“As individuals, it is necessary to be actively involved in the efforts to stop global warming. Composting, recycling, and using natural resources responsibly is important to ensure food for our future generations.”
Carlos Izaguirre is a native of Guatemala City. He is Q’eqchi’ Mayan on his grandmother’s side. “My ixa’an (grandmother, in Q’eqchi’ Mayan) was a victim of ethnic discrimination and could not preserve her mother tongue or the traditional costume of her region, but with time she was able to teach me not only to embrace my Mayan roots but also to take care of our planet’s natural resources,” he explains.
Carlos has been living in San Francisco, California, since 2018, when he moved with his husband Rodrigo, of Brazilian origin, for work reasons. “Ever since I visited this city, I felt connected with the diversity of cultures, people, and interesting things to do. What I liked the most was seeing how the city strives to stand out as one of the greenest in the United States; with an exemplary recycling, compost, and water management system,” says Carlos, who for over 10 years has worked in rural indigenous communities battling malnutrition in children and pregnant women—a sad problem in Guatemala, where almost half of children under the age of 5 have some level of malnutrition.
For Carlos, food security—having access to safe, healthy food at all times and in all places—is directly connected with climate change. “If we do not take care of our most basic natural resources such as water and forests, our future generations will have no option but to feed on industrialized products, which lack the healthy elements that our most traditional crops provide. The impact affects the most vulnerable people, our indigenous communities in the Americas, as that’s where most vegetables and fruits for this country are imported from. Paradoxically, those communities have little access to these foods,” adds Carlos with concern.
It has been difficult for him to observe how communities forget about the challenges that their fellow countrymen face to access drinking water and a quality diet. Also, how they overrate the fast food they used to not have access to; and how the richness of their culinary culture, based primarily on vegetables, is easily omitted. Carlos emphasizes with sadness how easy access to food generates a lack of appreciation for it; something that has been normalized in this country. “At home there is a mix of Guatemalan, Brazilian and local traditions. We not only try to comply with organic waste compost standards, but we also try to use all the food that is prepared at home, which indirectly helps our economy,” he asserts.
Eating turkey (ak’ach, in Q’eqchi’ Mayan) is something very seasonal in the United States; however, in Latin- American countries it is a food that can be eaten almost all year round. Carlos uses the leftovers of the turkey that is consumed during the holiday season and prepares, among other recipes, the most traditional dish of the region where his paternal grandmother comes from. “Kak’ik is the most representative food of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. It contains a lot of local vegetables that can be easily found in this city. It is a complete and healthy food if we avoid using the skin, because it contains a type of fat that is not good for our health. This dish is served with white corn tamalitos, which I cook with oil instead of butter, with the same purpose of avoiding fat of animal origin,” shares Carlos, along with this delicious recipe.
Want to read Carlos's recipe?