Rise in Latino Street Vendor Attacks


Lorenzo Arce / El Paisano Media

Vendors around the East Los Angeles area are relatively safe compared to neighborhoods such as Compton or San Pedro.

For about two years, videos of Latino street vendors being robbed and beat in California and other predominantly Hispanic states have circulated the internet. The attacks have brought out feelings of resentment from affected communities. Consequently, “Paleteros” (a general term for Hispanic vendors) who have worked in neighborhoods for decades no longer feel safe.

The Problem

According to CBS Sacramento, the latest documented attack happened two weeks ago in the California Capitol City. Five individuals kicked over a cart of a young woman and verbally harassed her. Taken from her cart were juice and chips.  Onlookers filmed from a distance. The victim, Edith Morales, fears for her safety now. She said, “I just want security, I just wanna feel safe, and to continue working.” 

Considered lucky, Morales is. CNN released LAPD footage of two street vendors beaten unconscious by a man and woman. Furthermore, Adelaide Urias from Austin, Texas was shot to death. According to KXAN, the children in the neighborhood the 68-year-old served were heartbroken over his death. 

The Root of the Issue

Most perpetrators in the known attacks are young, black gang members. Their identities and address have been leaked via social media in some instances. As a matter of fact, older black gang members sometimes condemn their subordinates actions and “discipline” them personally. To clarify, online post have shown muggers being jumped by their own associates.

Inclusive action, a street vendor advocacy group, have pushed to fully legalize the trade. According to it’s founder, Rudy Espinoza, informal business such as vending are targets.  He said, “Street vendors, whether Latino or Black, are really vulnerable in Los Angeles…” He added, “Without that extra (legal) protection, many street vendors are still operating in the informal economy…they still have a lot of fear in reporting the incident.” 

As a result, some vendors and communities have taken action into their own hands. For instance, Chicano Instagram account @44vibe posted a video of page admins buying and giving pepper spray to “Paleteros”. Some receive self defense lessons.