I grew up in the San Fernando Valley hugged by hills at every corner and met with summer days that left you hot and damp with sweat. The valley is its own hub within Los Angeles. It has its own culture and its own language. I grew up walking the streets to pick up pupusas to take back home, sifting through toys at the local swap meet (or as my Salvadorian mother calls it: el swami) and — my absolute favorite part — stopping for raspados and elote (shaved ice and street corn).
Street vendors are peppered at almost every corner in the valley selling whatever your heart desires on a sunny San Fernando day — fruit, corn, ice cream, chips, drinks. They’re gifts that make their way down your sidewalk, ringing their bells or honking their horns as they push their carts on the pavement. Their multicolored umbrellas catch our eyes while piquing the deepest desires of our taste buds.
When I moved to Berkeley to start school, I bid the San Fernando Valley street vendors goodbye until it was time for me to return. I would often crave the saltiness of an elote or the sweetness of freshly cut mango and watermelon pressed delicately into a plastic cup.
It wasn’t until my second semester at UC Berkeley that I saw the familiar, old multicolored umbrella in front of Crossroads dining hall.
I was immediately filled with childhood giddiness when I saw my first and only street vendor in Berkeley. For a second, I had completely forgotten I was so far from home, and that moment instantly placed me back in the beaming days of the San Fernando Valley. Seeing how many customers eagerly lined up in front of the cart made me even happier. I felt a sense of community. I saw a union of Latine students looking for a taste of home.
The Berkeley Southside street vendor reminds me of my days in the valley when I miss it the most. He’s more than a quick snack on my way to and from school. He’s my home away from home. He may not know anything about me, nor I him, but he remains my beacon of comfort during the days I feel most homesick. He represents the coming together of students in the Southside of the UC Berkeley campus looking for a taste of Latine deliciousness.
If you’re able, I urge you to visit the Berkeley Southside street vendor around Channing and Bowditch to support him. He has fruit, snacks, iced goods and so much more to offer, even childhood memories.