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Street Vending

Street Vendors Hold Out Hope For Edin Enamorado, Preparing For Trial As Six Other Activists Take Plea Deals

Enamorado supporters worry about how much time he might face and whether or not he could be deported, seeing as he is undocumented. 

Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

The smell of carnitas, grilled meats, and sweet desserts saturated the air on Patata Street this past Saturday evening. The sun setting behind them, street vendors and food trucks lined this famous street in Cudahy beside the train tracks to raise funds for street food vendor advocate Edin Alex Enamorado. 

The well-known activist spent the last seven months detained in jail without bail, along with seven others who were initially arrested by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Currently, Enamorado is choosing to fight charges that accuse him and the others of assault, conspiracy, kidnapping, and more, following a string of altercations that occurred amid protests in 2023.

Earlier this month, six of the activists who also remained without bail pleaded guilty to assault charges. Among them were Stephanie Amesaquita, Vanessa Carrasco, Wendy Lujan (Enamorado's partner), David Chavez, Fernando Lopez, and Edwin Peña, who had participated in past protests against street vendor abuses alongside Enamorado. 

According to these six defendants' respective lawyers, who shared the news across social media, the group accepted the plea deals, which included a conviction on a single felony assault charge. Three of the women, Lujan, Amesquita, and Carrasco, were released earlier this month for time served, and the other activists, Chavez, Lopez, and Peña, are expected to be released this December.

Damon Alimouri, who represents Carrasco, said his client had no special restrictions imposed on her when it came to exercising her right to protest after being released.

“Technically, the case is still open. She took a deal; however, the deal won't be finalized until Enamorado's case is finalized,” Alimouri told L.A. TACO.

Enamorado is the only one of the six activists who did not take a plea deal. The news that he would continue to fight his charges spread among vendor communities in Los Angeles. One of these includes the group of vendors that grace Patata Street with their cooking. The same community that says they owe their very stability and safety to Enamorado's efforts. 

Over 10 street vendors and food trucks lined Patata Street on Saturday evening. The majority of the vendors coming together to raise funds for vendor advocate and activist Edin Alex Enamorado. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Alejandro Macias, the owner of Tortas Ahogadas El Santuario, poses with a freshly made torta ahogada in front of the train tracks. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

One of those vendors is Alejandro Macias, the owner of Tortas Ahogadas El Santuario. He has been selling his tortas at Patata Street for three years. He was one of the only remaining original vendors who used to vend on the train tracks before the fences went up. On Saturday, as he filled a birote salado (a salty birote) with carnitas, he recalled how much the activist has helped these vendors. 

“We’ve been able to be here, thankfully, to Alex Enamorado because he has defended us from various situations that have happened here,” Macias said in Spanish, remembering the day they were all removed from their original location on Patata Street. “Edin came and got us all together to go speak with the city because, for a lot of us, this is how we support our families.”

“This has become a place where we have been able to be at for longer than anywhere else," he added. "And I think we owe it to Enamorado.”

Macias, who hung a “Free the Justice 8” shirt on his stand, said that not having Enamorado around has hit the vendor community hard. He said that he felt as if they were missing their armor and protection.

“Unfortunately, right now, we are in limbo,” he said with a look of worry on his face. “Tomorrow or any day, they (the city) can come and take us out; without him here, I don't know. You feel like you're uncovered or like your shield or blanket is missing.”

Many other vendors have relied heavily on Enamorado’s security and quickness to respond to an emergency. Macias is one of many vendors who have immense respect for Enamorado. He even has a photo clipped on his cart of the activist, which depicts him as the Al Pacino-era Scarface. It hangs next to a card of Saint Martin.

Enamorado is depicted as Al Pacino-era Scarface. His photo hangs next to a card of Saint Martin. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Lead vendor organizer at Patata Street, Rebecca Fausto, stands in front of the main fundraising stand for the evening. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

A little further down Patata Street was Rebecca Fausto, the main organizer of the fundraiser, who has taken the lead role of organizer for those who vend near the train tracks. At her stand were shirts that read: “Free the Justice 8,” “Free Enamorado,” and some that simply displayed a photo of the activist dressed in camouflage. To the side wsat custom cups and freshly baked goods that were said to have been donated by a follower of Enamorado. 

She gives the activist credit for connecting her and other vendors with officials like the mayor of Cudahy, saying that, thanks to him, the vendors now have an open dialogue with the mayor. 

“When we got kicked out, Alex showed up and let us know about our rights and how we needed to be more organized,” she said as she walked us down the street. “So he organized a meeting with all vendors and introduced us to the mayor, who is now very supportive of us.” 

