By: Andrea Pineda-Salgado
It’s 11pm on a Saturday night in Corona, New York and while many are at home resting, Bertha Angelia is busy prepping for her clients.
The 7 train at the 111th street station stops above her, and a few seconds later a flood of people come rushing down the stairs. Most are tired men in backpacks who have spent their Saturday working. Some hit the supermarket across the street, some hit the food trucks, but most know there is a warm plate waiting for them at Bertha Angelia’s shopping cart.
Yeah, that’s right. Rather than starting their evening in the comfort of their home, these workers hurriedly walk to grab a bite from Angelia’s Home Depot shopping cart turned into a kitchen
Tired of her bad luck, and tired of getting fired from her jobs, Angelia took matters into her own hands. In 2009, she began to sell corn on the cob with sour cream and cheese, a popular Mexican street food otherwise known as elotes. People began to ask for other street foods such as tamales or arroz con leche (rice pudding). Whatever they asked for she made—adding more and more things to her cart.
Now, her cart sells practically anything you can think of, elotes, arroz con leche, tamales, chicharron (pork rind), salted peanuts, sunflower seeds, hibiscus tea, horchata, and her most famous attraction of all: tacos.
Angelia’s tacos are her most popular dish. The taco menu always varies, as Angelia and her helper make different stews every day. While the different kinds of tacos are delicious, the menu isn’t what attracts the customers, but it’s their home cooked feel that does.
Angelia greets the men that come to her cart with the Spanish endearment: mijo, or “my son”. On this particular day one of her customers did not have enough money to buy his taco, and Angelia said “Don’t worry about it mijo, I don’t want you to be hungry tonight.”
Rain or shine Angelia is always there for her clients—except for Sundays because those are reserved for church. But the “food-shopping-cart” business isn’t always easy. Oftentimes neighboring restaurants or food trucks get jealous of her number of clients, so they call the police or the sanitation department on her. They usually take her cart or throw her food away, but she always comes back the next day. One time, Angelia recalls that things escalated to the point where she was arrested, but she paid her $1000 fine and of course, came back the next day.
Angelia also has to worry about the drunk men and gangsters she encounters late at night. She says a drunk man once pulled a knife on her, but she puts her faith in God and just keeps going. This Saturday night around midnight a drunk guy came by to bother her, yet she just shooed him away.
Angelina says she’s thankful not just for the income the business provides her, but the friendships. Many of her customers are waiting for her to finally open a restaurant. While that may this is just a dream for now, Angelia enjoys welcoming the hard-working men home with a smile and a warm plate of tacos.