This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
After Video Of Elotero Being Attacked Went Viral, Lowrider Bike Clubs Made Him A New, Custom Cart
When Benjamín Ramírez’s street vending cart was tipped over by an angry neighbor in July, he documented the incident in a now-viral video. Benjamín, an elotero who had only recently started selling corn on the street in Hollywood but whose father has been at it for nearly two decades, has inspired droves of supporters. Since his video was published, he’s had songs dedicated in his honor, raised money to support his family, and been dubbed a hero. Now, he’s inspired a group of friends from various Southern California lowrider bike clubs to make Benjamín a blinged-out, digitized, custom-made cart, which was delivered on Sunday.
After Jay Pee, who runs the Los Ryderz bike club, saw Benjamín’s video online, he reached out to the Ramírez family. Jay Pee wanted to know if he could meet Benjamín to help make a custom cart that would perfectly match Benjamín’s height and needs.
Benjamín and his family headed down to meet Jay Pee at Art Ramírez’s workshop in Vernon, southeast of downtown. Art (no relation to Benjamín) is a welder who creates custom bicycles as well as street-vending carts. His signature style involves working with scrap, so much so that he’s known as The Skrapfather. His welding can make something gorgeous out of discarded metal. Jay Pee and Art got to work right away, designing the perfect street-vending cart.
Meanwhile, the pair enlisted more and more people to donate funds, materials, and labor to create the custom cart. Warren Wong, known as the King of Wheels, donated custom-made wheels with detailed spokes.
Art, who started making street-vending trikes in 2006, got to work on the frame and box that would house Benjamín’s new cart. His effort took a considerable amount of time and space in his backyard workshop. He says he’s able to afford to take the time to weld the cart because of money he has coming in from multiple Burning Man bike orders. “My hands are for those who need me,” he explains.
Over the next several days, various people stopped by to donate their labor on the cart. Carlos Molina from Los Bandoleros Bike Club did the initial white latex paint job on the cart’s panels. After reading Jay Pee’s posts about the idea for a cart on Facebook, he says he reached out to volunteer—motivated by the injustice he says was done against Benjamín Ramírez. Carlos purchased the paint on his own and went to Art’s workshop to complete his part of the project.
Benjamín’s new cart has standard and USB outlets— so he can always keep his phone, which captured the original video, charged. It also features front and back lights as well as colorful LED lights that are controlled by remote. Chad Majer, who works with One Big Club—a bike club that throws the biggest bike party in North America in Vegas each year—drove up to Vernon from Carlsbad on his day off to work on the cart. He donated the electronic parts as well as his labor. Chad saw Jay Pee and Art’s posts on Facebook and decided to chip in. “I was disgusted by what happened [to Benjamín],” he said as he was testing LED lights for lights last weekend. “So I asked how I could help.”
In just five days, Jay Pee organized ten people to donate funds, parts, and labor—including Eastco Powder Coating in Montebello, where the cart was dropped off for a custom lime green application that will extend the cart’s longevity. The approximate value of the parts and labor for Benjamín’s new cart—the only one of its kind—is estimated at $2,500, according to Jay Pee.
Art Ramírez says that a lot of the street vendors he makes standard carts for would love custom-made carts, but are reluctant to wheel around anything that attracts too much attention. “They’re scared that they’ll lose their cart and the money they put into it if it’s too loud,” he says.
Jay Pee and Art say that Benjamín is so famous now he probably has a pass against being raided and having his cart confiscated by the city. Although street vending was recently decriminalized in Los Angeles, vendors will still have to wait to see if the City Council approves an ordinance that will allow them to legally operate, according to Rick Coca, who’s a senior advisor to Councilmember Jose Huizar. The next discussion on the matter will take place in a joint committee later this month—if a street vending ordinance proposal is agreed on by the committees, it then heads to a full council vote. That process could take several months. In the meanwhile, street vendors will continue to operate in limbo.
The cart was delivered to Benjamín Ramírez's apartment Sunday morning, where he and his family were cooking corn for the day's work. The cart he'd been using had been badly damaged by what happened July—and pushing a heavy, imbalanced cart was causing Benjamín pain in his right hand and arm for the past several weeks. When he saw and felt the lightness and manageability of the new cart, he appeared excited to the point of having few words to describe his shock.
"I'm going to start using it today," Benjamín kept repeating for several minutes. His father, Alex Ramírez, says he's going to see about getting an identical one made for himself. Both father and son still sell their elotes on or near the corner of Romaine and El Centro in Hollywood.