"I Just Gave You the World"

Photographer and author Tiburon tells one of his childhood stories, remembering an Indian ice cream vendor who would come to his neighborhood. Along the way they formed a connection through similarities of their original homelands of Mexico and India.

It must have been when I was about 10 years old when I'd rush out of my house at the sound of the ice cream truck, nearly losing my balance going down the stairs every single time. We lived an almost exclusively Mexican immigrant apartment complex, and word would spread quickly of the Indian ice cream man’s arrival. You can just hear my brother calling "lla llego! lla llego!" he is here, he is here, as we rushed out trying to beat our neighbors across the hallway.

My goal was always to get the Worldwide Wrestling Foundation (WWF) ice cream bar with the random collectible card they came with in hopes that I'd get my favorite wrestler, the heartbreak kid Shawn Michaels. I remember practicing for hours the "sweet chin music" move all the time in hopes it would come in handy at some point in my life. The ice cream man was a very nice man, always happy, giving us kids ice cream for what ever change we had.

I always came short atleast 25 cents for a bar that cost a dollar, and every single time he would let it slide. The ice cream man’s signature move was to look at the change in your hand, give you a skeptical look, shrugging his bushy eyebrows together folding the wrinkles around his eyes making you think that he wasn't going to take what you had for the ice cream, followed with a genuine smile while he handed you the ice cream. The ice cream man had a long beard, the longest I have ever seen to date. We always thought it was a mysterious thing to have a beard that long. The beard went along with his accent, it was like nothing we had ever heard, so at times it was hard to understand him, but we got used to it.

My neighborhood was and still is full with kids running around, this is probably the reason why street vendors love my neighborhood.Street vending is very common in Mexico as well as in India. Walking through these countries more impoverished areas you can buy just about anything on the streets without having to step in an actual store. My neighborhood seems to be a street that all sorts of ethnicities meet through street vending.

The ice cream man always stood out to me because he was the one who always tried to talk to us and knew just about all the neighborhood kids by names or nicknames, he was even learning spanish from talking to us all the time. This sort of treatment only came from other migrants, the other Ice cream truck guy stopped coming by my neighborhood because he wasn't friendly he seemed to hate his job, and not only that his prices where ¢25 higher.

I still don't know why I never asked for his name. One day I asked why he would always let us get away with paying less than what the ice cream costed. His response was, "If you saw where I came from, I just gave you the world." At that age, I didn’t understand what he meant. Now, I am guessing that he, like my own family, grew up in a place and time of poverty and struggle. And that it is a joy to be in a time and place that he can give a young boy his favorite ice cream.

This piece is part of an on going multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's Immigrant Integration in Silicon Valley project.

About Octavio Martinez

Octavio Martinez head shot
Octavio Martinez is a photographer and journalist based in the Bay Area. Growing up, he spent many years navigating various scenes, but gravitates towards subcultures and countercultures. His lifestyle allows him to first-hand document what many have only heard of.

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