“It Made Me Furious, But Even So I Didn’t Tell on Her”

by | Reason.com

Articles about illegal vending (or food trucks, or beer carts, or unlicensed hair braiding, or freelance interior designers) nearly always come packaged with a whiny quote from a bricks-and-mortar store owner about how all this unexpected competition from people with lower overhead is just so gosh darned unfair/unpatriotic/uncool. A recent Los Angeles Times profile of one Naty Aguilar—a Mexican immigrant who runs a cheap general store on her front lawn two days a week—pleasingly subverts the dominant two-sides-to-every-story paradigm:

Julia Bursiaga, who owns a hair salon in South Los Angeles, says she used to run a shop directly in front of a woman who cut hair illegally in her home.

“I paid over $10,000 to get my cosmetology license,” Bursiaga said….

Even though Bursiaga’s neighbor bothered her, she didn’t report the illegal business to the city.

“It made me furious, but even so I didn’t tell on her,” she said. “Because the sun comes out for everybody. We all have a right to life.”

The article does include another standard feature of such stories, however: a stirring statement of self-sufficiency from a poor immigrant:

“Many people bother us, asking why the yard is like this, or the police tell us we’re not supposed to do this,” Aguilar said. “But I don’t steal, nor do I ask the government for help, nor for welfare. I try to make my own living, and the city doesn’t understand that.”

Neat bonus fact: According to the byline, this piece was written by a Spot.us reporter. I wrote about the site, which applies the microfinance model to funding investigative journalism, here.