After immigrating from Venezuela over thirty years ago, Aloisa is a passionate D.C. community member who turned to street vending in recent years. Aloisa worked various jobs after arriving in the United States, ranging from working as a caregiver to a factory lineman. However, Aloisa fell victim to labor exploitation in her last job at a factory. This is a common-issue many immigrant workers face in the United States. Because of their tenuous immigration status, many workers fear speaking out. However, three years ago, Aloisa decided enough is enough. She could no longer tolerate the abysmal working conditions or continue to have her wages stolen from her.
When explaining why she became a street vendor, Aloisa noted she saw a growing interest in Latin food and felt confident she could meet the demand. Additionally, street vending offered Aloisa the opportunity to feel dignified and independent while making a living, something she never imagined would be possible for her. Furthermore, street vending gave her access to help those in need in her 14th Street community. Aloisa frequently gives free food to homeless people she comes across when vending or lowering her merchandise price when customers do not have enough. Aloisa believes that it is our duty as a community to take care of one another as community members when presented with the opportunity.
Like other vendors on 14th Street, Aloisa has experienced negative interactions with local police officers. Aloisa recalls these moments as abusive and humiliating. One day, an officer approached her to ask about her street vending license. When Aloisa informed the officer that she did not have one, the officer asked about her immigration status. This event sent chills down Aloisa’s spine because, although the fine she received along with a threat of arrest was not ideal, it is much more bearable than the possibility of facing deportation. Another day, when Aloisa was packing up for the day, an officer followed her home and threatened to arrest her for street vending. Aloisa continually sees the same officers approaching her to threaten her with tickets, arrest her, or throw her produce away. All of these events would scare off the average person from ever street vending again, but not Aloisa. Though the police encounters make Aloisa cautious about her surroundings, she refuses to let the officers’ intimidation tactics stop her from making a living. In her eyes, her only wrongdoing is not having a license. Even without a license, Aloisa follows the same safety procedures a licensed vendor is expected to follow because Aloisa acknowledges the importance of food safety and protecting her customers. Everyday Aloisa makes sure to safely prepare and transport her food, maintain a clean work station, and keep cleaning supplies for her customers, so they are also safe when eating.