Opinion: Don’t Gamble with Vendors’ Futures at the San Jose Berryessa Flea Market

The San Jose Flea Market, “La Pulga de San José,” is a 61-year-old cultural touchstone and economic juggernaut for millions of California residents. But, for Latinos, it is much more than a marketplace—La Pulga serves as a combination of a plaza and market that provides an irreplaceable recreational and civic space for our community. It is a vibrant Mercado that has given Latinos a cultural and economic foothold in a landscape that has largely ignored our existence.

For Latinos, the plaza and open-air markets are part of a rich history dating back thousands of years. For example, when the Spanish arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of Cortes' men, described with awe the vast and highly organized city markets, with products from every end of the Mesoamerica trade networks. The open-air selling continued—today, the plaza, Mercado, and "tianguis" street vending are an essential part of the urban fabric of Latin American cities.

In San Jose, our central plazas—St. James Park, Cesar Chavez Plaza—have been relegated to modern interpretations of public parks. La Pulga, in comparison, has emerged as an essential center of Latino civic life for over 60 years and is still going strong. La Pulga attracts visitors and vendors from every stratum of the economic spectrum and is especially critical for many of our region’s low-income, working-class and immigrant communities.

La Pulga is the largest open-air market in the U.S. and rivals the markets of Paris and Mexico City in scale and impact. In a typical year, it attracts more visitors than all of the Bay Area’s sports stadiums—combined. A recent historical analysis found “the only permanent outdoor attractions that draw a larger yearly attendance [in the U.S.] are the Disney and Universal Studios theme parks.”

But the Market and the families that depend on it are at risk due to new development plans. The Berryessa Urban Village Plan completely ignores the Flea Market, the cultural significance to our immigrant community, and the economic impact it brings to our city. Instead, the plans proposed will raze the Flea Market to make way for dull and unimaginative buildings with homes, shops, and office space, like many other parts of San Jose.

Recently, an announcement by city leadership and the Market owners was sent out to the press proclaiming the "saving of the Flea Market." The press release describes a 3.5-acre "public market" representing about 5% of the existing site or 11% of the actual Market's footprint. In reality, the 3.5 acres does not represent an increase in the open space initially planned on the site. Unless the Market goes vertical, the 3.5 acres would mean that roughly nine out of ten vendors would be displaced; a proposal, that as one vendor put it, is like "tearing down our home and putting up a tent instead."

Furthermore, details of this “public market” are nowhere to be found, including whether it will actually be public or simply publicly accessible private land (which is therefore not public), how many vending stalls would be included, and if the costs of the vending stalls would be comparable to today’s rents. If the intent is to save the Flea Market, then the city and land owners should say exactly how they will do so, with every vendor accounted for.

Furthermore, the plans were brought together without public input and without consulting or inviting the Flea Market Vendors Association to comment on this last-minute addition. This follows a pattern in which the city and land owner have railed to deeply engage vendors in the plans over the last two years. The city could have conducted direct outreach to vendors at the Flea Market as part of its Urban Village Plan process but chose not to do so.

Adopting a final plan now to eliminate all or most of La Pulga is yet another blow to the San José Latino community that is still reeling from the COVID pandemic. Furthermore, the closing of La Pulga comes at a time when our community is being fragmented and dismantled through the unrelenting wave of gentrification. San Jose’s Urban Village plans have produced few results over the last ten years, but La Pulga has put San José on the map and provided an economic stepping stone for tens of thousands of families.

As owners of the Bay 101 Casino, the Bumb family is used to gambling, but we urge the city not to gamble with the future of the Latino and immigrant community.

James Rojas is a Latino urban planner, community activists, and artists. For the past 30 years Rojas have been researching, and documenting the ways in which Latinos are transforming the US suburban environment to fit their needs.

Peter Ortiz is an East San Jose community leader and Trustee for the Santa Clara County Board of Education. He has been a longtime advocate for Latino and immigrant owned community businesses.

Opinions are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].


