Meet the Latinx business owner who made her American dream come true, thanks to a pink coffee cart
Karla Burton's story begins in 1998 when she was 8 years old. Then her parents brought her and her younger sister to Los Angeles from Honduras.
Growing up in LA as a teenager, she dreamed of life after high school but imagined her fate as an “undocumented” immigrant helping her mother clean houses. "I was scared because I didn't know where my future was going," Burton told Yahoo Life.
This insecurity, combined with a loss of identity, made it difficult for Bruton to feel that he belonged. "I may have an identity problem," she explains. "I grew up here. I wasn't sure whether I could identify as a person from Honduras or as an American."
For many young immigrants, identity can be a struggle. You were born in a country, raised in the United States, but have no ties to your country of birth. Home is America.
Karla Burton started her coffee cart business in LA in 2019 (photo courtesy Karla Burton)
In 2012, when the Obama administration passed DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Burton's Futuro (future) smelled like the perfect blend of coffee and an American dream.
She describes DACA as the life changing movement she needed to build her business. It gave her the opportunity to get a driver's license and social security number so she could work, and it allowed her to live without fear of expulsion from the country. "That gave me the certainty that I would not be deported," she says.
In July 2019, at the age of 29, Burton and her now husband started their mobile business, Karla's Coffee Cart, which serves the LA Echo Park community where she grew up.
The idea for the pink coffee cart was born after Burton saw a man driving around the neighborhood selling coffee. "If this guy can sell coffee off a bike," she recalls, "I can sell coffee too."
One of their most popular drinks gives iced coffee a sweet Latinx taste: the Horchata Cold Brew made from rice, milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. "You know, as Hispanics, we like our horchata," explains Burton. "It became a drink that people knew Karla's coffee cart [for] for."
Burton's favorite drink is Horchata Cold Brew, which infuses coffee with Latinx flavors. (Courtesy photo by Karla Burton)
Burton's business, like many small Latinx-owned brands, suffered a severe economic blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We had to close temporarily," she explains. Burton has not been able to drive her pink car to serve her customers for over six months.
To add in the financial impact, she launched a GoFundMe page. "That was a great blessing for us," she says. "It is so wonderful to see that many people want to help you."
She is moved by the generosity and friendliness of her extended family - her customers. "Family is very important to Latinos," she says, "and that definitely showed me that it's safe."
Donate to Karla's coffee cart and support small businesses.
Read more from Yahoo Life:
Meet the "undocumented" and intrepid Latina who leads the immigration justice movement: "I'm here to stay"
Sisters design yoga mats with images of black women: "We saw a need for representation and inclusion in wellbeing."
Gabrielle Union went to therapy twice this week: "I'm not ashamed of it."
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