How Rodrigo y Gabriela Are Promoting Sustainability in One of Mexico's Most Impoverished States

Rodrigo y Gabriela
Ebru Yildiz

Rodrigo y Gabriela

When they’re not recording Grammy-winning music, acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela run vegan restaurants in one of Mexico’s more impoverished states.

On a balmy February night on Mexico's La Ropa Beach, the Pacific Ocean laps in the background as Gabriela Quintero addresses the audience at her dinner/concert fundraiser for the local conservation organization Whales of Guerrero. "I heard a whale song while swimming underwater, and it inspired me to write this," says the musician, half of the Grammy-winning rock duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. "I hope this song connects you with us and them."

But Quintero hasn't just written a song about a whale — she adopted one in 2015 through Whales of Guerrero in the name of Cooperativa EcoVegana (Eco Vegan Cooperative), the food co-op she co-founded in 2011 in the coastal town of Zihuatanejo that she calls home.

"I am inspired by nature, the wild animals and all the beautiful things that exist in Zihuatanejo," says Quintero. "It also means community, family — it’s home. Zihuatanejo means all of that."

Five years after adopting the whale, Quintero continues to support the conservation organization. Her dinner/concert event raised $10,000 from ticket and raffle sales. It's one of many ways Quintero gives back to her community and educates people about two of her biggest nonmusical passions: environmental sustainability and eco-friendly nutrition.

Quintero’s fundraising events also provide a little beauty for an embattled community. Zihuatanejo is in Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorer states; the Mexican government estimates that over half its population lives in poverty. But it’s also where, some 20 years ago, Quintero and her creative counterpart, Rodrigo Sánchez, launched their music career, busking outside local restaurants.

Rodrigo y Gabriela left town and brought a novel hybrid of flamenco guitars and rock to audiences around the world, including one at the Obama White House. Quintero and Sánchez eventually returned to Zihuatanejo, where they wrote their most recent album, Mettavolution, which won the Grammy for best contemporary instrumental album this year. When they’re not in the studio, they each run their own vegan restaurant.

"This is where I chose to live, so I’m going to do anything that I can to contribute," says Quintero. Her eatery, La Casita Ecovegana (The Eco-Vegan Cottage), serves squash-blossom quesadillas and enchiladas filled with spicy potatoes. Sánchez’s restaurant, La Raíz de la Tierra (The Root of the Earth), includes vegan versions of Mexico’s famed pastor (pork) and suadero (beef) tacos.

"Many people don’t understand the environmental impact that you can have by eating less meat," says Sánchez. He hopes to expand La Raíz de la Tierra into a national franchise so he can spread that message to more communities.

At least one week every month, Quintero’s sister, Maria Luisa, hosts nutrition workshops at their food co-op and around town (Quintero joins when she’s not on tour) teaching people how to make a vegan meal as another form of empowerment and activism.

"Your diet is one of few things that you have control over," says Quintero over breakfast at her restaurant. "For many people, socioeconomic factors play a role in what foods they can access, but I want to show people that eating eco-friendly is within reach."

This article originally appeared in the March 14, 2020 issue of Billboard.


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