  1. stop this now!!! , put the development elsewhere, it nostalgia on my since childhood. there’re other area need pathetic development. but leave the flea market alone!!

  2. What about the bart station? We paid all that money in taxes so it just sits next to an empty lot on weekdays?

  3. You aren’t going to see all the vendors fit into 3.5 acres at the same costs.

    You likely will see an upscale “farmers'” market or upscale mall “market” there.

    Or if there are more offices, which people want instead of housing, a food court.

  4. nostalgia of my mind since mid 90s bring back a lot memories and these people want upscale farmer market or pathetic mall.

  5. I can’t believe this is happening huge blow, who ever decided to come to this project, they have no idea nostalgia memorable moment. I am mad, this developer are stupid, wish I could do witch craft on them.

  6. Private property is private property.

    If the owners of the property want La Pulga to move, La Pulga must move. No communist and or socialist land-grabs.

    La Pulga has too many ancillary fees and crossing Berryessa from the parking lot is unsafe.

    “Gentrification” and upscale Markets will be an improvement.

    The Capitol Flea Market will have to do.

    David S. Wall

  7. huh because they are gringo they gentrification la pulga, look at “Shipshewana auction & flea market” or ” Daytona flea & farmer market” white supremacy take over.

  8. “Private property is private property.” And White settler colonial theft is White settler colonial theft.

    The very private land now owned by those Bumbs was part of a Berrelleza (Berryessa) family holding from the era of Spanish/Mexican California, and that was literally stolen from them by way of intimidation, squatting and outright murder. A total of 8 Berrelleza family members–all men–were murdered by Anglo settlers intent on gaining control and ownership of the Almaden mercury mines and other tracts of land owned by family members, including the one sitting under the Berryessa San Jose Flea Market (La Pulga) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berryessa_family_of_ California; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berryessa,_San_Jose).

    After U.S. occupation of California in 1848-1849, the authorities, including the U.S. Land Commission and the courts decisively sided with members of the “superior” race. One historian put it this way: “The native Californians suddenly surrounded by a strange population, strange laws, a strange language, strange customs, and strange industries, were virtually deprived of the bulk of their wealth, and then compelled to raise money to defend themselves against complete spoliation by the government. . . . Nor did the trouble and expense come to an end when he had gained his case in the Land Commission. As boundaries as well as titles were in dispute, the Americans who wanted to buy farms. . . were afraid to pay for deeds in which they could have no confidence. Under compulsion [of landowners, that is]. . . they became squatters, that is they seized and occupied as their own, land claimed under Mexican grant. Having once made their settlement, they acquired interests which they defended in the courts. If they could defeat the Mexican grants they could acquire the land for a trifle. They were numerous, and became a political power. . . . There were squatter governors, squatter legislatures and a squatter press.” (John S. Hittell, The History of the City of San Francisco and Incidentally of the State of California pp.181-182. See https://archive.org/details/ahistorycitysan00hittgoog/page/n188/mode/2up and https://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=Mexican_Land_Claims%E2%80%94The_U.S._Land_Commission_and_The_Burden_of_Proof,_1851-1854)

    Do these sound like communist or socialist land grabs to anyone? Hole in the David S. Wall had to choose this particular parcel to obfuscate and bloviate? Wall (and by implication Kulak himself) comes out of this one with his foot firmly in his mouth and his finger firmly in his anus.

  9. >“Private property is private property.” And White settler colonial theft is White settler colonial theft.

    Oh man, this comment is really rich. I laughed.

    So let’s start with who thefted from who. Way back, like 1600’s is when the Spaniards started invading Central America and Mexico, there was people living here before. 250 years later did all those people die? Were they raptured by Jesus? No, eventually everyone sort of intermixed to become Mexican.

    During this time the Spanish held the area between Tejas and Baja. Juniper Serra founded the missions along what is now the El Camino. Tejas didn’t have much going at the time other than extreme weather, bugs, and dry land everywhere. They invited “Anglo” Americans to come live there.

