Being vegan in Puerto Rico can be tricky depending on where you live and the type of people you surround yourself with. If you are able to befriend other local vegans or at least surround yourself with an accepting group of people, you shouldn’t have much trouble feeling right at home here.
However, unlike some cities in the states that are more proactive about health, like Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington, Puerto Rico is not as health conscious. With a McDonald on every corner and more and more chain restaurants expanding to Puerto Rico each year, it seems the nutritional outlook for the island is getting bleaker and bleaker. People just do not have time to cook anymore. Plus, with cheap and unhealthy fast food so readily available, it truly takes a lot of effort and money to make healthy food choices. Therefore, it may be a bit more difficult to find like minded people right away when you come to the island depending on where you end up settling.
Once you do start mingling with the locals, you may find that, like many places in the states, there are those who don’t even know what a vegan is and will treat you like a hippie or will take offense if you respectfully decline their food offerings because they contain animal products. If and when you find yourself in a position where someone offers you a meal that is not vegan (and I think this is universal and not just necessary in Puerto Rico) the best advice I can give is to simply tell them that you already ate and are just very thirsty and would LOVE a nice big glass of water. 😉 That way you’ve honored their desire to serve and you have a legitimate and widely accepted excuse as to why you are not eating what they are. I have learned my lesson the hard way and now have a personal rule to never bring up being vegan unless you find yourself around a like minded crowd, just so as not to make anyone feel threatened by your differing preferences. Some people (my own family being the worst) just do not understand why you would even not want to eat animal products and wind up becoming defensive when you try to explain your motives regardless of whether it be for ethical or health reasons. So, I find it to be much more peaceful when I just keep my mouth shut and munch my little salad quietly and not say a word. 😉
However, no worries, Puerto Rico is full of diversity so put yourself out there and mingle. Ask yourself, “If I were a local vegan, where would I be?”, my guess is that you’ll find yourself at a local Farmer’s Market or vegan restaurant and surrounded by like minded and accepting people swapping recipes and planning dinner parties in no time! 😉