Ismael Chel

“Learning how to eat well and increasing our physical activity
contributes to recovering physical, mental, and cultural sanity.”

Ismael Chel NRS Participant Portrait

Ismael Chel is a Mayan Indigenous man from Oxkutzcab, Yucatán, Mexico. He devoted his entire youth to working in the fields where he nurtured his wisdom and ancestral Mayan knowledge of care for the soil. “I learned to respect the existing balance between nature and mankind as a member of this enormous globe called planet Earth,” says Ismael.

In September 1999, his family was going through a financial rough patch, and he decided to migrate to the United States of America—specifically, to San Francisco, California, where he has lived for 22 years. He understood that his new environment would naturally bring him face-to-face with several challenges, which normally happens when deciding to migrate from one country to another. Ismael had to learn English as a third language as he was raised bilingual in his native Oxkutzcab speaking Spanish and Yucatec Maya, his mother tongue. In this country, he learned new trades, among them, cooking, something he never thought he would enjoy so much.

At age 25, Ismael was diagnosed with hypertension. However, because he did not understand how delicately this condition should be managed, he completely ignored his health and the care required for its treatment. The consequences soon revealed themselves.

A disorganized life—which included the intake of carbonated beverages and other drinks, as well as a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of salt, sugar, and saturated fats in excess—resulted in his body gradually deteriorating. As time went by, his overall health was affected.

“Facing my reality led me to start an exhaustive investigation under the perspective of the cause-effect principle. After taking some time to discern the issue, I chose to focus on the cause of my problems and, under this principle, everything could have a cure through food itself. My participation in nutrition education classes and health counseling bolstered my enthusiasm; and I shared my experience with other members of my Indigenous/Latínx community,” states Ismael.

Understanding that the liver and kidneys play an important function in order for the rest of the body to function well was crucial for Ismael. It meant working on his willpower to have more effective self-care. His day cannot start without nourishing himself every morning with his favorite smoothie, because this is the food that gives him life—life in abundance.


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