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.”