Camila Cossío


Camila Cossío is an Animal Law LL.M Candidate at Lewis and Clark Law School. She received her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. This piece is an excerpt from her final LL.M project which explores the human/non-human animal relationship.

Adriana the First

         Adriana Suarez was the first of the Suarez family to stop eating animals.  Her family was distraught. Adriana was the adventurous child, gobbling up morcilla like a baby zombie, making her grandparents proud as they bragged about their granddaughter who had the advanced, adolescent sophistication to appreciate Spanish morcilla de Burgos: pig’s blood cooked, dried, and fried with rice and onions.  “Bloodier,” Adriana would say. Adriana would remain at her seat until her plate was picked clean of sabalo: river fish prepared with lemon and salt. “Más limón,” she would say as she sucked on each scale until all that was left was a spine. Adriana felt cool, daring as she let the fish’s eyeballs dissolve in her mouth. She would relish the globs of fat on her steak like a salted marshmallow. “Más grasa,” she would say, eating the leftover animal fat. Adriana would drench her pique macho in vinegar and light beer. She would chew loudly – teeth exposed – as she tore at her $7.99 T-bone steak, the Sunday Special. Her father cut tender, pink chunks for his eldest child.

         On the day of Adriana’s birth, Marco Suarez fainted when the placenta came out of Monica. He leapt to the mistaken conclusion that he was moments away from witnessing the death of his wife and would be left alone, with a newborn and her full head of red hair, in the great state of Texas. At the sight of the placenta, which Marco assumed was a vital organ, Marco fainted and cracked his chin against the metal bed-frame. The medical staff was forced to divert their attention away from the new mother to console Marco’s misplaced grief. Adriana had come out of her mother’s womb calmly, with a small smile etched on her face. The doctor’s eyes flashed as he stared at the strange, silent newborn before he whacked Adriana into life.

         Marco moved from Cochabamba, Bolivia to Houston, Texas two years before Adriana’s birth. He married Monica Castillo in 1988 and she gave birth to Adriana Suarez in 1989, Anna-Maria or “Annie” in 1990, and Olmo in 1991. All three of their children were born with full heads of red hair. Their hair would proceed to shed over the course of their first weeks on earth until the Suarez children looked like small, bald creatures, the way babies were supposed to look. Their genetic mutation would return in full force so that each Suarez child experienced the sensation of carrying a red afro.  Over time, Adriana’s hair would settle into an auburn that she would keep straight and short. Annie’s hair would remain big, curly, and orange. She would attempt to downplay its brightness by wearing neutral, solid colors: browns, off-whites, and dark greens. Olmo’s hair was the most conflicted, transitioning from a brown-red into a dark maroon that could, depending on the season, also look black, brown, and gray. He would inherit his father’s beard. As children, they would take turns counting the colors inside Marco Suarez’s beard.

         Marco had never driven on a freeway until he arrived in Houston. He had never swum in an ocean until he walked barefoot into the hot water of Galveston Bay. He had never experienced the anonymity of city-life. Marco didn’t understand ranch in salads, Dr Pepper, or why Americans liked Julia Roberts. Marco lost Monica’s car in a parking garage when he arrived in Houston. He would confidently park horizontally in vertical parking spots. By his second, third, and fourth horizontal parking achievement, the cart-pusher at Target stared at Marco suspiciously and Marco stared back stating, declaratively, almost aggressively, “What.” Marco would say “grande” at a Starbucks and the barista would look at him until Marco learned to say “grande” in English.

         Marco was dumbfounded at what was advertised as fun: crabbing, fishing, hunting – activities – talked about so casually – that involved waking up before sunrise and spending hours sitting, sweating, burning in the Texas heat; waiting in silence for an animal to appear and then, if suitably skilled, or more likely, the happenstance of finding a conveniently distracted animal: trapping it, shooting it, killing it, and loading up the dead body to take it to a meat processor. Marco’s neighbors found this relaxing and a way to bond with their sons: 7-year old Mason decked out in camouflage and 23-year-old Hunter home from Texas State University, beginning to prefer Call of Duty to country livin’.

         “Don’t be a hypocrite,” said Marco’s only fellow-Bolivian friend in Houston. “Where do you think your food comes from?”

         “It’s different.”

         “It’s the same, huevón. At least they’re trying to connect with nature.”

         “Pelotudo! It’s a game. Gringos always play dumb games.”

         “They watch dumb games.”

         Marco and Monica decided to try. They dressed their daughters in shades of green flannel and let their son wear his Boy Scout’s uniform. The family drove the two hours to Lake Livingston, rented fishing rods, and bought a can of worms that together Adriana, Annie, and Olmo released into the wild. This was an impetus that would later lead to many joint-sibling efforts: convincing their grandmother that South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was appropriate for their respective 10-, 9-, and 8-year-old eyes; teaming up to force their parents to buy a Brita 10-Cup Filtered Water Pitcher instead of Ozarka water bottles; protecting Olmo during his first underage hang-over by dumping his vomit and sneaking suspect amounts of Gatorade into his room; convincing their parents to use reusable bags at the grocery store, something Monica felt self-conscious about until similarly aged women nodded in approval at her Longhorn bag: BEVO says Recycle.  Because they lost their bait and Marco was too proud to ask for instructions on how to use his rented fishing rod, the family drove home and ate dinner at a Soup N’ Salad.

