Things That Matter

Street Vending Is Now Decriminalized In All Of California, Easing Fears of Jail Time And Deportation

Street vending is as much a part of California as the sunshine and palm trees. Yet, for decades it’s been illegal for sidewalk vendors to operate in the state. Taco carts and fruit stands are mainstays on street corners throughout California yet vendors, many being immigrants and undocumented, have faced fines and misdemeanor criminal charges. Increasingly in the Trump era many have also faced the threat of deportation. But all that has changed as California Gov. Jerry Brown signed bill SB946 to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally.

California street vendors and their advocates have scored a resounding victory legalizing their work.

Rudy Espinoza, an activist who has worked for years to legalize street vending in Los Angeles, says the newly signed bill opens up socioeconomic opportunities for thousands of vendors across the state. More importantly vendors will be able to sell without fears of misdemeanors or jail time which they previously faced.

“It was hard to find elected officials standing for undocumented people and it became a bigger deal under President Trump,” Espinoza says. “If you got a misdemeanor that would have been enough grounds to get deported if undocumented.”

Espinoza says vendors can still get citations and will still have to get permits and if the city doesn’t have a permit system they need to establish one. Under the act, cities can no longer ban vending in parks, determine where a vendor operates or require vendors to ask permission of nearby businesses — barring any health, safety or welfare issues. The bill is set to go into effect in all California cities beginning Jan. 1.

While there is no database to track how many street vendors there are in California, city officials estimate there are 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles county alone.

Earlier this year, The Los Angeles City Council voted to decriminalize street vending in the city which helped expedite the signing of the bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Espinoza, who worked with the The LA Street Vendor Campaign, applauded the governor’s move congratulating “the thousands of vendors leading this movement.” He says the bill gives people a fair opportunity to start their businesses and be part of the growing food economy in the state.

“It starts with getting a permit then a cart and then hopefully one day they open a brick and mortar store. This bill will go far in helping many vendors dreams come true.” Espinoza says.

What took so long to make street vending legal? Making people understand it’s more than just selling food on streets but a way to make an honest living.

Doug Smith, an attorney at the Public Counsel Law Center, helped craft the legislation and says that the biggest road block was getting people to understand what street vending is about.

“Some people that may not see vending in their own communities were a little skeptical at first but in reality these vendors are just small businesses,” Smith said. “One of the key strategies was to keep reminding people that these are entrepreneurs that have dreams of making their carts into a store one day.”

Smith has worked with The LA Street Vendor Campaign for six years, and says once LA legalized vending his team quickly realized these issues weren’t only central to LA. When working on the bill, he wanted state officials to see that for some people street vending is a full time job.

For undocumented street vendors, the bill legitimizes their business in the eye of the consumer and in written law.

The bill makes three key points that will greatly benefit street vendors that may be undocumented. First, with street vending decriminalized it means that misdemeanors will no longer be given out which prevented some immigrants from applying for certain citizenship programs. Second, it provides retroactive release which means the state shouldn’t have criminalized and charges from past should be dismissed. Lastly, it establishes standards creating a legal permit system that local communities can regulate vending but not off grounds of discrimination.

Many are celebrating this moment for vendors who have sought to legitimize their  business for decades.

Smith says he hopes that other states will look at California and begin legalizing street vending in their states. Street vending creates millions of dollars in revenue not only to local communities but helps create foot traffic in city streets and other small businesses. “Its the first rung for many to move into the economic ladder and this is a way to help keep a roof over their head.” Smith says. “It’s a way to make a living and help their local economy as well.”

More importantly Smith says, street vendors won’t be looked at as blights or conducting illegal work but as entrepreneurs in their own communities making a living.

“Street vendors offer culturally significant items in their community that no one else can provide.” Smith says. “They are part of the fabric of their local communities and with this bill their presence is validated.”


READ: Los Angeles Businesses Will No Longer Be Able To Veto Street Vendors From Setting Up Their Stands On The Sidewalks

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People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Culture

People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

Netflix has a new food show out and it has everyone buzzing. “Street Food: Latin America” is bringing everyone the sabor of Latin America to their living room. However, reviews are mixed because of Argentina and the lack of Central American representation.

Netflix has a new show and it is all about Latin American street food.

Some of the best food in the world comes from Latin America. That is just a fact and it isn’t because our families and community come for Latin America. Okay, maybe just a little. The food of Latin America comes with history and stories that have shaped our childhood. For many of us, it is the only thing we have that connects us to the lands our families have left.

The show is highlighting the contributions of women to street food.

