(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 In 2000, she and Papi started what is now considered an outdated food truck.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.