The common theme among vendors speaking about Enamorado was that he has always been there to serve the community at any time or moment. 

“When vendors would argue over a spot or anything like that, he would come out and mediate the situation, and he would resolve it,” Fausto said. “He gave us peace of mind because we were worried and stressed. He came out and told us about SB972 and how we have our rights.”

“He helped some of the vendors get their permits, and it’s made a big difference because a lot of the vendors have moved up and gotten food trucks and restaurants," she added.

Three vendors at Patata Street have been able to grow their businesses so much after Enomorado’s help that they have been able to open up their first brick-and-mortar restaurants as well. 

One of those vendors is Abigail Villanueva, owner of Rinconcito Michoacano “Doñaby. She started out selling at Patata as a street vendor and continues to show up to sell there.

Villanueva, who is soft-spoken, told L.A. TACO that she and other vendors have been trying to think of different ways to help Enamorado raise funds for his legal fees, explaining that it is the least they could do after how much he has helped them.

“He was always on the lookout to see if we needed anything. He was always available for us street vendors,” said Villanueva, as she stood beside her food stand. “We’re going to do everything possible to help him. He has helped so many people out and it’s our turn to unite to help him so he can be back with his family and us.”

Fausto explained that besides helping them connect with officials, Enamorado also connected them to Lopez, who would provide security for vendors on Patata Street.

“He (Lopez) would be here from early in the morning till later at night and still go to work and come back,” recalls Fausto. 

Saturday’s fundraiser was held to raise funds for Enamorado’s new attorney and to raise funds for Lujan, who was released earlier this month. According to Fausto, they want to help Lujan, a mother, get back on her feet. 

Close to 7 p.m., Lujan made one of her first appearances since being released. She arrived at Patata Street to thank everyone for not forgetting about her partner. 

While many cheered her as she walked up to one of the stands, she said there was nothing to celebrate. While she is extremely grateful for everyone's help, she has not had the proper time to process the trauma she endured during her arrest and detention. More importantly, she feels there is nothing to celebrate while her partner is not free. 

“I’m not free," she said, her voice cracking. "This is not a celebration; people think that I came out and I'm free. But no, I feel more trapped and more alone than before. Because I come out to reality. I don’t have my partner. I don’t have my home. I don’t have my family. I don’t have my dog.”

Lujan worries that the longer Enamorado stays behind bars, the more people will forget about him and his work. She said that not having her loved ones around has been difficult for her. 

“It’s hard being out here," she said before pausing, holding back tears as she spoke about Enamorado’s absence. "They took away everything. They destroyed our lives, and my coming out and Edin not being here is hard. Because that’s my partner that’s... I feel guilt, and it’s not fair. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen to him.”

She worries about how much time Enamorado might face and whether or not he could be deported, seeing as he is undocumented. 

“I have a lot of respect for him, and he is a person who has risked his status here in the U.S. to help us," ” said Macias. "He can get deported, and it feels unjust. Because he's one of the few people that have helped, not just street vendors, but many others. Without charging a dime to anyone.”

Francisco Andalon, who runs “Tejuinos El Javi” proudly stands with his wife in front of his business. He is one of many vendors who thank Enamorado for all of his help. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Chiles and cheese sears on a hot plancha at Taqueros Elegante's stand at Patata Street. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
The faces behind Taqueros Elegante, a new food stand at Patata Street. While they have never met Enamorado but they believe in his work and joined others at the fundraiser. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Other vendors shared their worries about Enamorado’s status. Francisco Andalon, who runs “Tejuinos El Javi” with his wife, said they were shocked to hear about Enamorado's incarceration. 

“For us, everything that is happening is very shocking because he helps so many street vendors, and we feel unprotected,” he said. “There are so many people hurting vendors, and he was the person who would help us. He would give us the strength to keep going.”

As of now, the future of the still-jailed activist is unclear. But it is obvious that the people he has helped protect and empower are not looking to back down. They plan to continue supporting Enamorado as he continues to fight his charges. 

As he prepares for his next court date on Wednesday, conversations surrounding Enamorado’s case and tactics while defending street vendors have been highly criticized. Still, others, like Fausto, said that Enamorado's work as an activist went beyond social media.

“Don’t believe the lies," Fausto said. "Not everything he did was posted online. We would have meetings with vendors once a month to go over everything, and there's a lot that he did offline that people didn't see. He was always there for us no matter the time or day he always showed up.”

Valeria Macias contributed to this article.

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