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Woman Spits At and Slaps Street Vendor In South Central After Being Asked To Wait Five Minutes for a Burrito

Screenshot of video.

On Saturday, July, 3, at around 5 P.M. local street vendors in South Los Angeles, Bertha Zuniga, and her coworkers were setting up their taco stand on Normandie and Slauson when the unexpected happened. 

Zuniga who is 52, is one of three employees at South Tacos, she said she is often in charge of taking orders and charging customers. That day a woman who she said they have never seen before came to the stand as they were setting up and ordered a burrito. According to her, everything seemed fine, she took her order and continued setting up the salsas, and condiments on the stand.

“We made her a burrito with the first batch of meat we cooked, gave it to her, and she left after that,” said Zuniga in Spanish. “Then she came back and ordered another burrito and I told her OK it’ll be about 5 minutes because we had just put more meat to cook. I guess she didn't like that she had to wait and got upset and that’s when she started yelling and throwing everything.”

Zuniga who describes herself as already being an anxious and nervous person said she was shocked to see how the woman reacted. The incident was caught on video and shows the woman throwing aguas frescas, meat, and going as far as spitting on the food. In the video, you see the woman throw out container after container, cilantro, and rice are seen scattered on the ground, covering the sidewalk. 

To make things worse, the woman who was visibly upset then turns her attention to Zuniga who was keeping her distance at the moment of the attack. In the video which has gone viral since its posting, the woman who is wearing a green camouflage dress proceeds to walk toward Zuniga before slapping and pushing her face. 

 

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“I couldn’t believe what had just happened, I didn't have time to react or say anything because I couldn't believe she hit me,” she tells L.A. TACO over a phone interview.

Knowing how street vendors are vulnerable to attacks when selling, L.A. TACO asked Zuniga if they had ever had anything like this happen to them before. 

“No, nothing like this has ever happened to me. The only thing we have experienced is being robbed at night,” said Zuniga who was getting ready for work. “I’m usually the one who charges the clients for their meal, so, si nos han asaltado (yes they have assaulted us before). It’s been a while since it's happened but it’s happened just nothing like this.”

Zuniga and her co-workers said the South Tacos stand has been around for over 10 years and in those years they have been able to build community in South L.A. which is why the attack came as a frightening surprise.

“Nos tiro todo, el trompo del al pastor todo (she threw everything the al pastor spit, everything), we had to clean and wash the floor because she made a mess,” she said. “And then before leaving she got a tortilla and whatever meat she could get and walked away.”

According to recent reports, the woman who attacked the vendor has since been found and arrested with a bail set at $60,000. Zuniga feels a sense of relief knowing the woman has been caught and hopes she won't return anytime soon. As for her injury, she said she will be seeing a doctor soon. “I know I may not feel it right away because I’m still working but when I’m not I can feel a little strain and soreness,” Zuniga said.

Street vendor advocates in Los Angeles are now urging officials both local and state-wide to help them pass a law that will protect street vendors from these attacks, a law that will have extreme repercussions for anyone attempting to do something to a street vendor. Tito Rodriguez “Hood Santa” from The Local Hearts Foundation in Long Beach recently made a petition asking for signatures for a hate law to be passed. Out of the 5,000 signatures asked for, the petition has already reached over $2,000 signatures in less than 48 hours. Other long-time advocates like Edin Enamorado who was one of the first people to reach out to Zuniga agree that there needs to be more protections for street vendors. 

This year alone Enamorado has helped over 30 street vendors in and around Los Angeles that have in one way or another been attacked, verbally and physically. 

“It's important for a law to be in place to protect vendors because this will hopefully make people think twice about wanting to attack a vendor,” he said over the phone. “We know it’s possible because it has been done before for other hate crimes, if nothing is done soon these attacks will never stop.”

A GoFundMe page has been created for Zuniga to raise funds for any days that she may need to take off or for any medical assistance she may need. Since the attack, both her and South Tacos have received an enormous amount of support. When asked what people can do to help she said:

“I just invite everyone to come to try the tacos. That’s the best way to support us and any street vendor. And thank you to everyone who has supported us since the video came out.  We’re going to be here working like we always do, we can’t let these things put us down.”

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