Mutual aid fund assists struggling flea market vendors in Brownsville

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Many small businesses across the Valley are slowly recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, one forgotten group of vendors is finally getting help as they make a comeback.

Every weekend, Valley residents visit the 77 Flea Market in Brownsville to eat, shop or get out of the house for a while.

But when the coronavirus shut down the market for six months, vendors like Ricardo and Maria Mireles were devastated.

“My wife likes to come and sell,” Mireles said. “Sometimes we don’t have enough to pay the bills, so we have to work a little more.”

While other businesses were allowed to open under city orders, the 77 ‘Pulga’ was forced to stay closed.

But unlike other businesses, no relief came their way.

That’s why Martha Mercado and her friends created the 77 Pulga Mutual Aid Fund.

“The PPP loan, or any small business relief package,” Mercado said. “It’s very common for the pulga vendors to be excluded.”

So far, they’ve raised more than $6,000 to help people like the Mireles family make ends meet.

Mercado said the goal is to raise $10,000 to distribute at least $200 to each applicant.