MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – After Mexico City’s ‘Lady Tacos de Canasta,’ a street vendor featured in a Netflix series, stood up to police who she said harassed her on the street, she decided to take her fight for worker and LGBT rights to a bigger stage.
The 36-year-old, who goes by the name of Marven and identifies as Mexico’s ‘muxe’ third-gender, is now running for Mexico City’s congress, one of a bevy of newcomer candidates in midterm elections in June that will be one of the biggest in Mexico’s history.
“All my life I’ve been singled out for my sexual orientation and I’ve been persecuted for selling on public streets,” said Marven, wearing a brightly-colored traditional dress and snapping photos with diners at her small eatery in the capital.
“Why not fight, why not raise your voice?”
Born in the southern state of Oaxaca, Marven is of Mixtec origin and identifies with the neighboring Zapotec indigenous transgender tradition of muxes, who mix gay male and female characteristics.
She earned her ‘Lady Tacos de Canasta’ nickname after appearing in a video hawking soft, steamed tacos from a basket, or canasta, perched on her bicycle, turning heads with both her loud chant of “tacos de canasta, tacos!” and her colorful skirt.
Her fame took off when she starred in a segment of Netflix’s hit “Taco Chronicles” documentary in 2019, opening up about being muxe and the daily grind of traversing Mexico City’s streets as a taco vendor.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, police officers in the capital’s massive public square tried to confiscate her bicycle and basket, saying Marven’s sidewalk taco sales violated health measures.
She responded that she was just trying to earn a living. In the argument, which she and passersby chronicled on social media, dozens of her tacos went flying and scattered across the ground.
“I do not want anyone else to be humiliated for working honestly,” Marven said, recalling the incident that prompted her to open a small eatery serving Oaxacan food.
She also began crafting her candidacy to become a local lawmaker, vowing to protect the merchants of Mexico’s vast informal economy.
Backed by the fledgling Equity, Freedom and Gender political party, her name will appear on the ballot with her given and family name Juan Francisco Martinez alongside ‘Lady Tacos de Canasta.’
“It’s my way to show the world my gender duality,” she said.
Artists, athletes and beauty queens are also among the first-time hopefuls seeking to capitalize on their popularity to jump into politics.
Marven sees that as a good thing, saying that it could help break the power of traditional politicians she says are ineffective.
“We Mexicans are fed up, we need a real change,” she said.
(Reporting by Noe Torres, Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Rosalba O’Brien)