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The Latina Smart in Mami Launched Traditional Food Truck. And Pondering Newness

(Mami and a super sleepy me at 6 am setting up Ay Caramba!)

That’s a food truck! A really old, throw back kind of food truck. And it was ours. It’s name? Ay Caramba! 

My mother has always worked for herself. Since she was a little chinita, working at my late abuelo’s “Chinese Laundry,” which was eventually confiscated by Castro in the fuax-themed revolution against the people of Cuba, she had a spirit of independence and making things work for herself. She didn’t allow anyone or anything to define her other than her willed character.

I learned how to hustle from my Mami.

She made me hustle.

During our middle school summer breaks, sis and I were nudged at 7 am, fed breakfast and hurried to our family van on our way to our daily routine of cleaning houses. We averaged 7 per day in the early 80s, yielding her a commendable salary for a chica that dropped out of El Preventorio to take care of her young family. I hated cleaning houses. Not even the hefty allowance she gave us compensated for the lack of late mornings sleeping in and too tired body to enjoy the neighborhood pool.

In retrospect, my mother’s wildly successful cleaning business inspired many other entrepreneurial projects and sparked my own sense of launching my own business. In 2000, she and Papi started what is now considered an outdated food truck. But, it was the original way of eating street food! None of that fancy, colorful, social media driven model! This was WORK. Hitch the food truck to an SUV, haul it to a permanent location, set up before 7 am and start serving until 5:30 pm. 12 years ago, food trucks were one stop shops where one snatched up everything they wanted and needed. They weren’t necessarily specialty camiónsitos offering sparkly cupcakes or spicy shrimp po’ boys. Ours fit the protototype of the times, but with our Cuban spin to it. “Ay Caramba!” sat right outside the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and attracted every type Washingtonion and Virginian you can imagine. Las líneas wrapped around the brick block.

I worked full-time as a paralegal at the time  but would rise early to help them set up and then leave work to help them break down for the day. It was work. Hard, intense work. But, satisfying and it was our own business.

Would my parents or I ever do a food truck like that again? Uh, no! Not in a million years. It worked for the time, but with the advent of new media, new trends and new needs, our Latina Smart can make a better, sexier and more efficient food truck work!

I’m letting the idea marinade. They’re excited about it and encourage my passion to branch out and continue growing my brand and business. They’re even participating in my market research to nail down how exactly my inevitable food truck will come to life! They support my entrepreneurial spirit; the very one they fostered.

To that I say, ay caramba, bring it on!

* This is a sponsored post as part of my involvement with Latina Smart, a campaign dedicated to the engagement and conversation with young women about Latin culture and eduction. All opinions are my own, always.

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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0 thoughts on “The Latina Smart in Mami Launched Traditional Food Truck. And Pondering Newness

  1. I love the name of that food truck! Your mother is a great entrepreneur. I wish I had my own family food truck too.

    Cheers,

    rosa

  2. Ah, the memories…!!!Those were hard times but, in retrospect, they made us all stronger. Definitely, as the Spanish saying goes: “Recordar es volver a vivir” or “Reminiscing is like living (it) all over again.”
    Thanks!

  3. Yes! Love this story. Can totally see why you are the entrepreneurial woman you are. Your mother seems pretty Latina Smart herself!

  4. The entrepreneurial spirit lives high in Latinas. My parents used to wake me up around 4 on weekend to go garage sale shopping on Saturdays and then to the Swapmeet on Sundays to sell. It was a way of life and I’m grateful to them for showing me hard work. Thank you for the gentle nudge to get back on the horse and hustle. Good luck on all your ventures chica! Make ’em proud 🙂

  5. Look at your sweet baby face. My aunt had an old school food truck when I was growing up. Her food was amazing.

    In SF there is a creme brulee food truck that does very well. I don’t see why a Flanboyant flan truck would do just as well.

  6. I know I’ve said it time and time again, that’s why I love your parents. They have imparted your entrepreneurial spirit for a reason. Why wouldn’t they support you? Whatever you set yourself out to do…you can and will! Such a moving story and reminds me or as your Dad says, “Recordar es volver a vivir” on our own business back in the day. Yes, we’re all putting a new Spin on things now. Watch out world Bren is about to take over DC!!

  7. I don’t know for a fact, but I bet that there are people out there – haters – who look at you, see a confident and successful woman, feel jealous, and wouldn’t mind seeing you be not so successful. You worked HARD to get where you are, though. You deserve this success. I am proud of you, and I haven’t ever met you. Keep at it. I have a feeling you are on your way to something amazing.

  8. Rosa: I learn from the best! She still has it in her. I love it.

    David: They were hard, but so worth the memories and lessons learned. We set a trend, I think. It could only be better now, no?

    Monica: As they say, I got it from my momma!

    Pattie: oh, well that kind of waking up early is fun!

    Joscelyn: Thanks for reading. She’s def a force to be reckoned with.

    Comiendo in LA: Thanks. Let’s how a new one goes.

    Unkown Mami: Ha. Funny you see cute baby face. I see pudgy fact that doesn’t match the rest of my body! I’ll take it, though. I’m with you. I know a Flanboyant truck would be amazing!

    Joi: I know you do. It’s just a matter of you making time to come up to meet them. You know mi casa es tu casa. You’re welcome any time. You’ll never forget the experience.

    Maria: what a lovely and touching comment. I felt your honesty and sincerity. You analysis is accurate, unfortunately, but the end result will be a beautiful thing!

  9. I had no idea you guys used to run a food truck. Girl it’s no wonder you hustle the way you do! Great, great read. You would do so well if you did a Cuban food truck now! They’re all over the place.

  10. Some of the best food Ive ever had came from those papossa trucks (am I spelling that right)…..nothing like meals on wheels to satisfy.

    The funny thing about being self employed is that you learn to stop complaining (6 days out of the week). The rest of the time, the buck stops with you.

  11. Helena: Thanks, amiga. It will all be super sassy.

    Ruby DW: Thanks! I love it, too. It keeps me grinding all day long. It’s great.

    Ericka: That’s my Mami, but thanks! We always find a way! It’s the only way.

    CJ: You got that right. I am my mother’s daughter. And my father’s hija.

    Eva: Ha.

    Michele R: Yep! I’ve never talked about it because I didn’t find a relevant space to mention it, but this subject was a perfect way to introduce it. It was a fun and experimental time in our lives. Let’s see what’s next.

    Andrew: Pupusas! Let’s try that again. LOL. Those are good! I grew up eating them.

  12. The Food Truck Industry in ATL is experiencing a strong presence. They have a mobile food truck park and several places through O4W & Cabbagetown where business thrives. Definitely should consider one here.

  13. I appreciate that she did that. they are being great people by doing that. That was a big deal and very hard work. Someday i will do something like that. It was cool that they did that. It’s Nice work.Other people should do that make food from where you are from or where your parents are from if they where born somewhere else then where you are from!

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