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The International Vegetarian Union (IVU) in Latin America

The International Vegetarian Union (IVU) was founded in 1908, in Dresden, Germany. Since then, a series of world vegetarian congresses have been held on all continents. In 2008, IVU returned to Dresden for its centenary, with the 38th IVU World Vegetarian Congress. 
ivu dresden 1908IVU Foundation - Dresden 1908 ivu dresden 2008IVU Centenary - Dresden 2008

IVU is divided into eight regions: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Asia-South and India, Asia-West, Middle East, Europe, North America and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Regional Representatives of the IVU are appointed by the International Council, which also elects its Chair.

ivu regions
IVU Regions
vegfest ivuThe aim of the IVU is to promote vegetarianism throughout the world. The affairs of the IVU are governed by the International Council, whose members are elected by email by its more than 120 member organizations.

As of 2012, its most important world event was renamed “IVU World Vegfest”.

In 2019, at the IVU Vegfest in Berlin, the name was changed to IVU World Vegan Festival. Thus, the first event that will carry this name will be the 48th IVU Vegan Festival, in Beijing, China, supposed to be in 2020, but for pandemic reasons postponed to 2021
Vegetarian societies and congresses in Latin America
This report does not intend to exhaust all the societies and events that have always occurred in Latin America, but rather those of which we have news, and some of the most important. We more or less followed the investigation initiated by John Davis, for IVU, consulting mainly the archives of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom and added other information to which we had access.

The first record of a vegetarian organization in Latin America is from 1891, which is the Vegetarian Society of Valparaíso, Chile.

In 1909, there are records of a Portuguese-Brazilian vegetarian magazine, O Vegetariano (1009-1935), edited by Amílcar de Sousa, in Porto, Portugal, reporting various activities in Brazil.

In 1958 we have the Naturist Association of Buenos Aires, Argentina and the Sociedade Naturista do Brasil, in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1971, German Alberti Vásquez attended the IVU World Vegetarian Congress in the Netherlands and appears to have been elected to the IVU International Council during that event, although the records are not entirely clear. From this congress German Alberti decided to organize a Regional Congress in his country of origin, Venezuela, which was the pioneering Latin American vegetarian congress in 1972.

From 1972 to 1980, there were five regional vegetarian congresses in Latin America:
1st Latin American Vegetarian Congress, Caracas, Venezuela 1972
2nd Latin American Vegetarian Congress, Bogotá, Colombia, 1974
3rd Latin American Vegetarian Congress, Santiago, Chile 1976
4th Latin American Vegetarian Congress, Mexico, Mexico 1978
5th Latin American Vegetarian Congress, Brasilia, Brazil 1980
german alberti
German Alberti in 1972
1 congresso LA
1st Latin American Congress, 1972

As mentioned, the 1972 Latin American Vegetarian Congress, held in Caracas, Venezuela, was a pioneer: it was the first international vegetarian congress in the Americas. We have very little information on the last four, but there is a report by Jay Dinshah, president-founder of the American Vegan Society of Congress in Venezuela, that he participated. Later, in 1975, Jay would organize one of the most successful IVU Congresses, in Maine, USA.1

This 1st Latin American Vegetarian Congress in itself is an impressive event, given its precociousness and the difficulty of communication of the time. This is probably explained, in part, by the movement that took place a few decades earlier, from vegetarians who moved from Europe, especially Spain, to Latin American countries. In fact, many Spaniards, during the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, and in the immediate postwar period, in what is known as Spanish republican exile, were forced to leave their homeland and move to other countries. Many came to Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Cuba, the Dominican Republic etc. There was a Vegetarian Society in Spain since 1905. On Latin American soil, not only did these vegetarians continue their dietary practice, but they extended it by creating associations, writing books, founding clinics, etc. It is not the purpose of this text to delve into this, but it was a very rich moment of vegetarianism on our continent. There was some communication between these vegetarians from different countries. We have news of this especially in the Southern Cone, through various magazines that were founded and other documents and even reports from people.

