Social Issues

Mexico’s “Lady Tacos” wades into politics

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Apr 23 (EFE).- “Lady Tacos de Canasta,” made famous by her appearance in a Netflix documentary, is running for a seat in the Mexico City assembly to provide representation for the two oppressed communities she embodies: LGBT people and street vendors.

“It’s a very complicated issue, but I am built from criticism. I have been singled out my whole life,” she told Efe Friday at the small restaurant she opened last December after years of being harassed by police for selling tacos on the street.

Born Juan Francisco Martinez in the southern state of Oaxaca, she calls herself Marven and identifies as “muxe,” a third gender recognized in the culture of the indigenous Zapotec people.

Marven, 36, has taken plenty of flack since announcing her candidacy for the municipal legislature, though the ranks of those who have thrown their hats in the ring includes plenty of other non-politicians, including entertainers and professional wrestlers.

“Many people say that educated people are needed, that I should stick to my tacos,” Marven says. “Everybody spouts off on their cell phones, but nobody dares” to run for office.

The world was introduced to Marven in an episode of the 2019 Netflix documentary series “Taco Chronicles,” which showed her hawking warm tacos from a basket (canasta) mounted on the handlebars of her bicycle.

She was just 7 when her family moved from impoverished Oaxaca to this bustling metropolis of 20 million people in search of opportunity.

Marven’s father found a way to support his family by selling fresh homemade tacos from a basket.

While growing up, Marven saw nothing attractive about her father’s occupation.

“I told him that I would do everything in life except sell tacos. But it turned out to be the reverse: I did nothing in life and now I sell a lot of tacos de canasta,” she says with a hearty laugh.

Though customers and tourists enjoying the sights in Mexico City find Marven’s cheekiness endearing, life as a trans street vendor has not been easy.

Last year, at the height of Mexico’s Covid-19 lockdown, a video of Marven’s confrontation with police who said she was violating health regulations went viral.

The cops tried to seize her bike and the basket filled with tacos.

“Living with that every day is something you must get used to. You know that one day a week, they will come to take away your money and your merchandise,” Marven says.

Weary of the harassment, she decided to open an eatery offering traditional Oaxaca fare. As a reminder of her beginnings, the place is decorated with a giant piñata representing Lady Tacos.

Marven is running for the assembly on the ticket of the tiny Equity, Liberty and Gender party.

“It was a good opportunity to make ourselves present in the LGBT community. Perhaps we don’t win, but I already feel like a winner for the fact of having participated,” she says.

And while the top item of Marven’s agenda if she wins will be improving health care for LGBT people, she says she won’t forget about her former colleagues who still eke out a living as street vendors.

“I lived it myself. I can stay put because now I have my place. But I don’t like that people continue to experience what I experienced,” she says. EFE

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