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Street Vending in Covid Times

Photojournal by Rafael Cardenas

A veteran photographer records the stories of Los Angeles street vendors pushed to the edge by a pandemic.

Mayra & Jose

Mayra and Jose have been selling tacos for almost two years to supplement their income. With six dependents at home it’s been difficult during the shutdown. To add to the stress Mayra was laid off from her part-time job as a phlebotomist because the clinic she works at closed down. “We have followed all the rules during this shutdown. I would just love to see our community support us when we’re allowed to return to selling.”


With 19 years of experience selling fruit, Mikaela couldn’t sell anything during the shutdown. Today, May 8, was her first day coming back out. With two kids, she managed to survive with her husband’s part-time job. “It wasn’t a lot,” she says. “But during these times I knew how lucky we were to have just that. I would like to say to my fellow vendors to be patient. We know we will get past this.”

Cesar Chavez & Soto

Boyle Heights fruit vendor sets up shop in what is normally the very busy intersection of Cesar Chavez Ave. and Soto St. The decrease in foot traffic has affected all sales.

Emergency Aid

Using crowdfunding sources, the Street Vendor Emergency Fund raised money to assist street vendors in need due to financial strain caused by pandemic restrictions. Staff from Inclusive Action for the City, East L.A. Community Corporation and Colectivo Poder Comunitario hand out $400 cash cards to eligible street vendors.

Community Power

Rosa Miranda (left) from Colectivo Poder Comunitario, and Kateri Gutierrez from Inclusive Action (right) wearing masks and gloves to protect vendors and themselves while assisting the distribution of cash cards.


Socorro was selling used clothes on 53rd St. before the shutdown ceased all of her business, making it difficult to support her family of seven.


Miguel is a raspado (snow cone) vendor who also leads Vendedores en Accion, an advocacy collective of 35 vendors from Exposition Park. He has not been able to run his business and said, “Money comes and goes, always. It’s better to stay home and stay safe during all this.”


Adelfo is a fruit vendor on Third St. and Columbia Ave. He hasn’t had any means to pay bills during the pandemic. He feels fortunate that he doesn’t have kids to support during this time, but he still has to figure out how to care for his diabetic wife.


Ruth is worried that when she is able to start selling again people won’t come out to buy anything. She fears money hoarding will cause an even longer transition back to normalcy.


Omar has found a way to start gigging car detailing services. He passed out flyers for a week and had his first job lined up. When the pandemic started he noticed that some construction crews were still busy, so he started packing food in containers and would visit sites to sell food. “Anything helps.” As a street vendor he also sold clothes.