LOS ANGELES: The Plaster Vendor, or how I spent my Sunday morning

TJ Plaster -- the Naked Woman

What’s nice about the Los Angeles of today is that you can go out a meet folks with worthwhile stories almost without trying.

I was in the area once called South Central L.A. (now South L.A.) and came upon a guy named Rogelio in a truck selling plaster statues to passers-by on Vermont Street: Snow White, bulldogs, snakes, Mickey Mouse, and this naked lady pictured here, among other things.

He buys them in Tijuana and brings them in.

I stopped to chat. He didn’t let me take his photo, but I shot other stuff.

He said sales of plaster was weak. “Enough to eat, but not well,” he said. “No meat.”

Rogelio is from Apatzingan, Michoacan. He was 16 in 1970 when he arrived in LA about 1 pm one day. He had a job by midnight.

Apatzingan is in Mexico’s Tierra Caliente, a particularly violent place, even before the latest nastiness. He went home a Plaster bulldog with furmonth ago to visit family. The police refer all problems to the local drug cartel — a pseudo-Catholic group of drug traffickers called the Knights Templar. Wonder how anyone would want to remain a cop under such conditions — or join the force at all.

At one corner, he said, there were two groups of headless bodies.

Still, he said he wants to return. This apparently has something to do with the fact that after 42 years in the country, he’s unable to find work that feeds anybody.

This, seems to me, is what LA is right now. If a Mexican immigrant has spent his time here learning new skills — English, welding, painting — he has a better chance of rolling with the economic bad times. But many people did not, assuming that the few skills they always had would be enough, as work had always been so plentiful that you could find a job in a few hours.

Those are the folks who are more likely to be leaving LA — some for other parts of the US, but mostly for Mexico, as it’s cheaper to be poor in Mexico, particularly if you have a place to live.

I told him about Craigslist as a place to put advertise his statues, and told him to give me a call if he needed help.

He said his daughter has a computer, but that maybe he’d call.




Filed under Business, California, Global Economy, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants

2 Responses to LOS ANGELES: The Plaster Vendor, or how I spent my Sunday morning

  1. samquinones

    CM — I think this will be the determining factor in those who stay and those who don’t and increasingly can’t afford the cost of LA living. I met a woman in Oaxaca who’d just returned with her son, leaving dad in Culver City working as a bus boy, because the family couldn’t afford a larger apartment and was outgrowing the one-bedroom place they’d been living in.
    But after years in LA – 22, I believe — she still hadn’t learned English, or any other skill besides domestic cleaning. It was easier to be poor in Mexico, where she had a house and no rent.

  2. C.M. Mayo

    Fascinating post, thanks Sam. Very interesting about Mexicans with English and other skills vs those without. I’ve been reading so much about the growing– and soon to be astromical– differences in opportunities for those who have access to Internet & use it and those who don’t / can’t. Although I wonder whether the real skill, when it comes to the Internet, isn’t familiarity /technical skills but simple curiosity and flexibility, because thr way we use it is sure to morph in ways we cannot even imagine. Craigslist, Couchsurfing, FB, TaskRabbit are all so bizarre from the point of view of, say, 1999. Wait until the likes of TaskRabbit gets to Mexico. And it will.

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