June 12, 1979 / My 1st Birthday: My father & I in Santa Rosa, TX surrounded by the stacked, empty cans of all the baby formula I consumed during my first year of life.

Later, on June 12, 1979 / My 1st Birthday: I have been freed of the bonnet & my parents have loaded the “empties” of baby formula into a hatchback to drive to the dump. In my first year of life, I consumed enough baby formula to almost fill a hatchback.

I asked my mother (who took these photos) what made her & my father think to do this – collect empty cans of all the formula I consumed before my 1st birthday. She said she had copied my grandmother (her mother) who’d done the same thing with one of her younger brothers in the early 1960s.

By the early 1970s, more than 75% of babies born in the US weren’t breastfed & instead, fed on formula almost entirely commercially produced.

On July 4, 1977, a boycott against the Nestle corporation was launched in the US in response to Nestle’s “aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes,” especially in developing countries. According to a friend, “Nestle has been branding their Enfamil product with that tan color for a while so [the baby formula I was fed was] probably Nestle’s.”

The one other time I’ve seen photographs of children with empty cans of baby formula they’ve consumed was in an 2017 New York Times article “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked On Junk Food”

Photograph by William Daniels for The New York Times

In 1978 (the year I was born & a year after the launch of the Nestle boycott), the president of Nestlé Brazil, Oswaldo Ballarin, was called to testify at highly publicized United States Senate hearings on the infant formula issue.

From the article:

The home of Joana D’arc de Vasconcellos, 53, another vendor, is filled with Nestlé-branded stuffed animals and embossed certificates she earned at nutrition classes sponsored by Nestlé. In her living room, pride of place is given to framed photographs of her children at age 2, each posed before a pyramid of empty Nestlé infant formula cans. As her son and daughter grew up, she switched to other Nestlé products for children: Nido Kinder, a toddler milk powder; Chocapic, a chocolate-flavored cereal; and the chocolate milk powder Nescau.

The Nestle boycott continues to this day. As of 2013, it was coordinated by the International Nestle Boycott Committee.

Wendy Trevino was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. She lives in San Francisco, where she shares an apartment with her boyfriend, friend & two senior cats. She has published chapbooks with Perfect Lovers Press, Commune Editions and Krupskaya Books. BRAZILIAN NO ES UNA RAZ, a bilingual edition of the chapbook she published with Commune Editions, was published by the feminist Mexican press Enjambre Literario in July 2018. Her first book-length collection of poems, CRUEL FICTION, was published by Commune Editions in September 2018. Wendy is not an experimental writer.