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Edin Enamorado, Who Would Take a Bullet For Street Food Vendors, Is the Hero We All Need

2:33 PM PST on March 6, 2023

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

"Shoot me right here," shouts street vendor advocate Edin Alex Enamorado, pointing between his eyes as he confronts a veteran who tried to run over an elotero in Riverside. "Right here in the middle of the forehead."

"Do it," he repeats, while standing outside the doorway of the man's house. "You were so tough yesterday when trying to run over a street vendor, but you're just a coward. You fought for freedom for this country, and you don't let freedom happen? Now what?"  

These extremely tense moments from one of Edin's most dangerous confrontations are all uploaded to his Instagram account.

It’s 7 A.M. on a mildly cloudy morning and Enamorado, his dog Soby in tow, is on his way to Pomona to provide security for a tamal lady who called for his services, which involve providing security and support for street vendors.

On an average week, the 35-year-old, who has made a name for himself on social media with his combative style of advocacy, interacts with about 25 new vendors who he meets while driving through the streets of Los Angeles and nearby cities. 

At each stop, he provides the vendors with pepper spray and information about their rights. But perhaps one of the most critical resources he provides them is his personal phone number. 

To vendors who are exposed to random attacks and harassment by the public, Enamorado's phone number is considered a lifeline. 

“If I see a vendor, I’ll stop and get their number and give them mine," he says as he checks his phone. "They call, and we come to support.”

Take one look at Enamorado's Instagram, and you will see that every day is different. One day he may be confronting a person who attacked a vendor. Another day he may be organizing a buyout for vendors who were victims of violence or racism.

If he isn’t working his day job as the project director for Casitas Media, which manages political campaigns like Bernie Sanders', he is attending council meetings or serving as security to street vendors. Recently, he's been taking his passion for defending street vendors on the road, driving to Bay Area and Las Vegas to lend his services.  

In the two years since L.A. TACO first interviewed Enamorado, he has helped a little more than 1,000 street vendors, along with a select group of vendor communities like Avenue 26, among others who have dealt with exploitation, trauma, and displacement. 

Regardless of the situation, Enamorado approaches each day without fear, something he is known for when confronting aggressors towards vendors, officials, and even law enforcement.

“If I’m honest, I don’t care who I piss off or who disagrees with what I’m doing,” he says. “If police are harassing vendors or a council member is going after a vendor community, I’m not scared to call them out. No matter who they are.”

When asked where he gets his "no fear" attitude and drive to help others, he said it has to do a lot with his past, pinpointing his motivation to events that marked his life forever. 

Growing up in Cudahy, in an area where two separate gangs existed, made him no stranger to danger. Enamorado dropped out of high school when he was in the 10th grade and tells us a lot of the trouble he got into during this time was due to a desire to protect his loved ones. 

A past that he often shares with his almost 100,000 followers. It includes confronting gang members, becoming homeless at the age of 17, being shot at, and more. When bringing awareness to an incident online, he often shares personal anecdotes that offer a glimpse into why he currently does the work that he does. 

“The major change that happened to me during that time was that the person I was dating ended up getting killed,” he said. “It had a lot to do with what I was doing and who I was hanging out with. And for a long time, I felt responsible for putting her in a position where she was around these people.”

Lyanne, who Enamorado described as someone who always encouraged him to turn his life around, was hit by a stray bullet.

“I felt guilt," he says. "But more so, I felt like if I didn’t change, her death would go in vain. I’ve always had that need to protect, and I think it also partially stems from religion when I was younger. I grew up Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t practice any religion now, but the one thing that stuck with me as a child was they taught us to always help people.” 

So when he began to see an influx of attacks on street vendors, his mentality for helping others just kicked in.

“I’m a convicted felon, so I know what people are capable of," he tells TACO. "You see it all the time. And I immediately thought about providing security and being there for them because people can do crazy things, as we’ve seen.”

Most recently, the vendor advocate drove to the Bay Area to attempt to confront the man who was caught on video physically assaulting and sucker-punching a hot dog vendor for refusing to give him a free hot dog. The incident happened outside an Ana Gabriel concert and left the vendor with a concussion, a broken nose, and missing teeth. 

After catching wind of the incident, Enamorado found out where the man lived, and knocked on his door, only to have neighbors confront him. Even with multiple people opposing him, he stood his ground, informing the neighbors about the person they were protecting. 

"¿Sabes lo que le hizo a un vendedor ambulante?" he said to a man as he went live on Instagram. “You know what he did to a street vendor?”

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Liliana Salgero, a tamal street vendor in Pomona, was being harassed by the owner of a nearby restaurant before Edin Enamorado began doing security for her.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO. Liliana Salgero, tamal street vendor in Pomona who was being harassed by the owner of a nearby restaurant.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Or the incident that drove him to provide daily security for Liliana Salgero a local tamal vendor in Pomona who was being intimidated by the owner of Cocineros Mexican Grill. 

“The owner would yell at me every day," Salgero, the 47-year-old tamalera, says in Spanish while holding back tears. "He would say that we undocumented people are the worst and that he doesn't understand why we don’t 'stay in our rancho.' The last time he came, he told me to leave back to my country and said that I wasn't welcome here, but I’m here because I need to pay rent.”

