A slew of new street vendor assaults and robberies have hit Los Angeles in the past weeks, just as the city tries to figure out exactly how it will go about legalizing the centuries-old occupation. Among those affected is Tacos Cuernavaca, a massively popular East LA truck known for its big creations and gregarious owner.
ABC7 reports that early yesterday morning Tacos Cuernavaca was robbed at gunpoint while closing up for the night, with three men approaching the Whittier Boulevard truck around 3 a.m. and demanding cash. They ultimately walked away with around $1,000, and no shots were fired. Owner Juan Martinez says this is far from the first time his truck has been targeted, and as if to prove the point he showed off bullet holes in his truck from past robberies.
Meanwhile, just hours before in Florence, three men also made off with an unspecified amount of money from two street vendors who were packing up at the end of the night. The two vendors were unharmed in the robbery, and it is unclear if this attack is related to the robbery at Tacos Cuernavaca. Back in March, a trio of South LA vendors were beaten on camera by an unnamed group, with one requiring reconstructive surgery.
Even Benjamin Ramirez, the young elotero who briefly went viral after being attacked in Hollywood and having his cart destroyed, has been subject to another assault in the year since that first video, reports Streetsblog LA. The enduring violence against street vendors points to just one of the many difficulties that street vendors face in plying their trade, even legally as is the case with Tacos Cuernavaca, and — with Ramirez — even with plenty of eyes watching what happens.
Hopefully a legalization framework will help to secure safe spaces for vendors, but for now many of the 50,000 vendors countywide must reconcile themselves to the fact that they could leave their home for work on any given day, only to be at a higher risk of assault, extortion, harassment, and property confiscation, either by people on the street or the city of Los Angeles itself.