Growing up in LA: El Paletero

paletas.jpg I don’t see many paleteros in Palms. I’ve lived here nearly six years and remember hearing the familiar bells a handful of times. Warm weather without a paleta de lim√≥n (lime fruit bar) just doesn’t feel right.

Summer as a kid meant spending most of the morning and noon hours indoors away from the sun and unhealthy air. In the afternoon, I’d run out and play games with my siblings and neighbors. We played tag, baseball, kick the can, dodgeball, kickball, jump rope, basketball, etc.

With all the running around we did, our enthusiasm at the site of el paletero was never a surprise. The paleteros were always dark skinned Mexican men, not too young nor too old. They wore long sleeve shirts and baseball caps to protect their skin from the hot sun. Oftentimes, we’d bring out a tall glass of ice cold water. My mom and grandparents knew what it was like to work in the hot sun in the fields or in suburban yards.

I always asked for the same thing from el paletero: una paleta de lim√≥n (a lime fruit bar). I paid with money from my generous grandpa, also a fan of paletas. I always spent all of the money on 50 and 65 cents paletas for anyone present… or to save in the freezer for later.

We’d sit under our shady mulberry tree and try to eat our paletas before they melted and started dripping down out hands and arms. As soon as we were done, we’d watch off the sticky juice and get back to our games feeling refreshed and rested.

I need to spend more time in a neighborhood with lots of paleteros.

Photo by Jim Winstead.

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2 Replies to “Growing up in LA: El Paletero”

  1. I shot a short film a few years ago – a spoof of beer commercials – and for some “home video” segments got a paletero to pretend pull a bottle of beer from his cooler and sell it to me. I paid him by buying a ton of icy treats, plus a handsome ($2) tip.

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