Salgero was driven to street vending after she suffered an injury that didn’t allow her to work anymore. Now she sells tamales, tacos de canasta, and champurrado, waking up every day at 6 A.M. to prepare each item. By 7 A.M. she meets with Enamorado in front of a Starbucks, where he helps her set up her canopy.

“I feel a lot safer and feel protected because he's always here with me, he hasn't left me alone since I met him,” she said in a soft voice. “Se siente bonito, it feels nice because I didn’t know that there were a lot of people that support street vendors like this. That’s why I endured almost two months of harassment from the owner.”

Lucky for Enamorado and for vendors, his job is mainly remote and allows him to work from anywhere, he is often able to work out of his truck. And his boss is also unbothered by the work he does. In fact, unlike previous jobs he’s had, his current manager loves that he helps out street vendors. 

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

INSPIRING THOSE AROUND HIM

Of course, Enamorado never takes full credit for helping vendors. He regularly acknowledges his followers and community for supporting him in the last couple of years.  

“I have a sense of security because of the people who have supported the platform,” he said. “I want to see more of this. I never want people to think that I’m gonna be like ‘oh you're copying me.’ No, I embrace that. You’ll do so much good if you do this in your city.”

Along the way, Enamorado is inspiring others to speak up should they ever witness any injustice happen towards street vendors or elsewhere.

This includes the founder of South Central Audit, who is is mostly known for filming the police but recently joined forces with Enamorado to provide security and become his eyes in South Central. 

Preferring to go by his Instagram name, South Central Audit has a background in street vending and said he reached out to Enamorado after seeing certain attacks centered in the South Central area.

“Oftentimes, when street vendors call the police for help they do nothing, they have no protection," he says over the phone. "So that’s when we step in, we hold people accountable. I respect Edin’s work so much because he puts himself on the line. Despite not being a citizen himself, he still exposes himself. That warrants a lot of respect.”

The job of protecting street vendors from the health department, police, and the general public is not a job that anyone can do. Enamorado’s days vary on how many hours he puts in.

He spends around five hours with the vendor in Pomona and attends meetings with council members both in the city of Los Angeles and surrounding cities, advocating for street vendor rights. 

He and his fiancé, Wendy Lujan, have a full Excel spreadsheet collecting the names and phone numbers of vendors they have crossed paths with. Every week, they log in with who they’ve called and who still needs to be called.

That is one detail that makes Enamorado and his close group of colleagues stand out: He doesn't communicate with vendors just when something bad happens, he always checks in. 

Enamorado also connects vendors to colleagues. Like Cynthia, an immigration attorney, Christian Contreras, who is a Civil Rights attorney, and a private business called Gonzalez Security Force. 

He often credits Lujan, who also does security for street vendors, for keeping his own head above water. She provides a foil to his frequently tough persona and is the one who made him see the value in continuing to check on vendors.

“Once you get to know the vendors, and you go out and spend time with them they become family,” she tells us over the phone. “They don’t only need financial support a lot of the time. The one thing they need the most is emotional support, and someone to hear them out. We try our best to do that.”

One such occasion was when a street vendor in Gardena was fatally shot and killed in front of his seven-year-old daughter during an attempted robbery last August. Not only were Enamorado and Lujan able to raise over $20,000 for the vendor's wife and daughter, they also keep in frequent contact with them. 

The couple took it upon themselves to be there for the family, whether it was just being present for them or taking the vendor's wife and daughter out to Chuck E. Cheese to give the child a bit of normalcy back. 

Both Lujan and Enamorado have kids of their own so they empathize with all vendors, particularly those who have left a family behind after being killed while trying to make a good living for them.

And helping vendors does come with its own rules. For example, not every vendor that is attacked or that he encounters gets posted online. 

“I have so many videos of vendors that I’ve talked to, but I explain to them the type of exposure they can potentially get from me posting a video," he notes. "And if I see any hesitation or they express feeling uncountable I don’t post it. We find a different way of helping them out, there just has to be that level of respect.”

The furthest Enamorado and his fiancé have traveled to help street vendors is in New York City. They went out there to see what the street vending community was like, as they walked the sidewalks, they replicated what they do here in Los Angeles, passing out pepper spray and exchanging information. 

But one question remains:" How does someone like Enamorado, who is essentially always on the go, take care of himself?

“I do rest,” he laughs. “I go to therapy. And I like going with Wendy and the kids to see the movies. That’s how I unplug from my week or month.”

As for how he funds everything, he says he does have Venmo and PayPal accounts that people can donate to. Which help him out with gas and supplying pepper sprays, among other things.

However, he isn't very fond of asking people for money. Although creating some type of foundation or nonprofit for vendors is something he considers. But he isn't ready for that just yet. 

“I don’t wanna make a living off of this," he says. "Aside from that, if I ever did make it into a foundation or nonprofit, I would need to do it right and with the right people. I have a lot of trust issues because of the things I've experienced in the past, so I have to make sure I have good people with good intentions on my team.”

Right now, he does have a podcast that he created to serve as a platform for street vendors to tell their own stories. But that is as far as he is going for now, though there is no sign of him stopping any of his work soon.

Looking back, Enamorado can’t help but smile when thinks about all the people that support his efforts.

“It's because of people following the page that it's opened other doors and I’m just very thankful for every single one of them," he says. "This is not just me. I know people see my face out there, but we have an army behind us. I feel fearless because of them. I know I’m not alone.”

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