By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
(One minor glitch: Records maintained by the Secretary of State's office in Tallahassee indicate the association was legally dissolved in 1989. Informed of that fact, Faura says he is in the process of re-registering. "I have been acting in the name of the association, trying to get things done for vendors," he says. "But we didn't start collecting dues until about six weeks ago. And believe me, they come in real slow.")
A female character in a Mexican soap opera screams melodramatically from a television set atop a filing cabinet, and Faura signals to his nephew Luis to turn down the volume. The silence lasts only a moment, whereupon Amado Yaber steps through the door, his bulk filling the remaining space in the tiny office. The two men begin a discussion that quickly grows heated.
"We can't have two carts in that area," Faura says. "No me jodas." Don't fuck with me.
"You've got to talk to her," Yaber insists.
"I already did. I told her I want her out of there. Just find her another place!"
Yaber whirls and departs, and Faura endeavors to decipher the conversation: These days Faura operates only one cart in downtown Miami, on Flagler Street. His company, Vend-Carts, sells and repairs carts. "I used to fight a lot downtown, but not any more," he says. Now he leaves the hard work in the area to his friend Yaber. "He deserves whatever money he makes," Faura laughs. "He's like a Cuban Jew."
Yaber, however, is storing and transporting the cart of a woman who has angered Faura by competing against him. "I've got a problem with a girl who's set up across the street from my cart," he says. "But she's going to be moved away from there."
And indeed, the very next day the spot outside the Dade County Public Library is empty, abandoned by Mitzy Reinoso and her husband Richard, who recently purchased their hot dog cart. Amado Yaber has helped them choose a new spot blocks away.
The Reinosos spent only a week in their first location. Faura, they say, came by on the first day and told them to move on. "He said we were taking business away from his cart across the street," Mitzy Reinoso recalls. "I tried to explain to him that we were in an official spot and that we had obtained all the necessary licenses. He began screaming at us, saying that if we didn't leave, we would regret it. He offered to sell me a spot in another place for $7000. I mentioned the map again, and he said, 'The map isn't going to help you because I helped make it.'"
Reinoso says Faura claimed to be a good friend of DDA planner Henry Johnson. "He said that he was going to go straight to DDA and that Henry Johnson would have us removed. Johnson showed up a week later and asked us to leave. He said the police didn't want us there."
Faura admits that he spoke to the Reinosos, but denies he screamed at them, told them to get lost, or offered to sell them another spot. "Henry Johnson asked her to leave," Faura maintains. "There are too many people downtown. [Johnson] decided to remove that spot. The map was already printed, so they couldn't take it off, but it no longer exists." He did not, he adds, assist in the creation of the DDA map, nor did he tell the Reinosos that he had. "I gave my opinion to Henry about some of the locations that I thought were bad, including the one across the street from my cart," Faura explains, "but I didn't have any role in deciding where to put them." Faura also denies that he told the Reinosos that Johnson was his friend.
Henry Johnson denies that he ever asked Reinoso and her husband to leave what he describes as a viable location. "I did speak to her," he says. "I asked her if she had a problem, but I did not tell her she had to go. As far as I'm concerned, whoever gets to the spot first each day can stay there. But she asked me about other spots and said she was going to check them out." He confirms that Faura asked him to talk to Reinoso and her husband, and says the city's map was created by his department and Public Works, with no input from Faura. "People ask me to mediate disputes all the time," he adds. "And people sometimes blame me for the problems. It doesn't bother me."
The Reinosos remain bitter about the incident. "This business is controlled by a group of people who have been here in downtown for years and will do whatever they have to to monopolize it," Mitzy Reinoso says. "This is a small Mafia."
Dominga Rivera, who worked one of Amado Yaber's carts for six years before going it alone last year, says that in the beginning Yaber paid her only twenty percent of her take. "You can't earn anything at that rate," she patters with a slight lisp. "I remember when I started, I was making an average of eight dollars a day. Amado knew I didn't have my [work] documents and that I wasn't going to complain. And if you did complain, he would scream at you."