It’s no secret that Mexico has a stray dog crisis, with millions of homeless canines living on the streets. Until I recently visited the small beach town of San Felipe, about 2.5 hours south of the border on the Sea of Cortez, and saw for myself how many beautiful but suffering homeless dogs there were everywhere, it was hard to understand.
One person who is passionate about this issue and is using her platform to help make a difference is Yvonne Niami. She is a philanthropist, businesswoman and founder of VIVA XXXII (or VIVA 32, if you don’t read Roman numerals,) a tequila company that helps give back to abandoned and abused dogs with every bottle sold.
Born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Niami was impacted by the homeless dogs she saw on childhood visits to her parents’ homeland. However, it was on a trip years later as an adult that she came across an injured dog on the street and realized that she could not walk away.
“He was sadly used in dog fights, and was basically thrown away into the streets after they didn’t need him anymore,” Niami said in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine. “We took him to the local vet in Mexico who helped him tremendously. They even helped me get the paperwork together to get him across the border.”
Niami named the dog Ransom and found him a fur-ever family back in California. But this was just the beginning of her journey to help save abused and abandoned dogs.
Already a success in the fashion world, Niami, who was formerly married to luxury real estate developer Nile Niami, decided to found VIVA XXXII. It’s a fresh and crisp “sipping” tequila that doesn’t need a lime or beer chaser to enjoy. Currently it has three types of tequila: Joven, which is a blue agave blanco; Reposado, which rested for six months in oak barrels; and extra añejo, which rested for three years in oak barrels.
“I told my team why not meld the tequila world with animal abuse prevention? So, we did and we put it on our bottle and hashtag to show our customers about our little dog Phil on the side of the bottle and 10% of net proceeds go to animal abuse charities,” she said in an interview. The charities that benefit from their donations are the ASPCA, SPCALA and START.
VIVA XXXII is available for sale from select retailers and restaurants in California, New York and other places. Find a retailer near you on their website.