Sunset Park Vendors Gather For One Final Celebration Of The Season

Vendors with tents sold merchandise on the last Plaza of the season. Photo Credit: Andy Olivan


A collective of vendors gathered at an empty lot behind a shuttered pizza shop in Sunset Park on Sunday, October 29th to celebrate the end of the outdoor season with a Day of the Dead Celebration and an open-air market where people gathered to celebrate what they described as the working-class spirit of families who make a living as vendors.

Plaza Tonatiuh is organized by Mexicanos Unidos, a community organization that has a mission to develop the social consciousness of their working-class community. The event was a family-oriented gathering with music, dancing, selling hand-made crafts, cooking, and feasting to honor oppressed people and their collective struggles.

The organizers defend all vendors, licensed and unlicensed. “We understand that the criminalization of any sort of street vending is absolutely wrong and so we want to empower them and emphasize that it’s a dignified way to make a living,” said Satya Bravo, one of the organizers at Plaza Tonatiuh. “We are a survival program, first and foremost.”

“This is the people’s Plaza, they take care of it. They hustle hard for this,” said Bravo. “They understand the power of working-class unity.”

According to their Instagram posts, Plaza Tonatiuh is a pillar against gentrification. It has the interest of low-income people at heart and meets their needs. The Plaza served as a tool for people’s empowerment.

“We started in 2020. A lot of people lost their jobs because entire sectors of the economy collapsed, like hotels, like hospitality, like restaurants, so a lot of folks had to resort to street vending and they were getting met by repression,” said Raymundo Valentin who is another organizer of Plaza Tonatiuh.

In 2021, the Plaza was established in Sunset Park itself. A Grub Street article states that at the beginning there were nine vendors but in 2022, the Plaza ended the season with 86 vendors. However, on April 2, 2022, the Park Enforcement Patrol along with the New York City Police Department prevented vendors from setting up after receiving complaints that the Plaza footprint was preventing park patrons from using the park.

Although they were forced to adapt, they came back consolidated and more organized as a union of vendors. They became more political and were able to find another space to maintain their public activities. The Plaza in Sunset Park was now located at a parking pizza lot on Second Avenue and 42nd Street.

“We want to awaken the class consciousness of the masses who sometimes are misguided by, you know, like reactionary media, like Univision and Telemundo,” said Bravo, who believes that the Plaza can build on working-class people’s education and growth when they are united.

Ana Juarez Vazquez is a vendor who partakes in Plaza Tonatiuh, hosted every Sunday, and has had a great experience selling her homemade warm drinks and jewelry.

“It’s family-oriented,” she said, speaking in Spanish, “Where you can come in to relax from your personal life, your job, […] here you can find homemade food and handmade artistic jewelry,” said Vazquez. “It helps you get distracted and motivate you.”

She said, “It was an economically viable option for me since I’m currently not working. My son had a treatment done in Mexico so this helped me as a form of making funds to sustain myself.”

Mauricio Escobar had been an established vendor at Corona Plaza in Queens but after the police raid that took place in July, Plaza Tonatiuh welcomed Escobar and other unlicensed vendors to partake in the Plaza.

“I’m very grateful to the Plaza. It’s been an experience that we’ve been living through this fall, It has been very good thanks to God. We hope to keep partaking in these events,” said Escobar, who sells Mexican shirts, pots, artifacts, etc. “It helps me to sustain my family, my home.”

“To make this happen every Sunday we have to collect funds. The working class keeps this alive honestly 100 percent. We don’t have any big donors, we don’t have any corporate sponsorships, we don’t have any political sponsorships none of that,” said Bravo. “It’s a beautiful thing to see because the more support we have the more we can gradually be very organized.”