Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of The Caribe Vegan.
One Woman's Journey From Wheelchair To Vegan Caribbean Food Truck Owner
Melissa Guzman has a story to tell. The South Florida resident was once wheelchair-bound and according to doctors, was on her way to being bedridden.
Not only does she walk without assistance, but she now runs Black-owned food truck, The Caribe Vegan, too.
At age 28, Melissa was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over, she told Travel Noire. “I was so weak I couldn’t open my own medicine, lift a water bottle, or take a shower by myself. I felt useless. It was the darkest time of my life.”
At one point her illness became so severe that she was hospitalized six times within four months.
“Doctors shoved every drug known to man into me, but I wasn’t getting better. I began to research, so I could learn what could have been causing my illness to progress.”
Melissa’s findings indicated that inflammation was the culprit, and that a clean vegan diet may help. It was then that Melissa thought about her previous experience with clean eating and how she had felt her best while observing such eating habits.
“I had gone vegan at least twice prior to my full commitment,” she said. “I felt great, bragged about being vegan before it was cool, and then gave up after two weeks each time. However, it did help me realize the benefits of a vegan lifestyle— fewer blemishes, less mucus, less digestive issues, and the list goes on. Although I wish I would’ve stuck with it the first time, I am glad I tried again since it ended up saving my life a year later.”
Two months after starting a raw vegan diet, Melissa’s mobility had improved.
“I was sent to a rehab facility. I was still very weak, but I was able to wobble. I wobbled everywhere I could. I went to rehab twice a week, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. My trainer told me to try a boxing gym to further assist with my mobility.”
Melissa took her trainer’s advice and found a boxing gym to begin training with.
“Thanks to veganism, boxing, alkaline sea moss, and herbs I receive from a company called Veganhood, I am fully functioning and able to run my food truck, she explained. “I still box and dance, and am able to live a full life. I have a Jamaican vegan boyfriend that actually helped get my cooking skills where they needed to be. One of our favorite things to do together is experiment in the kitchen, and he encourages me all the time to keep on truckin’.”
And that she does. Melissa has veganized many of her favorite Caribbean dishes. Her dishes are infused with flavorful ingredients from countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
“I would say the fan favorite is our crab cake mofongo. It’s a vegan crabcake under our Puerto Rican-style smashed fried plantain with island spices, smothered in our homemade Dominican-style chimichurri cheese sauce and Hatian pikliz.”
The Caribe Vegan’s dishes are proof that vegan food does not have to be bland or boring. It can be just as tasty as non-vegan food, but with many more health benefits.
“I opened The Caribe Vegan to help people be more open-minded about veganism and to inspire others to live through my story. I want people to eat better while it’s a choice and not an obligation.”
You can find The Caribe Vegan roaming the streets of South Florida, mostly between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. For a time and location schedule, visit Instagram.com/thecaribevegan.