look at, and what suggestion would you give?
Usually non-profits post job listings on Idealist.org
also just going on Craigslist the jobs section has non-profits (watch out for scams though)
If you are looking to work for a union they usually post on unionjobs.com
3)Does a college degree really make a big difference in getting a job?
Actually there are a lot of folks who graduate from college, and are out of a job, or are getting paid minimum wage or similar wages.
What's more important nowadays is experience, and your network (who you know)
4)Let's say a single parent is very interested in getting a college education, but can't due to full time work and watching their kid. What can they do?
There are programs that can help single parents, some community colleges offer day care, also Cal Works is a similar program.
5)You come from an activist movement. How come they never talk about realistic future stuff when they get older like: paying bills, careers, money
budgeting, savings for a future kid's school, and having funds for a parent's funeral?
This is a problem with the movement in general Jay. A lot of us come from the working class, or “lumpen proletariat” and organizing full time becomes
unrealistic, when we have to survive, and sometimes have a family. Many activists come from the middle class, or have parents that help them, which
allows them to live this “super activist lifestyle.” At the end it becomes very self-righteous and elitist excluding other people at the bottom who have harder
time surviving and balancing work and the movement. For me, it's just about finding the balance, working with people you care for and trust and building
the long lasting relationships, commitment, and level of combativity and discipline that will take to wage this fight. As a father personally, this means mainly
working with my son, to make sure he will be a good human being and a warrior. Our struggle has to be generational. Meaning we have to think of the
future generations, how we are preparing them, and what we are doing to protect the planet they will inherit.
6)Tell us about some of the jobs you had in the past, and how did you find them?
I've had different jobs, I mean as someone who is rebellious and anti-authoritarian, I don't get along with bosses, or conform very well. I've worked for
unions, those have been the longer jobs I've had, but there is always something that bothers me about these corporations. I think we want to build a
cooperative at the moment, I'm tired of bosses.
7) What are some good and bad stories of some of your jobs you had in the past.
8)Why are some of the activists that I have met, always anti-money and are always so broke? Some can barely pay rent. What can we do about this
I think I spoke to this question already.
9.I have a good friend who is undocumented and worked hard at a restaurant and at bars, and has $10,000 in his savings. He is also going to college.
Why is it that people from other countries seem to work harder and know how to save?
I think it's the work ethic, but also it's also true in other countries people rest well but work hard. They have a more relaxed lifestyle as well. The u.s.
Creates this idea where there are bad workers and good workers, hard workers and lazy workers. How can someone be motivated to work, if all your
money is going to bills, and you're barely getting by? Where you have to work 3 jobs in order to survive with the wages we are getting? Undocumented
people in particular are super-exploited and aren't paid the correct wages, and many times get their wages stolen from them by their employers. There are
cases where individuals can save, but sometimes it just comes down to hustle, but we are getting exploited regardless.
10)How do you picture Los Angeles if all the undocumented people left the city?
Capitalism in general relies and lives off the super-exploitation of undocumented people, they are the ones who cook, clean, pick your food, etc etc etc,
and don't get paid enough to do it. This system creates the situation where they are systematically are held at the bottom, and those are the only jobs they
can get while denying many people of work as a whole. They can pay undocumented workers less, and have them living in fear so they don't complain or
organize. Undocumented people however have always been in the front lines, even though people try to patronize and undermine their potential and their
How old were you when you first started college, and how did you pay for it?
I went straight to College after graduating from high school but found myself struggling with choosing a major. It is common for college students to be
uncertain of their career goals and statistics show that on average, a student will declare a different major at least three times. As we transition from an
adolescent to a young adult, we’re exploring possibilities while others like parents or mentors might tell us what career is best for us or what job to get that
might not match our own dreams, so it doesn’t surprise me that without a clear direction, the idea of traveling or doing something else became more
interesting to me. I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession and was determined to put service into action immediately, so I started volunteering with
Food Not Bombs in Long Beach, which was a full-time gig all on its own, so around that time I found myself dropping out of school to put more effort in
activism. I helped cook and deliver vegetarian food not just locally but as far away as Arizona to the Navajo nation and enjoyed several road trips to see
lands I have not seen before and meet all sorts of wonderful people at gatherings or social causes. I was working in data entry to make ends meet but I left
that to travel and at one of these budgeted trips I found myself applying for food stamps. I looked into going back to College while receiving food stamps
and had no idea that I would qualify for tuition waivers and grants because I met that net income test of being eligible. Besides the fee waivers and grants,
I also applied for scholarships and a small loan, choosing a major in Anthropology. "For my graduate degree, I wrote an essay that qualified me for a
fellowship that paid most of my tuition, I think there were hundreds of applicants for a few spots, so I felt fortunate to have received the help.: With
internships in mental health and child protective services, I went on to work for agencies and schools.
You are now have a private practice as a Psychotherapist, what made you get into this field?
Being in private practice is the perfect fit for me. I can truly say, “I love my work” because I really do enjoy what I do. I don’t have a boss hovering over me
and I don’t have to follow the rigidity of some agencies or told what to do that could be against my own values. I do keep in mind legal and ethical
boundaries but having a one-person show means I get to decide when I want to work and how I run my practice, so I am thankful for the flexibility and the
ability to still be in the helping profession on my own terms. Although it can get a little isolating being by myself since I enjoy working with people and
working in teams, I can get this need met by volunteering in other areas of mental health. I still have hope in trying to change the world but now my focus is
at the micro-level, working with children and individuals from all walks of life rather than at the macro-level of dealing with social conditions and problems
with social policies. Although they are interrelated and are equally important areas of concern, at the micro-level, I really do see the fruits of my interaction
with people, when positive changes and an outcome of improved lives become evident. When a patient says “thank you” for whatever reason, it really
does feel like I have made an impact.
