Street vendors are a vital part of Angelano’s history and economy. It can be sold with mobile carts and food trucks located on street corners, at outdoor shows or at sporting events. They sell everything from hot dogs, tacos, burritos, choruses, fruits, T-shirts and souvenirs, to just about anything else.
Miguel Montoya sells micheladas – a refreshing Mexican drink made from a mixture of beer, lime or tomato and oyster juices, a spicy sauce and a salty ingredient.
“It’s another level of drinking beer, because there are a lot of people who like beer, but it’s like they want something small, more stuff, a different taste to it,” he explains.
He makes these drinks at parties, events from his car, and even sells them through Instagram.
Many of these entrepreneurs have become basic components in their communities. Ice cream vendor Don Mario, aka Bigotes, has been selling out of two local elementary schools in East Los Angeles for at least 15 years.
However, for decades, this activity was illegal. And although the sale has been somewhat criminalized since 2018 across the country, the lines of legal versus illegal are not always clear. Some vendors are still dealing with everyday thugs.
Aside from the constant harassment and fear of raids, these independent business owners are also not financially protected.
“One day of a loss of sale is a huge deal,” says Rudy Espinosa, CEO of Inclusive Action, a nonprofit that advocates for suppliers and provides them with low-interest loans. “They are really vulnerable to any loss of income.”
Espinosa says he has heard many stories of street vendors who have failed to make rent, pay their electricity bills, or even feed their families since the plague began.
The plague also created additional disadvantages.
“People needed a way to expedite, you know, make more money, so much [them] “They just set up their own business,” says Montoya. “So I noticed it was like the competition was starting to grow.”
However, the City of Los Angeles has implemented many obstacles for the thousands of vendors already operating the city, including obtaining approved carts. In the end only individual suppliers get approvals.
Assisting in the approval process is Richard Gomez, an engineer at Revolution Carts. He is called upon to work on carts that can meet the requirements of the municipality and health. At the same time, he wanted to make them aesthetic, with elements of classic Americana in their designs.
“There are a lot of features: flares on the wheels, something that represents low riding,” Gomez says. “You see [lowriders] Cruising the streets and it just catches people’s eyes, so I wanted the cart to be a part of it, you could attract people to the vendors, be intrigued by the cart. ”
Vendors have opened an association that will work with the municipality to pass an ordinance that gives legitimacy to their businesses.
Producer James Rock follows the stories of some of these entrepreneurs, and reveals why they started selling, the challenges they face on a daily basis, and how they have gotten along over the past few years.
* The citations were made for clarity.