Brazil, on the other hand, had strong contact with vegetarians in Portugal, where a Vegetarian Society existed since 1911, founded by the committee that published the O Vegetarian magazine, created in 1909. This magazine later began to circulate in Brazil as well. In 1914, we found in the editorial of O Vegetariano, the information that the magazine is in its fifth year of existence, being a Portuguese-Brazilian organ. To get an idea of the activity of the vegetarian movement in Brazil, we find references in the 1917 edition to at least nine vegetarian societies in Brazil, namely: Sociedade Renascença Naturista (São Paulo); Sociedade Vegetariana "Eliezer Kaminetzky" (Santos); Sociedade Vegetariana da Bahía (Bahia); Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira (Rio de Janeiro); Sociedade Vegetariana Riograndense (Porto Alegre); Sociedade Vegetariana da Paraíba (Paraíba); Sociedade Vegetariana do Ceará (Fortaleza); Centro Naturista Maranhense (Maranhão); Centro Naturista de Recife (Pernambuco).
o vegetariano
O Vegetariano 1917

It is worth mentioning that the naturopathic societies of the time, contrary to some of the ones today, promoted vegetarianism. In fact, this is how the editorial of O Vegetariano reads: “These philanthropic societies aim to promote the health and well-being of humanity, advising food and hygiene in accordance with nature. They claimed meat as food to be:

1. The violation of one of the most important laws of physical health that govern human beings and, therefore, the cause of most of the pain, suffering, disease and social depravity.
2. The transgression of the moral law of love because it involves the daily slaughter of animals and the practice of absolutely unnecessary cruelty”.2

Previously, there was a regional secretary of IVU that covered all the Americas, but in 1975, there was a formal separation between North America and Latin America, which has since had its own Regional Secretaries. Dr. Becerra Lima, from Mexico, was appointed Regional Secretary for Latin America, remaining in the position until 1979. Also prof. M. J. Londono, from Colombia, was elected to the IVU International Council, remaining until 1982. In 1977, Rafael Lezaeta, from Chile, was elected to the IVU Council.

In the 1977 IVU records, the following Latin American members appear:

Society of Naturology of Venezuela; Natural Life Cultures Association of Panama; Vegetarian Association of Naturology of Colombia; Asociación Mexicana Naturista and Asociación de Naturología de Guyana.
In 1979, in addition to the above, two more appeared: Sociedade de Naturopatia do Brasil; Naturist Association of Buenos Aires and Cultores de la Vida Natural Association, Bolivia.
In 1981, eleven vegetarian societies are reported in Latin America, members of the Latin American Vegetarian Federation.
In 1982, Dr. German Alberti was elected IVU Regional Secretary for Latin America.
In 1984, Ms. Nelly Fernandez-French was elected to the IVU Council, where she remained until 1990.
In 1986, Joaquim Him, from Panama, was elected to the IVU Council, where he remained until 1994.3
In 1994, there was a decrease in the participation of Latin America in IVU, since the only IVU member was ASCUVINA (Assoc. Cultores de la Vida Natural), from Panama.
In 1997, Luis Escala, from Ecuador, was appointed Regional Secretary of IVU for Latin America.

sitio veg110In 1998 the discussion lists of vegetarianism veg-latina and veg-brasil are created in addition to the website Sitio Vegetariano (SitioVEG). They were pioneering lists and sites in Portuguese and Spanish for discussing vegetarianism. With this, an important channel of communication was established between vegetarians from all parts, especially in Latin America, speaking Spanish and Portuguese respectively. From then on new organizations, sites and all kinds of initiatives for the propagation of vegetarianism began to emerge. A very important instrument that made all this communication possible was undoubtedly the Internet. And with all this begins a new moment of the vegetarian movement. It is fair to say that there were many vegetarians scattered everywhere, and a desire to share what did so much good to them. So these communication resources found fertile soil in which to flourish.

In 2000, Marly Winckler, from Brazil, was appointed IVU Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, becoming the first woman to hold this position. In this same year the Argentina Vegetarian Union (UVA) was founded.

