California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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The Battle to Save “La Pulga”: San Jose’s Flea Market at Risk

Catherine Garcia
La Pulga, San Jose flea market

Right in the heart of San Jose, there’s a place that folks love – the San Jose Flea Market, or “La Pulga” as we fondly call it. But now, a big challenge is looming, and it’s got the community all fired up.

You might think this is just about saving a market. But it’s more than that. Behind all the colorful tents and haggling, this fight means a lot more. The San Jose Flea Market is like a living memory book, full of stories, cultures, and folks making a living. It’s a slice of the Bay Area’s history. Beyond the shopping, it’s where families come to bond, savor the tastes of home, and enjoy the diversity of their community. As we dig into why it’s under threat, what the vendors are saying, what the city is thinking, and how it could affect the whole region, you’ll see it’s not just a market on the line – it’s a piece of who we are.

In recent times, San Jose has been changing fast thanks to gentrification. With Silicon Valley booming, there’s been a building spree and property prices have shot up. But this has also caused divisions in our community. In the middle of all this change, “La Pulga,” the San Jose Flea Market, is hanging on. It’s been a special place where people from all backgrounds celebrate their cultures and find imported products. But with neighborhoods around it changing so quickly, no one knows what’s next.

Vendors and the community have joined forces to keep this cultural treasure alive. The city council even suggested setting aside 5 acres in a new development for an outdoor market. But things are still shaky. Developers, seeing the market’s prime spot near the BART station, want to expand. Since about 2021, a big tug-of-war has been happening. Flea Market Vendors, the San Jose City Council, and the developers behind the ‘Berryessa Bart Urban Village’ are at the heart of it. The big question is what happens to the San Jose Flea Market, a cultural gem.

The San Jose Flea Market, established by the Bumb family in 1960, has played a big part in keeping our region’s traditions alive. People come from all over the Bay Area to shop for crafts, international foods, clothes, and second-hand treasures.

For many vendors, the market is their livelihood, and it pumps money into our local economy. The Berryessa Flea Market Vendors Association has shared stories on their website about how the market helps their families.

NBC Bay Area says that back in June 2021, the San Jose City Council voted to change the rules for the flea market’s spot. In an interview with NBC Bay Area, Councilman David Cohen mentioned a $5 million fund to help vendors move. The ‘Berryessa Bart Urban Village‘ plans to mix homes and stores, markets, parks, and parking.

KQED states that the city council have encouraged the developers to continue this cultural landmark but ultimately it is the developers decision whether they will allow the flea market to continue.

San Jose Economy reports that property owners will not give eviction notices until 2024 giving vendors some time to plan and prepare for the closure

Community members have rallied in response, with petitions and other forms of engagement to save “La Pulga.” The ‘’ was created so that vendors had a voice and petitioned to be a part of the conversation regarding the rezoning project between the developers and city council.

I approached three vendors, the first of who were two men. One of them mentioned that he was unaware of the flea market’s impending closure and expressed lack of concern, stating he had other income sources. The second gentleman seemed less concerned, explaining that they had been informed about the closure three years in advance, providing ample time for preparation. 

The second vendor revealed that the market’s owners had instructed them not to comment on the situation, implying potential consequences if they did. When I asked the third vendor about the possibility of facing repercussions for commenting, they mentioned that while they hadn’t been explicitly told not to speak out, they had been advised to avoid making any statements to prevent complications, no further comments were made.

The market isn’t just a place to shop; it’s a living memory of the Bay Area’s different cultures and traditions. These markets bring together sellers from everywhere, offering all sorts of cool stuff that shows off the Bay Area’s diversity. Many vendors bring in things from other countries, so families can get a taste of home they can’t find in the US, helping them keep their cultural traditions alive.

The fight to save “La Pulga” isn’t just about a market; it’s about protecting a piece of who we are. As the community comes together and city leaders weigh their choices, the future of this cultural gem hangs in the balance. So, stay tuned, because losing “La Pulga” would mean a big change in the Bay Area’s culture.

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