Community buys out inventory from deaf Long Beach street vendor left jobless during pandemic

Pedro Castellanos-Aguilar, a deaf Long Beach paletero, was treated to a “buy-out” event Saturday where members of the community came out to purchase all of his cart inventory.

The 27-year-old street vendor has been working throughout Long Beach for over eight years.

School children from Lincoln, Roosevelt and Stevenson Elementary knew Castellanos-Aguilar and would stop by his cart to buy popsicles and snacks after school. However, when the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close down, it also stopped Castellanos-Aguilar from pushing his cart around the city.

“I was feeling sad,” Castellanos-Aguilar wrote on a sheet of paper when the Post interviewed him Saturday. “For two months, I had to stay home.”

Local Hearts Foundation co-founders HJ Chong and Tito Rodriguez recognized Castellanos-Aguilar and wanted to do something special for him.

“I bought ice cream from him before, and I remember he was deaf, and thought, ‘This guy is a legend,’” Rodriguez said. “He has not let any health condition stop him from working and doing what he wants.”

The pair also created a GoFundMe page for Castellanos-Aguilar, which has raised over $2,800.

Castellanos-Aguilar’s family came from Oaxaca, Mexico in the 1980s. He said that when he was 12, he would ask his parents to buy snack to sell at the local parks. However, it was difficult for his parents to continue to give him money.

So, Castellanos-Aguilar said he would collect bottles and recycle them for profit. He bought his first push cart in 2011.

Street vendors often are at the mercy of the streets when they go out to work. Last month, a 51-year-old street vendor was beaten and robbed in the Washington neighborhood.

“Many of us street vendors get hurt from others,” Castellanos-Aguilar wrote. “We just survive by making a living day by day.”

Chong said he’s inspired by Castellanos-Aguilar, and his ability to find ways to keep working despite his loss of hearing. The social media post was picked up by a popular social media page called Foos Gone Wild and a number of news outlets.

“Someone is going to see this and go, ‘Here’s a guy who’s making it happen,” he said.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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