Tag Archives: vendors

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

LOS ANGELES: Valentine’s sales

Maria, Valentine's Day vendor, Santa Monica & Western, LA

I was coming out of an interview this afternoon and headed to lunch when I came upon a vendor named Maria, from the town of Mitla, Oaxaca, selling Valentine’s flowers and gifts at Santa Monica and Western.

We had a long chat, after I bought some flowers. As festive as Maria and the women selling with her looked, Valentine’s Day to them was less about love than desperation.

After 25 years in the United States, working as a maid, Maria told me she’s been without domestic work for months. Her construction-worker husband is down to only a couple days work in the best of weeks.

So a few days ago, she and a battalion of women went downtown to the Toy District for Hello Kitty dolls. She spent the next few days assembling Hello Kitty Valentine’s packages, and was now selling them from between $10 to $20 each. Then, she went to the Flower District downtown, bought flowers in bulk, and put them together in bouquets for $20 apiece.

“I really haven’t done this before, and it doesn’t make a lot of money, but what else do I have,” she told me, standing at the busy and sun-splashed corner Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by women, unemployed maids, just like her and selling the same kind of stuff.

Reports are that the  economy is returning. Remittances to Mexico from immigrants in the United States are up. Maria and her friends at Santa Monica and Western don’t see it.

A friend, who gave her name only as Magdalena, pointed to a 99-cents store on Santa Monica that closed and was replaced recently by a swap meet, which she helped open. Still, “there’s just no business,” said Magdalena, an unemployed maid and a migrant from the tourist resort of Acapulco.

Maria figured to be out selling until 6 pm, hoping to get rid of the flowers and Hello Kitty dolls she bought. She’s worried, though, because Friday her landlord filed eviction papers from the house she and her husband have rented for 18 years and raised her four children when they couldn’t pay the rent on time. they’d been late before, apparently, and it appears this time her mother fell and required stitches, so the rent had to wait.

“We’re thinking of going back home,” she told me as I was leaving.


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Filed under Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Streets