         By the age of 16, Olmo had been invited to go deer, duck, turkey, and feral pig hunting. He would lie to his friends and tell them that his parents wouldn’t let him go, which would have been true if Olmo had bothered to ask.  Marco and Monica found it completely foreign that these gringos, in Under Armor baseball caps and long Magellan socks, with access to air-conditioned grocery stores selling frozen blueberry waffles and boxed croutons, would pack their .270 caliber rifles into the bed of their Toyota Tundras and hunt for dinner. On holidays, Marco and Monica would give their neighbors baskets filled with meyer lemons from their backyard and their neighbors would reciprocate by giving the Suarez family baskets full of “homemade” deer sausages. Monica and Adriana would get sick for two days after trying wild game. By the time Olmo was eligible for off-campus lunch, the trucks in his school’s parking lot were covered in bumper stickers: hog slayer; saw ‘em off; I like my deer like I like my women: horny. There was also: Live to Hunt, Hunt to Live; Beards & Bucks; Eat, Sleep, Hunt; Critter Gitter; If I’m Not Huntin’, I’m Thinking About It; Goin’ Huntin; 2nd Amendment: America’s Original Homeland Security; Predator Hunter; Tag Out; One Shot, One Kill; Duck Life; Just Shoot It; Bangin’ Red Headz (hunting turkeys). These images would continue into college, interspersed with the occasional: Vote Perry/Bachmann 2012.

         Adriana’s first serious boyfriend was Texan. Unlike Adriana, who thought she knew every detail of her parents’ immigration story, Todd was just Texan. Mr. and Mrs. Morris were just Texan. Todd’s dad, Mr. Morris, would drive to Yoakum, TX, every weekend, disappearing into his deer stand in full camouflage. He was annoyed that his only son preferred to eat Persian food with his girlfriend instead of bonding like a man in the Texas heat. “What are you turning my boy into,” he half-joked as he handed Adriana a jar of grape-leaves that she didn’t know what he expected her to do with. Generally, the deer and the bucks and the turkeys were too smart for Randy Morris. The wild hogs would tease him on his game camera. So, one day, instead of coming back empty handed, Mr. Morris drove home, prepared to fry Yoakum squirrel thighs in a buttermilk batter.

         “Oh-my-god.” Adriana said.

         “I know.” Todd said.

         “But there’s a squirrel feeder in your parents’ backyard?”

         “Iono,” Todd said. “I guess country squirrels are different.”


         Adriana and Annie were forced to participate in Girls Scouts when they were in middle school. They learned a handful of things. Annie learned the usefulness of lying, “We attend St. John Vianney for Sunday mass.” Adriana learned that these girls would not become her friends. The moms liked the Suarez sisters. Adriana and Annie used proper nouns. They always said, “you are welcome.” Their facial expressions were polite and interested, nodding whenever adults told stories that no one wanted to hear. Adriana and Annie observed the relationships between the moms and their daughters. Mrs. X, Mrs. Y, and Mrs. Z would sit together, occasionally grabbing their daughter(s), stating matter-of-factly, without warning, “I love you, honey.” “Honey” could be replaced with sweetie, my dear, or a terrible sounding word that was missing a consonant: “suga.” Adriana and Annie were impressed at how free and certain the white moms seemed to be with their affection.

         One afternoon in high school, Adriana came home to find the P.T.O. moms in her living room. Although by this point Adriana was clearly not friends with Rachel, Megan, or Stacy, Monica Suarez made the effort to remain on good terms with the P.T.O. moms. Adriana stared at the charcuterie platter: queso manchego deliberately placed under the Suarez’s Don Quixote painting, pate, foie gras, dried ham, cubes of cured and salted pork meat, dulce de membrillo, olives, crackers, capers and caviar that her parents couldn’t afford. Adriana’s parents served a Cabernet Sauvignon and the white people smiled at the Cab, an abbreviation that Marco and Monica would never use. Unsure whether to stand, sit, or leave, Adriana smiled awkwardly at the strangers in her home. She watched them pick at the appetizers. She had once stared at a crow in a similar vein, but with more interest. The crow grabbed a chunk of dipping bread from a family eating on the patio of an Italian restaurant. The children screamed in fear while the parents shooed the bird away. The crow carried the bread to a puddle on the street and dipped it carefully, until it was moist enough to tear apart and eat safely.

         Adriana stared at the cheese plate. The platter was reassuring, it gave the guests something to do when they ran out of pleasantries; without these plates, the adults sat restlessly, looking around for something salty to slather on a cracker as though the movement gave them the necessary confidence to laugh, to begin a conversation, to carefully make eye-contact as they waved around an empty toothpick.

         Adriana gave up eating animals gradually, without, at first, realizing the implications of what she was doing. The Suarez family agreed on one thing: none of them liked dairy milk. Marco made the first step when he bought a vanilla-flavored soymilk that his children and wife looked at suspiciously until it began to fill their cereal bowls, coffee cups, and Saturday pancake batters. He would transition to “original” instead of “vanilla” while the rest of the family gained the confidence to experiment with almond, coconut, rice, and hemp. Adriana began documenting the times she ate animal products. Adriana and her sister liked to document. “I read 7 books in October.” “It took me 62 hours to finish Naked Lunch.” “I only spent $24.00 from September to November.” “Jakob called me 2 hours after we watched The Ring.” “I broke up with Patrick in less than 1 hour.”

         It wasn’t clear who Adriana could brag to that she only ate beef once in September, let herself make a scrambled egg three times during winter break, and gave up fish and chicken until, seemingly out of nowhere, she piqued her parents’ competitive interests: “If you can make a quinoa burger, I can make a quinoa burger,” Marco said. “That’s not how you make lentils, Adriana,” her mother said. “Look, let me show you, first, set it on low heat.” “Like this?” Adriana asked. “Yes,” Monica said, “Now, un poquito más de aciete y más cebolla.” “Like this?” Adriana asked. “Más,” her mother said. 

© The Acentos Review 2017