    200 years later, Mexico decided “We want to be our own country!” and started fighting with Spain. They were mad that so many people in Tejas spoke English. They basically told the people of Tejas who had lived there for generations, “Speak Spanish or GTFO” They started harassing the Tejan’s and killing them (Alamo)

    Eventually Tejans, and America in general got tired of the crap and decided it was time to push back. Now, a lot of Mexicans like to say, “NO IT WAS BIG BAD PRESIDENT POLK! HE JUST WANTED THE LAND” but in all honesty you look at the conflicts leading up to it, Mexico had it coming. Granted, I admire the Mexicans, scrappy people that don’t know when to back down from a fight.

    Unfortunately when you’ve depleted all your resources fighting the Spanish, and you decide to pick a fight against a juggernaut like the US, you’re not going to have a good time. So from 1846 to 1848, the US Army had quite the decisive victory over Mexico. What’s interesting about this though is both sides had deserters that went to the other side (about 8%) So you had Americans running to Mexico to avoid fighting, and Mexicans running to the US to avoid fighting. More racial intermingling. Finally though the first treaty, Treaty of Cahuenga was signed, almost 250 years after the Spanish invaded Central America.

    The Native Americans were screwed out of their lands by technologically superior foes, but claiming that “THOSE DIRTY ANGLO SAXONS STOLE IT FROM MEXICANS 2 YEARS AFTER THE WAR” is dishonest. Mexico stole it from Natives. Mexico gave that land to the US as part of the peace treaty after getting decisively beaten for 2 years, meaning that Mexican Nationals no longer had any claim to the land.

    If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at Santa Anna for being such a terrible general. Be mad that General Castro couldn’t keep his mouth shut which lead to the creation of the “Bear Army”

    One last little quip here, even before the US took these territories, Mexico was already considering selling Native American lands to the highest bidder, or at least giving it to the US to pay off debts from their war with Spain… So stop your tears, neither the Mexicans nor the “Angelos” as you call them had any right to steal the native American lands, but they did anyways.

    “In 1842, the U.S. minister in Mexico, Waddy Thompson Jr., suggested Mexico might be willing to cede Alta California to the U.S. to settle debts, saying: “As to Texas, I regard it as of very little value compared with California, the richest, the most beautiful, and the healthiest country in the world … with the acquisition of Upper California we should have the same ascendency on the Pacific … France and England both have had their eyes upon it.””


  10. What is going on here in San Jose is they don’t care about the poor they just care about getting this town richer and richer where would they place the vendors if they make apartments and houses there ..this is not right go make apartment somewhere else I am a 57 year old woman been going there since I was a very young child this is our only entertainment here in San Jose that people love going to buying items vegetables and fruits and miscellaneous…

