Subway Churros: The Black-Market Economy Behind These Treats in Today’s Village Voice


Ever wonder what the story is behind the people selling two churros for $1 on many of New York City’s subway platforms? So did Hannah Palmer Egan, and so she set out to talk to vendors and bakers who keep these treats stocked all over town.

Palmer Egan’s tale follows churros from the Harlem bakery where they’re made to the platforms where they’re sold to commuters, detailing the back stories of the undocumented immigrants for whom this is a way of life.

Consider the story of Ernesto, one of the vendors:

Ernesto (not his real name), who entered the U.S. illegally from Riobamba, Ecuador, is selling Julio’s treats at the Myrtle-Wyckoff L stop. A young man approaches. “Two for $1!” Ernesto says cheerily in accented English. The man opts in, and Ernesto is $1 richer. At the going rate, churros are the cheapest pastries around–a far cry from the $50 black-market cronuts on Spring Street. If he sells his daily quota of 300, Ernesto will take home $80 for a 12-hour day. He does this seven days a week.

Follow the path of the treats in Egan’s complete story of the black-market churro economy.