“Paleteros” in Dallas deals with the scorching heat during the hot weeks of summer

Without a cloud in the sky and the temperature at 102 degrees, a group of ballerinas or lollipop sellers prepare to sell frozen candy on the streets of North Texas.

“We go where the Mexicans and the Spaniards are,” said Basilio Hernandez, 39. He has been Paletero for 22 years and since 2014 owns the Paletería Delicias on West Clarendon Drive.

About 50 balleteros leave his shop every day. Some head to Fort Worth, others to Oak Cliff, and still others to parks in Dallas. Their best-selling products are “palletas,” or Mexican lollipops, made with real fruit and natural flavors like lemon, strawberry, kiwi or coconut. Prices range from $2 to $3 per lollipop, and on a good day, they can sell for up to $250.

Sweets offer a cooling alternative to heat. But Hernandez said that in the hot summer months, from June through September, their sales are not as high as one would think.

“Until the afternoon, when people get off work and it’s not hot anymore, they go outside to the garden, or water their plants, or go out for a run, and buy a pacifier from us,” Hernandez said. .

Despite everything, they work in the sun, in long-sleeved shirts and hats, from 2 to 9 p.m.

“The heat is intense and we are struggling. We drink a lot of water and electrolyte drinks so we don’t feel dehydrated,” Leonardo Germain Trigo, 53, said as he walked with a cart full of palitas. He’s originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, and has been Balletero for over 20 years. He walks with his buggy from Jefferson Avenue in the heart of Oak Cliff to Clarendon Drive every day.

One recent day, Trejo rode his carriage on Katherine Street and Hampton Road. He started early, 10:30 a.m. and expected to work until 9 p.m. every now and then, stopping under a tree, drinking a sip of water, and wiping the sweat off his forehead with a towel before putting on the cap again. .

“It’s hard, frankly, because we’re in the heat, but working in the fields over there (in Mexico) is harder than selling here. There’s dust and rain…Here, even if it rains, you can go and hide somewhere,” he said.

And while he was lying in the shade, he rang the bells in his chariot. Two people showed up.

“Right now, anything cool is a good thing. It’s just hot,” said customer Carmen Lara. She bought two popsicle sticks.

Three hours later, around 5 p.m., Trejo sold $70 worth of lollipops, for a profit of about $40. He still has four hours to work.

Meanwhile, in Duncanville, Manuel Maldonado, 32, is getting ready to start selling today. He preferred to work near sunset, but the thermometer still reads 102 degrees.

Paletero Manuel Maldonado (left), a 32-year-old ice cream seller from Paleteria Delicias in Oak Cliff, sells frozen dessert to Diego’s family in the Duncanville neighborhood during the hottest days of summer. Despite the sweltering temperatures, Paleteros continue to sell their frozen goods, including plates of fruit, by tricycle, July 8, 2021. Maldonado made a profit of $40 after working a few hours early in the evening in the sweltering heat.(Tom Fox/staff photographer)

“When it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you can see people looking after their yards, buying from you. But right now, look, no one can be seen.

But little by little, families and other permanent clients appeared. He named them Bassem while selling popsicles, mangonadas, or hot sauce snacks. And on TikTok, more than 23,000 followers know about his products on the account he set up earlier this year, where he regularly uploads videos.

Just like the mango carts in Los Angeles, the presence of balletreros has become a staple in Dallas. According to Hernandez’s estimates, there are currently about 300 Pleiteros roaming the Dallas-Fort Worth area, although the number is lower than it was years ago.

“The Balletero became part of the neighborhood,” Hernandez said. “They become a family, they make friends and they are welcomed, they are protected from thieves.”

Most mobile lollipop sellers work on their own. If anything happens to them while at work, they don’t have co-workers by their side who can help them. For example, if they fainted from the heat, they could only hope that someone from the neighborhood would help them.

“I almost got dehydrated,” said Elias Rico, 34, a Balletero native from Reynosa, Mexico. “It feels awful. You feel so dizzy… you feel like you are going to collapse.”

Working in temperatures as high as 100 degrees Tuesday afternoon, Rico was walking his lollipop wagon in Kest Park in Oak Cliff. For the past two weeks, temperatures have remained above 100 degrees, with warnings of bad weather.

Rico started selling lollipops in Dallas four years ago. During that time, the Balletero has had both good and bad experiences.

In addition to the risks associated with heat, street vendors are also exposed to burglaries and other risks. In late 2020, 53-year-old Jacinto Meirelles, a native of San Luis Potosi, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Oak Cliff. During the toughest months of the pandemic, others experienced financial hardship.

“I love my job but it’s very dangerous,” Rico said.

After pushing his cart uphill, Balletero Leonardo German Trigo, a 53-year-old ice cream seller...
After pushing his cart uphill, Paletero Leonardo German Trejo, a 53-year-old ice cream seller from Paleteria Delicias in Oak Cliff, hopped on his tricycle in the midst of the summer’s hottest day. Despite the sweltering temperatures, Paleteros continue to sell their frozen goods, including fruit bowls, by cart on July 8, 2021. Trejo made a profit of $40 after working 8 hours in the sweltering heat.(Tom Fox/staff photographer)

“I’ve been through some of everything,” said Ignacio Ramirez, 39. He was robbed three times in his more than 20 years working as a Balletero.

In the face of city dangers and heat, balleteros stay in constant contact with each other throughout the day, according to Ramirez.

Ramirez also said some police officers approached them to hand them reflective vests to increase their visibility to cars. Some also provided their contact information to Paleteros and made it clear that, even if they were undocumented, the police would help them if they were in danger.

As Paleteros prepares to go out to sell frozen candy, another group of workers remains in Paletería to prepare the lollipops for the days ahead. Hernandez helps customers who visit the store.

It’s a beautiful job for me,” Hernandez said. “It’s a tradition, and people are looking out for us.”

Rollo Trujillo, 4, eyes frozen candy in the Palletero cart Leonardo Germain Trigo at ...
Rollo Trujillo, 4, eyes frozen candy in Leonardo Germaine Trigo Balletero’s carriage in the midst of hot summer days. Trejo, an ice cream seller from Paleteria Delicias in Oak Cliff, was navigating the Oak Cliff neighborhood despite the sweltering temperatures, July 8, 2021.(Tom Fox/staff photographer)

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