Marisela Parada of Coyotas Sonora spends most of her weekends on East LA’s Street Vendor Row, on the south side of Whittier Boulevard in front of the Commerce Center between the Wells Fargo and an optometry office. A young man from Honduras steps up to Parada, trying to explain to what a coyota is: “It’s kind of like a Pop-Tart.” Marisela laughs in agreement. Another customer takes a turn in solving the mystery of this cookie, which is pretty common in the northern Mexican state of Sonora: “It’s like a cross between an empanada and a cookie,” she says. Parada responds, “Ever since we’ve opened I’ve had to give away samples, because otherwise, they just walk away.”
Coyotas are traditional Sonoran cookies made from a flour-based dough, filled with panocha (a Sonoran name for piloncillo, or brown sugar cones), cajeta (caramel), guava, and other traditional, sweet fillings. Churros are easy to sell to Latinos and non-Latinos, as every Latin-American country has them, but coyotas as a regional bakery item are only found in Sonora and in Baja California, due to the large Sonoran community living there. It’s a common snack sold at U.S.-Mexico border crossings, where vendors sell other food, drinks, and trinkets in between lanes of cars waiting to return to the U.S.
Marisela began selling coyotas with her business partner and husband, Juan Parada, four months ago, offering piloncillo, cajeta, guava, and some non-traditional flavors to appeal to the East Los crowd, like mazapan, which is sugar, honey, almond meal confection, fig, and Nutella. The cookies cost $2 apiece. An added appeal of their cookie is that they’re vegan and made from scratch, which isn’t so common these days in places like Hermosillo, the capital and economic hub of Sonora, where most coyotas are mass produced.
“The big brands like Coyotas Lulu, Coyotas Doña Maria, and Coyotas Mosas are sold at the OXXO’s (Mexico’s 7-11) and other stores, and it’s not so easy to find fresh coyotas,” says Marisela Parada. Unlike those mass-produced coyotas, which are more about the sweet fillings, the cookies at Coyotas Sonora are lightly filled, so there’s more a subtle taste of the cookie itself. It’s a great pairing with a cup of coffee, which the couple will begin to offer in a few weeks. And they will soon begin selling their own brand of Sonoran-style flour tortillas called “Good Fucking Tortillas.” Little by little, and with lots of patience—and samples —Marisela and Juan are winning over this tough crowd of skeptics in LA’s growing Sonoran culinary scene.
- All Dining on a Dime [ELA]