Popsicle vendor accused of cultural appropriation by Chicago community

Latino social media users target vegan popsicle, ice cream company Peachy of hurting local ‘paleteros’

A vegan popsicle and ice cream vendor has been pressured to stop serving its products in a public park due to some in the community who feel the brand’s use of a pushcart should be considered cultural appropriation.

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The company in question, Peachy, faced backlash from residents for its Saturday post on Facebook, which advertised the new cart would be present in Logan Square, according to local news outlet Block Club Chicago.

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“Today we officially launch Peachy Vegan Ice Cream ... and soon so be brick and mortar ice cream shop / cafe featuring quick vegan and vegetation focused food items in Logan Square,” the optimistic Facebook post read. “Today we’ll be in the park at the monument with this cart slangin’ Vegan Ice Cream Popsicles (today’s flavs are Peach and Strawberry)... non dairy, vegan, all organic ingredients ... locally made, small batch and home schooled. See you on the street!”

Instead of receiving support for its new business initiative, Peachy’s post received more than 2,400 comments and 3,000 shares at the time of publication, largely from social media users who think the company’s cart is too similar to a “paletero” – the Spanish job title for a popsicle street vendor that is commonly used in Mexico and Central America.

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Critics argued that Peachy’s choice to serve its products in Logan Square was equivalent to cultural appropriation, gentrification and hurt local paleteros who face obstacles already such as low wages and harassment from law enforcement over permits or citizenship status. The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly also strained conditions for these vendors of Latin American descent.

A COVID-19 Relief Fund dedicated to Chicago street vendors on GoFundMe was largely shared under the post. The initiative has raised more than $42,600 thus far.

FOX Business reached out to Peachy and its owner, John Lawrence Geary, for comment on the backlash but neither immediately responded at the time of publication.

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However, the company has published a lengthy news update on its website Tuesday.

“I'm surprised and saddened by all of the negativity that has developed over trying to sell ice cream from a push cart and start a small business, from a truly positive place in my heart. I had no intentions of offending, appropriating or insulting anyone, nor did i mean to take away from or encroach on existing paletas,” the statement reads. “I understand how treasured paletas are in the community as both real direct sources of income for individuals / families as well as a cherished cultural tradition. Push carts are part of many ethnic cultures all over the world. I am listening and hear the community feelings towards this … We will no longer be using the cart.”

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Additionally, the company wrote that its intentions were to provide “healthy, organic food accessible and affordable to everyone” and that “it's odd and terrible to read false reviews from people who've never tried anything from peachy.”

Cook County, Chicago's county, has a population of around 5.15 million, according to 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Of that number, 25.6 percent are said to be Hispanic or Latino, which is 3.4 percent less than the city of Chicago.

The median household income in Chicago was $55,198 as of 2018, the government agency reports.

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Gentrification in Hispanic and Latino communities has become an increasingly hot topic in the U.S. Netflix has recently renewed its comedy-drama “Gente-fied” for a second season. The fictional show explores the topic of gentrification through a Mexican American family.