Friday, December 8, 2023

Oaxaca street vendor replaces Styrofoam with corn husks—and sales are up

Anyone with a hankering for a tasty snack served by an environmentally aware vendor should look out for “El Chuy” in downtown Oaxaca city.

Jesús Alvarado Carrera, better known by his nickname, sells elotes (corn on the cob) and esquites (corn kernels cooked in butter and topped with mayonnaise, chile and lime juice) in the zócalo, or central square, of the southern state’s capital.

Unlike most vendors, Alvarado doesn’t serve his esquites in Styrofoam cups anymore but rather on corn husks.

A native of Huautla de Jiménez, El Chuy told the newspaper El Universal that he started using corn husks last May, explaining that he was motivated to do so because he had heard a lot about the damage that pollution causes “to the seas, marine animals and ecosystems.”

Alvarado said his environmentally-conscious decision creates more work for himself because he has to get up early in the morning to cut and clean the corn husks.

But it’s been worth it: in addition to helping the environment, the Styrofoam substitute has proved popular among El Chuy’s customers.

“People say that [the esquites] taste better than with Styrofoam. [Corn husks] are very clean and they release a very sweet flavor,” Alvarado said.

His sales have also improved and despite the extra work he puts in, El Chuy continues to sell a serving of esquites at the same old price of 20 pesos (US $1).

Few if any other vendors in Oaxaca sell esquites on corn husks but they may soon be forced to follow Alvarado’s lead.

In September last year, the municipal government prohibited businesses that sell food from using Styrofoam and plastic but most street vendors ignored the ban and, according to El Chuy, authorities have done little to enforce it.

However, that could change because two weeks ago the Oaxaca state Congress passed a law that prohibits the sale, distribution and use of all disposable products made out of Styrofoam and plastic.

Municipal authorities have a period of six months within which they must ensure that the law is obeyed and establish penalties for non-compliance.

There will be no complaints from El Chuy, who has been selling his snacks in downtown Oaxaca for the past 15 years.

“. . . We have to create awareness [about the environment] among ourselves . . . the planet can’t wait any longer.”

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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