PORTLAND NEEDS WILLAMETTE WEEK.
NOW WILLAMETTE WEEK NEEDS YOU.

The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Food Cart Owner Receives Threats, Racial Slurs After Smashing Trump Piñata

The owners had to disconnect their telephones after a campaign of harassment.

The owners of Southeast Belmont Street food cart El Diablito have had to disconnect their telephones after a campaign of harassment, threats and racial slurs by Trump supporters from across the country.

The owners—who also make custom piñatas—had figured a good way to celebrate the Dec. 11 grand opening of their torta cart on Belmont would be to smash a piñata. And Erik Sandoval had the perfect one lying around: Donald Trump.

"I made a Trump piñata because I saw the other ones people were making and they were so ugly," he says, referring to the countless Trump piñatas that have been smashed in recent months. "I wanted to make something better than the other piñata makers."

In part, he was trying to drum up interest for his custom piñata business.

But he'd had the Trump piñata lying around for a few months, and so decided to use it for his food cart's grand opening.

KOIN 6 had put up a story about El Diablito's grand-opening plans before the Friday evening event. But after Sandoval received immediate harassment, KOIN agreed to take the story down because he feared for attendees' safety at his opening-night party.

Sample comment, from Eric Johnson of Johnson Automotive in Tyngsboro, Mass.:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 11.55.19 AM

But he says that a man posing as a KOIN reporter filmed the event, and posted the piñata-smashing on the Youtube channel "Laughing at Liberals."

From there, the story traveled to the Daily Mail in London and a host of conservative pundit sites.

On that video, a kid is shown cheerfully saying, "I want to kill him" before giving the Trump a good whack. Sandoval appeared as well, saying that the Trump piñata was not a political gesture. Another woman said that the piñata was about ending the cycle of hate.

Though there were many white people present, says Sandoval, the video is cut to show mostly Latinos.

"We were trying to do a grand opening and have a good time," says Sandoval. "Breaking a piñata has nothing to do with hate…but people feel the way they feel."

Sandoval is shown holding Trump's head after the piñata is smashed, which he says was edited by the fake reporter to appear malicious. "I was trying to shake out the candy," he says. "There's a lot of candy in the head."

"I started getting a lot of phone calls—insane things, 'fuck you, go back to Mexico,' There was racial stuff," Sandoval tells WW. "It's all been Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, mostly Republican states." He says he's received few calls from locals.

Meanwhile, the Yelp page for his cart's previous location on Northwest Quimby Street has filled with comments by people from across the country saying the food was terrible and that they got food poisoning. It's been closed since the middle of 2015.

"Service was horrible," wrote Chad H of Palo Alto of the closed food cart he didn't visit. "Food was like eating at a street cantina across the boarder. Very unkept."

"After eating there I got a stomach flu," wrote an apparently confused Victor A of Vancouver, Wash., about a nonexistent business. "Kitchen is very dirty, should of been a warning sign:("

"They said they got sick there and don't go here, and then there was a lot of racial stuff," says Sandoval. "They're probably not locals so they didn't know it didn't exist."

Willamette Week's review, when the cart was open, was more complimentary. "If this is the future of American lunch," we wrote about the cart's fusion take on tortas, "it's a good thing."

But even if much of the threats came from out of state, the harassment has taken its toll on Sandoval and his family.

"It turned out to be a nice evening," Sandoval says of his food cart's grand opening, "but the morning was pretty bad—horrible, even. You don't feel safe. I was thinking, I don't even want to go outside. I am a father, I have a family."