When TikTok started gaining popularity, Jesus Morales, like many other young people, decided to create original content to post on the social media platform.
What he did not expect is that in a very short time he would become an influencer and a guardian angel for many street vendors in California.
The 24-year-old said that after being fired from his job at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, he decided to use his free time to create funny videos. His followers increased, but the results didn’t really make him happy.
He felt something was missing.
Then he started watching other TikTok videos with a purpose: people leaving large amounts of tips in restaurants and another showing a young woman giving money to street vendors. The influencers indicated that the money was mainly from donations from their followers.
“I made a video asking for donations to help the homeless,” said Morales, whose name on social media is @Juixxe, a play on his nickname Juice.
And it worked. He received some donations, which he used to buy food and water for people experiencing homelessness.
His target, however, was the Latino immigrant community.
Morales, who is the son of Mexican immigrants, was born and raised in Illinois and moved to San Diego a few years ago. He lived in Los Angeles for a year and noticed a high number of street vendors.
Most of them are older and undocumented, he recalled. This really hit close to home as he remembered the daily struggles of his parents.
“My dad worked multiple jobs and my mom was a server and she would tell me that sometimes people would tip her pennies,” Morales said.
To honor the hard work of immigrants he began working on videos with a purpose: the money raised from his followers would be used to search for random street vendors to give it to them.
Blessings from strangers
Morales has distributed more than $90,000 in donations to street vendors throughout California but primarily in Los Angeles. He said his followers have donated anywhere from a few dollars to $1,000 in a single transaction.
Juixxe distributes the money once or twice a week, depending on the amount it collects.
He has a peculiar way of delivering the money. He asks to buy all their merchandise and when the sellers accept, Morales offers them money. He usually hands them $1,000 in an envelope and tells them to keep the merchandise.
It is very common to see on the videos street vendors shocked with the news, eventually thanking him for the gesture and sending blessings to his followers.
Some even kneel in amazement.
Morales said that these types of videos have filled him with inexplicable joy.
“I do not know (the sellers) nor do I know what they are going through,” Morales said, “I would not say that I come at a perfect time, but it is a visit with a purpose.”
A full-time job
A few months into the TikTok video creating, Juixxe made it his full-time job. Now he has more than a million followers and his videos have thousands of views. It is from these views that he receives his salary as well as from sponsors.
“Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be doing TikTok for living,” Morales said. “The interaction with the sellers takes a little time and I can do the editing of the video in about 20 or 30 minutes.”
Morales said after handing over the donation to the sellers, he waits a few days or weeks to post the video on social media. He also makes sure to cover the faces of the street vendors who appear in the videos. All of this is done for their safety.
“I would hate any street vendor to be targeted and be robbed,” said Juixxe, who travels once or twice a week from San Diego to Los Angeles to deliver to those most in need.
Morales has always wanted to make these kinds of videos but had to overcome his fear of failure.
“You know you have to fail to be successful,” he said, “and I have failed many times in my life. This is the only thing I can say that I have not failed.”
This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.