How acute are your clients, and when people have mental disorders, what is the best form of therapy you can offer them?
I’ve worked with those that have suffered from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, trauma, child abuse, gender identity, suicidal ideation, or
difficulties coping with anger, relationships, blended families, employment, parenting issues, low self-esteem, etc. From mild to severe conditions, everyone
that comes in is quite unique and the treatment approach will vary. "I have an MSW, PsyD, a couple clinical licensures and a specialized credential, so I've
acquired skills to allow me to see patients with all sorts of problems but of course I have limitations and don't specialize in treating patients, for example,
those with a primary diagnoses of an eating disorder or drug addiction." I also take health insurance plans, offer sliding scale rates and provide pro bono
therapy to veterans and exploited children. I don’t prescribe medications so what I do is talk therapy, which has been shown to be helpful in the treatment
of all sorts of emotional and mental health conditions. Some of the usual psychotherapy techniques I utilize are cognitive behavioral, mindfulness, strength-
based, psychodynamic and existential theories. I am more of a generalist or eclectic psychotherapist since I use what is most effective for the patient as to
avoid pigeon-holing them into one approach. But really, the most successful results does not begin with how much training or education a psychotherapist
has or the type of approach they use, what’s really important is how much rapport there is between them and how much the patient actually trust their
helper to help them.
How are things different now that you have children, compared to the many years ago when you lived at an anarchist co-op house?
I think there are similarities and differences of course. In both environments, it is crucial that everyone gets along and enjoys being with each other.
During my younger days in a couple of shared homes in Long Beach and the Bay Area, there was the cooperative vision of changing the social structures
by starting to live harmoniously at home. Most of my roomies identified as anarchists, which under the true meaning of the term, is to oppose oppressive
power relations and injustice. The idea of equality rather than domination of one towards another allowed for the shared living experience to restore a
sense of community. One is hopeful that such ideas can hold up with 5-10 people living under one roof but of course drama can ensue as well with varying
beliefs and goals. What is important is how to resolve those issues and similarly within families, problems arising is normal, it’s just whether you work
together on the problems you face or you throw in the towel and move on to create something better.
You organized "Anarchist Gatherings" and "Conferences" in the past, and a couple of years ago you attended an Anarchist event in Los Angeles, what
are the differences you see now compared to back then?
The conferences and gatherings were definitely educational and informative. The workshops tackled topics such as capitalism, religion, rejection of
dominant behaviors like sexism, racism, homophobia, nutrition such as veganism and vegetarianism, freedom and equality, class issues, labor history. I
can’t remember the workshop titles now but I recalled I had fun and was inspired to self-study. There were always music events with socially conscious
bands playing punk, hip hop, grind, and I did a few plays on anarchist history with friends who acted in it. I am totally out of the loop for many years now
but yes two years ago, I guess I still saw a sense of comradery with the younger folks who seem tightly connected, which are crucial in their psychological
development and such bonds encourage positive emotional growth. I mean I’ve heard people say, then and now, that such events have cliques, but that
can be positive too because this sense of belongingness create good feelings and when we find people with similar interests in these conferences we feel
accepted for who we are and that there are others who also strive to create a better world.
Why is it, in your opinion, that at school or in the movement we never learned about money budgeting, investing, and how to survive in the "real world" as
we got older?
These are life skills we don’t necessarily learn from school. Sometimes there are parents or other adults that can offer guidance but oftentimes, you have
to learn to sink or swim on your own. With the movement, there is a rejection to be part of the capitalistic world, so that can be delayed as well and interest
in investments is very low. But yes, the idea of struggling cannot be romanticized for too long and I’m speaking for myself. There came a point when I
needed to get back to college and finish a degree so I can get paid, even if it felt like I was “selling out,” the idea of volunteering or working for a non-profit
without an education, however great the cause was, wasn’t paying me a living wage.
As we age, why do you think it's important to have a savings account, retirement plan and life insurance?
I think as we get older it is important to be productive, whether through community activities that matter, our job, with our families, or just helping give back
to society somehow. Some of those things you mentioned are important to have so that we don’t become a burden to others or the next generation and so
that we can continue to take care of ourselves rather than expect others to take care of us.
What suggestion would you give to a person who is already over the hill and has no career, broke, and can't even support their family?
Mid-life can be a good age to start a new direction. There is no rule that says otherwise. It’s never too late to find a career, change careers, or return to
school for a degree or a vocation. Like I mentioned in one of the questions, there is help out there and free money for education that I had no idea existed
until I stuck my nose into a counseling and financial aid office and asked for help or varying options on how to be helped. But you’ve got to be resourceful,
find ways to help yourself and really zone in on what you want to do in life and state your mission. "Without a set goal, it's difficult to get started; however,
also keep in mind that if there is an underlying mental health issue, that would probably need to be addressed first so that motivation and goal setting can
For someone who had a full time minimum wage job, is it still possible to attend college? If so, how?
Yes of course, one can go to school part-time, try enrolling in a community college, or even take online courses to get ahead. There is no guarantee that
an education itself can land you the job you want but why stop at trying? But one also has to look at the cost effectiveness of the degree, if you’re going to
invest in a college education and take out loans, it’s best to finish a major that actually makes sense and get you a job. There are also those forgiveness
loans but you have to finish a specific degree then work in areas where they need to fill jobs with underserved populations.
What are some things you do now that makes you happy in life?
I mentioned that I enjoy what I do for work and being of service to others but I think the best job is being a mommy. Feeling loved by a little person and
giving love back never fails to spark the happy hormones that we all need. Lots of things bring me happiness of course and through the years, I learned
that we really do need to create it for ourselves.
Cami during her Black Bloc days