Who took Maria Cortes’ tamale cart?

El Sereno resident Demi Contreras never had to go very far when she had a craving for a tamale. All she had to do was walk a short distance from her home to a spot near Gambier Street and Bowman Boulevard where Maria Cortes could usually be found nearly every weekday morning selling tamales and champurrado from her red and white wooden cart. This, morning,  Cortes was at her customary spot near Farmdale School but the cart, which as constructed by her husband, was no where to be seen. Cortes said her cart had just been stolen, taken by a group of men who tossed the cart into an unmarked white van. The cart not only contained the day’s tamales and champurrado but some prescription medication.  “She was pale and scared,” Contreras said by email. “It really angers me that they would rob such a kind and loving woman.”

Melissa Kellogg, a friend of Contreras and another one of Cortes’ customers, does not know if the tamale vendor has reported the crime. Kellogg did call the city’s Department of Street Services this morning and was told that vendors found violating the law are first issued a citation and warning; equipment is confiscated only in conjunction with the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

While Kellogg  did not find out what happened to the car, she wants her neighbors and Cortes’ patrons to know why their neighborhood tamale and vendor may be out of business:

“Señora Cortes special mix of warm champurrado and kind wishes for safe travels will be missed by those who frequented her white and red cart on Gambier each morning.  Those who are familiar with where she lives may want to extend condolences over having endured such a startling experience this holiday season.”


  1. My parents moved to El Sereno in 1968 to start and raise a family . The neighborhood was clean and people respected one another. Now El Sereno seems overcrowded and dirty. What has happened to personal pride and respect for one another and respect were one comes from?

  2. It was the County Health Department protecting the safety of the community and removed the cart and it contents, all part of the efforts to control ILLEGAL VENDING on the streets in the area.

  3. yes anthony you r right it was the health dept, but did you know after they siezed her cart they parked down valley blvd at lincoln park and ate the tamales that were in the cart ? i have video of them because i was there when it happened and followed them to where they ate the food, my nieghbor who works for the city was shown the video and stated that those employees would only be reprimanded for eating the food they confiscated. they should be ashamed of what they did.

  4. Quick, get that White Van over here to El Norte Hollywood. We have a million unlicensed, unregulated tamale vendors descending on our Barrio. Also, post the video

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