On Father’s Day, Cynthia Gonzalez was enjoying an alley cookout with her family in the 83-degree heat when Del Real came by and asked if anyone would care to buy a paleta, she said.
Gonzales, along with Michaelangelo Mosqueda and several other family members, decided they could do better than buy just one pop apiece.
They opened their wallets and bought every paleta in Del Real’s cart — 65 of them, at a cost of $130. Then they recorded a video of Del Real’s joyful reaction and posted it on TikTok.
Mosqueda’s post quickly racked up more than 5 million views, he said, prompting him and the Gonzales family to set up a GoFundMe for Del Real in the hope of helping him to retire. In about a week, the effort has raised more than $62,000, and comments have poured in from tens of thousands of people:
“The paleta man was KING to us kids in Chicago!!!!” wrote one woman. “Miss those days. Bless you guys!”
“It’s heartbreaking that he has to work at this age. I’m so glad you did this for him,” wrote another.
“This made my heart fill up with so much happiness! I cried tears of joy to see his humble reaction,” added a woman in her 20s. “So proud of you for doing this.”
Thanking everyone who chipped in, Mosqueda said the Gonzales family had purchased all of Del Real’s paletas so he could go home and relax on a hot day.
“My grandfather just finished retiring this past year and to see Don Rosario out there pushing the cart day in and day out, we just felt like we needed to do something to help him,” Mosqueda told Block Club Chicago.
“The money raised will hopefully allow him to no longer have to work in the heat,” he said. “I intend to withdraw the money and personally deliver it to him.”
Gonzales said one of Del Real’s granddaughters is working with her family to surprise him with a check.
“Our local paletero is the sweetest, most polite person ever,” said Gonzales. “We didn’t want him to be working on such a hot day anymore.”
As she and the others bought all of the ice pops in his cart, Del Real started crying, she said.
“You could see the relief in his face,” said Gonzales. “He gave me the warmest hug when he was thanking us, and he even got on his knees. We offered him some food and something to drink, and he left with the biggest smile on his face.”
At a time when Chicago is dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic and unrest related to racism and police violence, Gonzales said, the “coming together” of thousands of strangers to help a neighborhood paleta man has been heartwarming.
“I can’t wait to see Rosario’s reaction when we surprise him with the money,” she said. “He deserves that and more.”