Despite their popularity, they faced a slew of city ordinances aimed at thwarting their success, under the guise of “maintaining order.” For instance, they could only operate after 9pm, and before 1am -- making their primary customers those at bars, looking for a snack after a few drinks. (Sound familiar?) After restaurant owners complained about carts hurting their businesses, attempts were made by local politicians to raise their licensing fees or ban them completely. Despite that, the tamaleros were offering some of the most popular food in LA -- and any attempt at shutting them down was met with pushback from their fans.
By the 1940s, though, it wasn’t the city officials who sent the tamaleros to history books -- it was the car. “Pedestrian culture waned as automobile culture gained in popularity. People weren’t walking the streets to places, they were driving. So vendors got pushed off the sidewalks for decades,” Sarah Portnoy, professor at the University of Southern California and author of Food, Health and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, says.
Still, all those cars couldn’t run the trucks off the road for long.