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Taco stands, new approach to registering voters

Many of us have heard the phrase watch what you say or it may come back and bite you. Well that is what is happening around the country.
A while back Mexican-born Marco Gutierrez, founder of Latinos for Trump said, “if immigration goes unchecked, the United States will eventually have taco trucks all over the place … including outside of the White House.”

His words have caused Latinos here and around the country to take action and help register voters for the upcoming election.

Last Tuesday, October 11, community activist Manny Abarca along with others decided to have a little fun while registering people to vote.

Abarca enlisted Israel Mendez, owner of EL Pueblito Mexican restaurant, to host and drive his food truck as he went registering voters.

Mendez said he was excited to help the Latino community defeat Donald Trump. According to a press release, the main goal of this collaborative effort is to register people to vote and make sure Latinos turn out to vote against Trump.

Inspired by the national movement Guac the Vote! Abarca said, “The intent is to engage the unregistered masses. … as long as we register just one person, we have succeeded in our efforts.”

“When I partnered with Israel Mendez … we traveled to three locations registering about 20 voters on the MO side and 3 on the KS side, engaging people in a fun way to express their voice, through their vote,” he told Hispanic News. “Our goal was to focus on the Latino community and we believe that the rest will take care of itself. A group of non-partisan, unaffiliated volunteers came out to help us reach the community.’

In light of the national attention on taco trucks, Hispanic News took to Independence Avenue in the Old Northeast neighborhood to talk to some Mexican food truck owners and get their perspective.

Lupita of Lupita’s Taco stand told Hispanic News, “It’s a lot of hard work operating our taco stand, but it helps us pay our bills and it helps our families, and we pay our fair share of taxes.”

Juan Bautista has his food truck El Indio Pollos Asados de Carbon on Independence Avenue. He said the comments about taco stands didn’t bother him.

”I grew up just trying to get ahead. … I’m not that concerned of what others say because we pay taxes. We have employees, just like a regular company, just a smaller version,” he said.

Bautista also owns Carmen’s Café in Brookside. Between both venues he employs nearly 40 people. Bautista has been in the restaurant business for over 17 years and works 65 plus hours a week. He believes not many have a clue how hard the restaurant business is. It’s a tough business and a lot of hard work and long hours.

Bautista added, “I get involved in politics but I don’t allow for it to get to me on a day-to-day basis while I’m working.”

Bautista feel he is doing his part in helping the Kansas City economy, “We paid rent, taxes, paid for permits, create jobs. We run just like a regular business … just like everybody else.”

One customer who didn’t want to give their name said, “I come every Saturday to El Indio stand, I love their Mexican style chicken.”

Abarca told Hispanic News, “Every stand has something different and on our neighborhood Facebook page people look for trucks that venture outside of the neighborhood. Someone even asked, ‘has anyone seen the Pupusa truck?’ followed by nearly a trail of last location responses.

Abarca added that diversity is a hallmark of the food truck business.

“It’s very much part of the Northeast culture and representative of multiple cultures and different types of food, mostly reflective of our community. We even have a fusion truck, from the owner’s personal heritage, that serves Mexican and Italian food,” said Abarca.

According to Abarca, the food trucks are a compliment to the many businesses along Independence Avenue with some of the trucks being extensions of those businesses.

“It’s almost our version of franchising in the same, but different hourly market. We have even had a new business open up. Express Foods expanded from just food trucks to a restaurant in the Northeast,” he said.

According to Abarca the, “we all make money together, the more the merrier,” mantra is a synergistic arrangement. He has seen that some of the trucks “have strategically partnered or aligned themselves with non-competitive locations, for example a rent-a-center or grocery store.”

“Knowing my community, life without the food trucks in the Northeast would be bland – a sterilized, suburban, McDonald’s fast-food desert,” he explained. “That wasn’t the bargain we all agreed to when moving here. At the end of the day, stifling this entrepreneurial spirit of these individual striving for the American Dream, well it’s simply un-American!”

Taking a drive down the avenue proves Abarca’s point. You can find anything from a taco truck, to Slater’s Pizza, and Wings ‘N Things, which offers “a twist on the traditional taco with a buffalo ranch theme- not your typical tacos el pastor,” he said. “There is something for everybody in taco trucks, you just gotta be bold enough to try them out.”

In KCK a Get out to Vote rally was held on Saturday, October 15, at El Rio Bravo Supermarket in partnership with El Centro. It was a day for residents to register for the November 8, General Election.