It’s not rush hour, but Catalina Soriano Salas is busy wrapping tamales in foil and ladling cups of arroz con leche into styrofoam cups at her cart outside the 191 Street subway station in Washington Heights.
Closer to St. Nicholas Ave. is her husband, Juan Alejandro, who slices oranges and squeezes fresh juice for morir sonando — a sweet drink that consists of orange juice and evaporated milk over ice that is translated as “to die dreaming.”
Their son, Juan Jr., 10, keeps an eye out for bees, swats a few with a towel before retiring to the front seat of their Ford Explorer to watch a video on his phone.
For the last year or so, the 1 station has been home of Catalina’s Champurrado. Before that, Soriano, 43, would wake up at 3 a.m., cook, leave by 8:30 and push her carts through the streets until early afternoon, selling champurrado — a thick chocolate and corn drink — and other goods, and ducking back home again when she ran out to cook again.
“It was totally exhausting,” Soriano said, speaking through an interpreter. She did that for seven or eight years.
She now sets up camp outside the subway station, with a shopping cart full of coolers, plates and utensils to feed her hungry customers.
Soriano is one of about 2,000 street vendors that are members with the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for street vendor rights. She’s competing in next month’s Vendy Awards on Governor's Island. The annual street food competition, now in it’s 11th year, is holding a street drinks category for the first time.
Catalina’s Champurrado is up against four other street drink vendors that have websites and social media pages.