Whittier taco truck operator arrested after allegedly vandalizing competitor’s stand

A taco truck in Hesperia in 2020
Taco stands and loncheras — like this one pictured in Hesperia in 2020 — face intense competition for available public space.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

A lonchera operator drew widespread derision on social media after sheriff’s authorities said he attacked a street vendor on Thursday, allegedly angry that the taco seller set up near his self-appointed usual “spot.”

Deputies in Whittier on Friday arrested Carlos Plascencia, 37, on suspicion of pouring water onto the cooking fires of the Tacos La Guera stand and dousing its wares with a fire extinguisher. Social media videos of the vandalism went viral online and led to an outpouring of support — and instantly longer waiting lines — for Tacos La Guera.

The incident highlighted one of the many challenges facing the murky, often self-governing world of street vendors in Los Angeles County: a climate of competition over available public space to establish a clientele that often pits taco sellers and other street-food vendors against one another.

Armed robberies are another common risk.

Sgt. Marcelo Ortega of the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station said Plascencia was identified by the department and arrested at home. “Based on the report, he stated that that was his spot, and he told the victim to pretty much leave his spot,” Ortega said.


The incident occurred around 6 p.m. Thursday at Mulberry Drive and Mills Avenue in unincorporated South Whittier.

Tacos La Guera, which sets up at multiple locations throughout L.A., began preparing for a first night of selling tacos al pastor in South Whittier when the attack occurred, according to Maria Aguilar, who has been posting about the incident on TikTok and is assisting the owners of La Guera with media relations.

In the videos that circulated online, a man in a white T-shirt is seen first pouring water into cooking drums and then setting a fire extinguisher to them. The taco-stand workers try to avoid any further confrontation, the videos show.

A separate selfie-style video shows what appears to be a man dressed like the man in the clips, showing the same location, approaching the stand again. “So I turned off this fire,” the unidentified man says in the Instagram video. “Big whoop.”

Comments on the account are withering. “Up your game and make better tacos,” one commenter posted. “Don’t be hating. Room for everyone. Cheap shots you did. We don’t be doing that in Whittier.”

In response, Tacos La Guera received an outpouring of support when it returned Friday night. Social media food influencers have converged on the corner, posting messages of encouragement while ordering tacos, burritos, mulitas and quesadillas.

One of them is Jimmy Borunda, known as Jimmy Saucez, a food influencer and taquero who said his initial reaction to the video was sadness and anger. Borunda described the street-taco dynamic as intensely competitive.

“I know from first-hand experience what that’s like,” Borunda said. “You pull up somewhere, or next to somebody, and they just start giving you dirty looks, the comments. ‘Hey man, el sol sale pa’ todos [the sun shines on everyone].’”

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He said the clips from South Whittier made him cringe. “People think they just put meat on the grill, and no, no, there’s so much behind it. It’s hours of work, not minutes. Just throwing out the food alone — es un pecado, it’s a sin!”

Aguilar said lines at La Guera this weekend have been extreme as locals come out to support the vendors who were attacked. “They’re like DMV lines,” she said.

Authorities urged supporters to stay safe. “Since the video gained popularity on social media, a large crowd has formed in support of the taco vendor who was victimized,” the Norwalk station Twitter account said. “We remind supporters to do so safely.”