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Latino Street Vendors Are Being Harassed During The Pandemic

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Adelaido Bernabe Uribe was an honest man. Every day, he pushed his ice-cream cart on the streets of Austin, Texas to make money to support his family. However, Adelaido’s life was cut short this past June, when three men, unprovoked, fatally shot him in the middle of a parking lot. 

Ever since the health crisis began, street vendors have found themselves in an especially precarious position. Not only do they have to risk their lives to be able to make a living a pandemic, but they also have to deal with constant harassment. 

“I believe they shouldn’t suffer any of these attacks. It’s just wrong that people go and attack these poor individuals,” Maribel, Adelaido’s niece, told ABC.

Over the last couple of months, social media platforms have been flooded with videos of street vendors suffering countless incidents of humiliation by bypassers. These videos have shown vendors being beat up by complete strangers and, in one case, even having a fake customer throw an egg straight at a vendor’s face, 

“My colleagues who have been assaulted have had their phone taken, they have had their money taken,” Ramón Edgardo Fierro, who sells popsicles and chips on the streets of San Diego to support his family, told Telemundo 20.

However, some argue that even if the pandemic has worsened the situation, it is not much different from what it was before the coronavirus crisis started. Street vendors are often considered easy targets because they handle a lot of cash and are usually alone, which makes them vulnerable to thieves. 

“It’s nothing new to me,” Mario “Scar” Ponce, best known for the “Cholos Try” YouTube series, told L.A. Weekly. “All this stuff on social media they keep showing about street vendors being harassed, getting bullied, it’s nothing new. Now we have cameras, so everybody gets to see what’s going on in today’s world.” 

There are, however, positive sides to every story. Upon seeing the various horrific incidents that street vendors have endured, many people have spoken up in their support of street vendors and have stepped up to help them fight for justice. Take Marcos Antonio Navarro, a San Diego man who was so moved by the videos of people harassing street vendors that he decided to start a fundraiser to distribute pepper spray to street vendors to help them protect themselves against attackers.  

“They’re giving us our joys, our treats, our churros, our paletas. They come to our homes when you’re craving a paleta,” Navarro told NBC. “So show them some respect, show them some love, and, pretty much, let’s protect them. Let’s protect our vendors.”

Finally, supporting the families of their community’s street vendors can go a long way, and many in Adelaido’s community have done so. Thanks to outspoken community members submitting Crime Stoppers tips, Adelaido’s murderers were able to be identified and charged with capital murder and justice has been surved for Adelaido’s family. 

“I would like to thank those who talked, had the courage to talk and come forward. To the person who helped the detectives and gave leads onto who they were. Thank you. God bless you. In the name of my mother, his mom, his mother, his wife, his daughter, thank you so much for helping us have justice,” Maribel said in an interview with ABC. “This has been very difficult for our entire family. But with both the community and police support, we have all felt comfort and reassurance.”

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.