In 2003, the Brazilian Vegetarian Society (SVB) was created, which would organize, in 2004, the 36th IVU World Vegetarian Congress, in Florianópolis, Brazil
According to John Davis, administrator and historian of IVU: “The new beginning of IVU really came in 2004, with the first IVU Congress in Latin America. The 36th IVU World Vegetarian Congress was a great success, kicking off more vegetarian activities throughout Latin America”4.
ivu 36WVC

The event had 700 subscribers from 35 different countries and 1,300 participants in total. Ten Latin American countries were present, and the Latin American Vegetarian Union – UVLA was founded at this time.

UVLA logoIn 2004, we had also the 1st Argentina Vegetarian Congress, organized by the Argentina Vegetarian Union (UVA), which in 2001 had started a magazine, El Vegetariano, which circulated for ten consecutive years.

In 2005, soon after the IVU Congress in Brazil, the Uruguayan Miguel Facal was elected to the IVU Council. Miguel was present at the Congress in Florianopolis and later also at the Latin American one, in São Paulo. In this same year, the Vegetarian and Vegan Union of Uruguay was founded.

In 2005, the IVU Regional Coordinator for Latin America, Marly visited Montevideo, Uruguay, at the invitation of the Uruguayan Vegetarian Union (UVU) and the Uruguayan Vegetarian and Vegan Union (UVVU), many of whose members later, in 2006, participated of the Latin American Congress in São Paulo and in 2009 of the Vegan Festival in Rio.
uvvu logo 
Unión Vegetariana y Vegana de Uruguay
members uvvu
 Members of UVVU

In December 2005, the IVU coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean visited Argentina for the 2nd National Vegetarian Congress, organized by the Argentina Vegetarian Union (UVA). On this occasion, Marly Winckler met Delio Esteve, an 80-year-old historical vegetarian and her son Claudio Esteve, whose grandfather Juan Esteve Dulin was a famous naturalist.
manu marlywinckler delio
Manuel Martí / Marly Winckler and Delio Esteve
marly winckler congresso argentina
2nd Congreso Nacional Vegetariano of UVA

In 2006, the Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira (SVB) organized the 1st Brazilian Vegetarian Congress and the 1st Latin American Vegetarian Congress, at the Memorial of Latin America, São Paulo.

1 congressoLA 2006
In 2009, Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira (SVB)
organizes the
12th Vegan Festival in Rio de Janeiro.
This event for the first time comes to a
Latin American country.

In 2010, the Vegetarian Union of Paraguay (UVPy) organized the 1st Subregional Seminar "Vegetarianism & Health", in Asunción. The IVU Regional Coordinator for Latin America, The chair of IVU was present, as well as Miguel Facal, IVU Councillor. members uvpy
Members of UVPy

In 2011, Marly Winckler was elected president of IVU.5 She is the third woman and the first Latin American to hold this position. In the same year, Manuel Martí, president-founder of the UVA, is appointed Regional Coordinator of the IVU for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2016, the Argentina Vegetarian Union (UVA) organizes the 44th IVU World Vegfest in Buenos Aires. They were 4 days full of activities and efficient dissemination of vegetarianism. People from 17 countries attended this event: Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, United States, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Mexico, France, Austria, Panama, Taiwan and Australia.


In recent years, Latin America's participation in IVU has grown a lot. We now have six Latin Americans on the IVU Board: Alex Fernandes (webmaster), from Brazil, Ignacia Uribe, from Chile, Carlos Naconecy, from Brazil, Cynthia S. Paim, from Brazil, Manuel Martí (Regional Representative for LA), from Argentina and Marly Winckler (chair), from Brazil.

At this time many vegetarian events are being organized by all Latin American countries. The vegetarian / vegan movement is growing exponentially, and the prospects are the best possible.6

In view of the discovery of the existence of the five Latin American Vegetarian Congresses mentioned, we started to count, as of 2006, these events in the numbering of our Latin American Congresses / Vegfests.
1. Full report in:
2. O Vegetariano Magazine, Sociedade Vegetariana Editora, Porto, 1917.
3. In 1994, the author of this article participated in the IVU Congress in The Hague and met Joaquim Him, from Panama.
4. John Davis, Learning from the developing world, IVU, 2010.
5. John Davis, Latin America leads the Veg World, IVU, 2011.
6. For a report on the history of Vegetarian Societies in Latin America see: Much of the information in this article comes from there, as well as from /history-legacy-pages.html
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