  11. Reading Mr.Facendos Historical time line was inspiring and a Joy to read.It is not often outside of Academia do you read such an accurate description of California History as Experienced by both the Mexican and the Chicano.Thank You very Much Mr.Facendo for your submission.
    It never fails to astound me Whites are so deluded with the Idea of their superiority that they think if they just choose to disagree with a position that it somehow relegates the opposing position to opinion and not reality.On what authority does Whites believe they can dispute the actual concrete empirical story he is told about the myriad ways his savage brutal inhumanity has effected others??Since he is NOT Mexican Nor Native on what basis is he disputing what a Native or Mexican is telling him??He read a book??Someone told him something and it sounded right so now he is such an authority on the Native Mexican Chicano Experience??The California Education system is complicit in the perpetuation of these Crimes against humanity that have NEVER EVER been reckoned with.The Mission System Colonization,The Decapitations yes Whites were literally paid by US government $5 per head.25 cents per scalp.From 1849-1851 that San Jose served as the 1st state capitol 1million dollars was paid out by this government to savagely Decapitate Natives and Mexicans.This is where we get the term BOUNTY HUNTER.It was from that time period.
    Peter Burnett was Installed as First Governor of California.He was a Racist Slave Owner who went first to Oregon with the romanticized Overland Party.He was also a lawyer who defended Joseph Smith in a trial the founder of Mormonism.Burnett in his inaugural adresse January 6 1851 given here in San Jose reads”The War of Extermination of the Indian is to be expected.Although it is with great regret it is beyond mans will or methods to avert”
    San Jose in 1930s named a school after this man that stood unchallenged til 5yrs ago when name was removed.Guess someone stop believing what they were told and did some research.Study Burnett he was also a MASON.Thomas Fallon(the statues of man on horse by san pedro square) Also a Mason so was Leland Stanford(Burnett and Stanford were co authors of “Chinese Exclusionary act of 1882″Judge Lawrence Archer (advised them on Railroad Policy complicit in supporting Chinese Act as well as noted for being the first man in the county to force women and children to work the orchards that we know today as “Kelley Park” named after his wifes daughter.Story rd. Used to be named Archer rd but was removed.)
    James Reed(yes that Reed st.)fought along side Abraham Lincoln in 1830s in Wars called ” Black Hawk Wars” after the Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk Indians of Illinois.Reed massacred the Sauk indians forcefully inhumanely removing Sauk to join other tribes in what became “The Trail of Tears of 1832″He too was a Mason.Masonic Lodge 10 was established here in San Jose under a charter from the Grand Lodge in Missouri.They established themselves as the government masquerading as Americans.Reed also murdered a man on his way over here as well.He was married to a Donner ( Yes that Donner Party)whose Daughters names are
    Virginia Martha Margaret Keyes.So women who were the beneficiaries of Reeds participation in Sauk wars and forced them on Trail of Tears??
    I said all this to say that Whites have been taught by California Pioneers, April Haberstadt,and so many others, these Romanticized, sanitized versions which speaks to the fact that they know these histories are filled with crimes against humanity that rivals the Jewish Holocaust. No one objects when the Jews speak of what happened to them.The Santa Clara Board of supervisors Joe Simitian openly acknowledge the Genocide that happened in Europe to Albanians 100yrs ago, yet will never speak a whisper about the Genocide that happened right here in San Jose and the Genocide that built Leland Stanfords wealth the became Palo Alto Stanford University.Stanford is the Largest Private Land Owner in the county!All built on Asian Hate Crime and the enslavement of Chinese.
    The Bumb Family is a primary beneficiary of these Histories and they are aware of that educated people in community have connected all the dots we know those histories because of our Ancesteral connection to them.We are Chicano.We are Mexican.We are Native.What that means is that of ALL the places in the world he could choose to place us it was California that he chose for those 3 groups by divine appointment.WHAT AN HONOR.It is the Whites who know their History as well and how that land and resources was acquired.What was done to the Berryessa Familia is never ever mentioned.That is the reason for their Silence.We know Our Histories and can legitimately confront its provenance.Their silence demonstrates an acknowledment of their complicity to PROFIT from the Massacre of the Beryessa Familia.
    2 million is an insult to every single person who worked to create the wealth generated by Flea Market.The land was worthless without the Mexicans.We gave the Flea Market its Character Personality creating something enduring honorable noble as Mexicans were exceptional stewards who responsibly with integrity and dignity “worked the land”Because Bumb Family is in possesion of a piece of worthless paper that was produced as a result of Massacring an entire family??really ??Owners??What does that mean in this context??We have been brainwashed bamboozeled cajoled fooled conned into believing that Man can OWN land??How??Only by Force.As a Mexican , California Native Mission Indian (Diegueno Kumeyaay)as a Proud Chicano from the Horseshoe Hijo de los Campesinos de Sal Si Puedes I dont need a paper registered with the County that will be enforced at Gun Point by a Sheriff.I was given this land by divine appointment something the Whites have never ever had in this country.Where have the Whites gone in this country that they did not take by force of Gun Law Chicanery Duplicity??So because he has no country of Orgin he will arrogantly violently deny those who do??
    I was born in this City Descended from The Fields of Sal Si Puedes and Cesar Chavez Raised in the Horseshoe.Thats worth more then money.I have a birthrighted connection to land.Bumb Family has one built on Murder of an entire Mexican Family???which is Legitimate…you decide.I already know the answer..

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