“Street Food: Latin America” focuses mainly on the women that are leading the street food cultures in different countries in Latin America. For some of them, it was a chance to bring themselves out of poverty and care for their children. For others, it was a rebellion against the male-dominated culture of cooking in Latin America.

However, some people have some strong opinions about the show and they aren’t good.

There is a lot of attention to native communities in the Latino community culturally right now. The Argentina episode where someone claims that Argentina is more European is rubbing people the wrong way right now. While the native population of Argentina is small, it is still important to highlight and honor native communities who are indigenous to the lands.

The disregard for the indigenous community is upsetting because indigenous Argentinians are fighting for their lives and land.

An A Jazeera report focused on an indigenous community in northern Argentina who were fighting to protect their land. After decades of discrimination and humiliation, members of the Wichi community fought to protect their land from the Argentinian government grabbing it in 2017. Early this year, before Covid, children of the tribe started to die at alarming rates of malnutrition.

Another pain point in the Latino community is the complete disregard of Central America.

Central America includes Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, and Panama. Central America’s exclusion is not sitting right with Netflix users with Central American heritage. Like, how can five whole countries be looked over during a Netflix show about street food in Latin America?

Seems like there is a chance for Netflix to revisit Latin America for more food content.

There are so many countries in Latin America that offer delicious foods to the world. There is more to Latin America than Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia.

READ: This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

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This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

Culture

This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

Omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Let’s face it: our community knows how to do street food like no other place on Earth. From the humble Mexican taco to Argentina’s choripan and Peru’s world-famous ceviche, Latin America is a street food lover’s paradise.

So it’s no surprise that Netflix launched an entire show about our comida callejera called Street Food: LatinoAmerica. The series focuses on street food staples from around Latin America and in order to find out which street food reigns supreme, Netflix launched an online campaign to declare a winner.

In an online tournament organized by Netflix to decide the best street food in Latin America, thousands of users voted for Oaxaca’s tlayuda.

If you had to pick your favorite street food, what would it be? Could you even pick just one? Well, that’s exactly what Netflix forced people to do with a new poll to determine the best street food in Latin America, and the competition was tough. But in the end, with 46.6% of the votes, the tlayuda, that giant tortilla served with a seat of beans, tasajo (beef jerky), chorizo, chapulines, and quesillo, won the Street Food Latin America championship.

The contest was part of a promotional campaign coinciding with the July 21 launch of the Netflix series Street Food: Latin America, which takes viewers on a gastronomical tour of six countries, exploring their cultures through traditional dishes.

The tlayuda went up against choripán (Buenos Aires, Argentina), acarajé (Salvador, Brazil), ajiaco (Bogotá, Colombia), ceviche (Lima, Peru), and rellenas de papa (La Paz, Bolivia). Conspicuously missing from the list were tacos, elote, quesadillas, plátanos fritos, pupusas, and so much more.

Several major figures joined in on the campaign to ensure Mexico’s win with the tlayuda.

The competition was heated and not one country was taking any chances. In fact, the Mexican government’s official Twitter weighed in on the contest, urging its citizens to vote in the poll. Also, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico took to Twitter urging his followers to vote for the tlayuda.

Mexico is known to celebrate big wins with big parties, and some nearly expected a crowd of revelers to form at Mexico City’s famed El Angel statue, where many big celebrations are held. Though thanks to social distancing, that didn’t happen this time.

Not everyone was happy with tlayuda taking the top spot – including some very angry Peruvians.

Mexico’s tlayuda beat Peru’s ceviche fair and square: with 46.6% of the vote vs. Peru’s 45.8%. It was a close race to be sure, but the tlayuda won. And it deserved it if you ask me. However, many took to social media to express their outrage at the results.

In fact, Peruvians helped get Amazon Prime to trend on Peruvian Twitter when they decried their followers to cancel their Netflix subscription and instead sign up for Amazon Prime, as a sort of revenge against the network.

For those of you not familiar, what exactly is a tlayuda?

Credit: thatgaygringo / Instagram

Mexico’s famed tlayuda is most popular in the state of Oaxaca, where it’s said to have originated. But you can find it on the streets in any major Mexican city (as well as cities in the U.S. with large Mexican communities) as well as in upscale restaurants giving the dish a twist.

But what makes the tlayuda so special? Chef and culinary historian Rodrigo Llanes told the newspaper El País that the tlayuda is a bridge between pre-Hispanic and European culture, calling it a “magical” culinary creation.

“I do not disqualify the other candidates, but I maintain my preference for the Oaxacan entry for its historical tradition that does justice to native peoples, for its flavor that is emblematic of mestizo cooking, and for its size, which makes it a dish to share,” he said. 

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