American Public Media's Marketplace has a piece about Los Angeles tamale vendors. Devin Browne interviewed Antonio, who has been hawking his tamales in MacArthur Park for the past 14 years. He used an adult tricycle with a wooden box mounted on it. He makes $30 a day and it is his full-time job.
(See photo slideshow by Anna Bosch)
The police constantly watch all the goods and services that are sold illegally here: drugs, sex, fake IDs, even street food. Health inspectors have to dispose of all food that isn't to code and that might be unsafe. Sometimes they dump full carts of tamales into the gutter. And the gangs in the area, they charge rent to any vendors who sell goods on the streets that they've marked as their territory. Here's Antonio.
ANTONIO: It's dangerous. It's very, very dangerous. You have to be careful with the gangs, you have to be careful with the police, you have to be careful with the cars. There are a lot of dangers in the street.
The tamaleros play a game, sort-of like a high-stakes version of hide-and-go seek. And there are rules that all the street vendors have to follow.
ANTONIO: Don't throw trash in the street. Second of all, if you see the police, don't make eye contact. And the gangs have asked me to pay rent, but no I have refused to do that.
The interview is short. I would have liked hearing more from Antonio.
UPDATE Devin Browne says: "[T]he radio story was based on a multimedia piece Anna and I produced together which can be seen here."
The risky life of an L.A. 'Tamalero'
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