Latinas in L.A. become street vendors to pay for college
From paletas to aguas frescas and more, these young entrepreneurs are tackling their tuition costs head on.
High school and college students aren't the typical picture that comes to mind when people think of street vendors, but during this pandemic, younger generations have joined the business.
Eighteen-year-old first-generation student Lyzeth Garcia from Montebello, Los Angeles started selling paletas with her mom in early July after finding out she got accepted into her dream school, UCLA.
“UCLA was always my first choice, I’ve always wanted to go there, and I think it was instilled in me early on, my closet is full of UCLA merch thanks to my dad,” she told L.A Taco.
But for many first-generation college students, the initial excitement and celebration dies down once they need to start figuring out how to pay tuition.
“Since everything is online now, tuition has been higher too so that’s something that is a concern to a lot of us students,” Garcia said.
A month before her virtual acceptance letter arrived, Garcia’s father was pulled over by a cop and his truck was taken away, leaving him without a job. Her father wasn’t finding any luck in finding a new job, and her Postmates job wasn’t bringing in nearly enough, so she and her mother entered the street vending business.
Garcia and her mom drive around Montebello in their food truck named “Nailia’s Ice Cream” from 2:30 to 9 p.m. all week long, selling paletas de sandia, banana splits, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos con queso and the iconic Tweety Bird paletas.
After Garcia’s sister, Marz shared a photo of her with a caption explaining why they were selling ice cream, she gained a considerable amount of support from people on social media.
People began reaching out to them to see if they could support them financially and help her afford her UCLA tuition. But Garcia and Marz set up a GoFundMe page instead, where the money would go to other street vendors to pay for permits or citations they may have received.
Garcia realized how expensive it can be to get a permit and that not all vendors can afford to pay for them, so she wanted people to donate to a bigger cause.
“I’ll figure things out for my tuition, as long as I’m working, I know I’ll be fine,” she said.
Similar to Garcia, Culver City locals and childhood friends, Alexandra Gutierrez and Kelly Vasconcelos, are also hustling towards their goals. In early June, they opened an aguas frescas stand to raise money for their tuition and school supplies.
“We decided to sell aguas frescas since it’s summer and it’s super hot, we thought who doesn’t like aguas frescas on a hot day?” Vasconcelos told L.A Taco.
The pandemic has left Gutierrez and Vasconcelos with more free time and less money, so they figured street vending would be a good way to make money. Vasconcelos said they were inspired by her dad Marcos, who began selling tortas in the street before opening up his own pizza shop in Culver City. Marcos allowed the girls to use the space outside of his restaurant.
Their most popular drinks include horchata, tamarindo and jamaica. They have been given the nickname “Las Chicas Locas” because they play loud music and dance as a way to market their products.
“Our customers love our energy and what we enjoy most is that we get to dance and socialize with other people, we really enjoy every bit of it,” said Vasconcelos.
Gutierrez and Vasconcelos have gotten a lot of positive feedback, but they’ve also gotten rude comments from people who think that they should “get a real job.” But the pair are not ashamed of what they do and feel they are simply working hard to get their education.
“Whether they are young street vendors or older ones, we all deserve respect because we are all working towards something bigger,” said Garcia.