Karla Burton’s story begins in 1998 when she was 8 years old. That’s when her parents brought her and her younger sister to Los Angeles from Honduras.
Raised in L.A., as a teenager she dreamed about life post-high school, but envisioned her destiny as an “undocumented” immigrant woman helping her mom clean houses. “I felt kind of scared because I didn’t know where my future was going,” Burton tells Yahoo Life.
That uncertainty coupled with a loss of identity made it difficult for Bruton to feel she belonged. “I have maybe, like, an identity issue,” she explains. “I grew up here. I wasn’t sure if I could identify as a person from Honduras … or an American.”
For many young immigrants, identity can be a struggle. They’re born in one country, are raised in the U.S., but don’t have ties to their country of birth. Home is America.
In 2012, when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was passed by the Obama Administration, 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 offered her the opportunity to get a driver’s license, a social security number so she could work, and it allowed her to live without fear of being expelled from the country. “That gave me a peace of mind that I wasn’t going to get deported,” she says.
Then, on July 2019, at 29 years old, Burton and her now husband launched their mobile business, Karla’s Coffee Cart, serving the Echo Park community of L.A., where she grew up.
The idea for the pink coffee cart was born after Burton saw a man bicycling around their neighborhood selling coffee. “If this guy can sell coffee off a bicycle,” she recalls thinking, “I can sell coffee, too.”
One of her most popular beverages infuses iced coffee with a sweet Latinx flavor: the Horchata Cold Brew, made of rice, milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. “You know, as Hispanics, we like our horchata,” Burton explains. “It became a beverage that people kind of started knowing Karla’s Coffee Cart [for].”
Burton’s business, like many small Latinx-owned brands, suffered a serious economic hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had to close temporarily,” she explains. Burton hasn’t been able to travel in her pink cart to serve her customers in more than six months.
To help supplement from the financial impact, she started a GoFundMe page. “That’s been such a blessing for us,” she says. “It’s so wonderful to see that many people want to help you.”
She’s moved by the generosity and kindness of her extended family — her customers. “Family for Latinos is very important,” she says, “and this has definitely shown me that it is for sure.”
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