Cultura en Austin welcomes guest blogger Efren Salinas, an Austin American-Statesman video journalist. Efren recently captured the vibrant life, cultura and community that buzzes inside a North Austin flea market. Check out his video, which was recently featured in our Growing Austin series, and get the behind-the-scenes story about how he discovered this cultural gem.
By Efren Salinas, Video Journalist
I was not looking for the city’s largest indoor flea market or "pulga" when I first went to the North Austin Event Center. I was actually there to cover a video game tournament being held in the event space next door, but I kept seeing people, mostly families, walking into the building. My curiosity was peaked and I walked over.
They had stores selling western wear, children’s clothing, athletic uniforms and luchador masks. Then I saw the eats! Cuban sandwiches, bistek tacos – well, I better stop because my stomach is already grumbling. I knew immediately that I wanted to try and capture the culture and energy present inside.
The interviews were the most fun for me. I spoke with Neftali Mejia, owner of Vaqueros Western Wear, who told me that when he first arrived in this country he was lucky to sell a pair of boots here and there. Years later, he would own and operate the largest western wear store at the pulga.
I also spoke to Doña Maria Ramirez Lopez, a woman who is past the age when most would have retired. She pushes a cart around the pulga selling classic treats – candied apples, "chicharones" and "cocadas" to name a few. Her daughters run a successful barbershop at the pulga as well.
In short, it was an opportunity for me to expose the Austin American-Statesman audience to a slice of Hispanic culture that might otherwise go unnoticed.