El Mercado de Los Angeles
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Built in 1968, El Mercado de Los Angeles is located in the Boyle Heights district of the city of Los Angeles east of the LA River and adjacent to East Los Angeles (an unincorporated portion of the County of Los Angeles often cited as the heart of the Mexican/American community) on the corner of 1st Street and Lorena Street and is accessible by the Metro Gold Line's Indiana Station located two blocks east. El Mercado is a three-floor indoor shopping center that offers dining and restaurant services, entertainment with live mariachi bands and shopping from various vendors. Although El Mercado is themed and represents a space that honors Mexico and Mexican culture, other Latinos from different ethnicities visit and shop there.
As an indoor shopping and meeting place, El Mercado also provides economic agency for Latinos as vendors selling music and films, exotic boots, belts, hats, a jewelry store, Mexican handcrafts, toys, cosmetics and services such as travel and sending money to their natal communities. Through selling and bartering Latino vendors engage in market exchanges that give agency to both the buyer and seller. El Mercado de Los Angeles is a place where Latinos can gather together for social purposes and to enjoy cultural experiences through food, music, and other forms of semiotics such as the paintings on the buildings and a mural of the Virgen de Guadalupe that link them to their native lands.
- 1 Cultural de-territorialization and identity
- 2 Affirmations of belonging and community space
- 3 Economic agency at El Mercado
- 4 Monetary and cultural remittances at El Mercado
- 5 Semiotic meaning-making at El Mercado
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Cultural de-territorialization and identity
In East Los Angeles, Latinos constitute approximately 97.1% of the population. The heavy population of Latinos in East Los Angeles demonstrates the appropriation of space due to the process of de-territorialization. De-territorialization of culture refers to the weakening relationships between culture and place. Traditionally, many thought of culture restricted in localized terms, that is cultural was rooted to a particular geographical area, nation, or state but as East Los Angeles proves different, Latinos as cultural subjects, continue to traverse national borders bringing along with them their cultural practices and traditions in different territories. Territorialization on the other hand can be more understood as the process of turning a space into a place, as explained by Clara Irazabal and Ramzi Farhart in their article “Latino Communities in the United States: Place-Making in the Pre-World War II, Postwar, and Contemporary City”.
Affirmations of belonging and community space
El Mercado is place that allows Latinos to assert their identity to foster a sense of belonging and build an intimate community space. Lourdes Gutierrez Nájera explains in her article “Hayandoese: Zapotec Migrant Expressions of Membership and Belonging” how Yalaltecos communities in Los Angeles affirm their identity and create a sense of ethnic belonging and community through participation in life cycle events and every day practices.
In his article “Swap meets, Flea Markets, and Open-Air Public Markets: a community and economic development model for low-income and underserved neighborhoods”, Jeffrey Edwin Juarez describes swap meets as regular meeting spaces that people treat as recreation places, much like a park, to spend time together. El Mercado is a community pace for Latino’s for both local’s and visitors to interact, spend time together and share experiences. One way El Mercado fosters its community space is through its large restaurant located on the third floor popularly known as El Mercadito, which is actually themed in to three different restaurants representing different cities of Mexico that make up the one large restaurant. El Mercadito restaurant is widely used by families and friends as a community space to make reservations for birthday celebrations, wedding receptions, quincenera receptions, and other banquet purposes.
Economic agency at El Mercado
El Mercado de Los Angeles serves a significant economic purpose for Latinos in the Los Angeles region. For the customers at El Mercado, the mercado provides affordable items that make shopping accessible for people across income levels. Also importantly, mercados foster relationships between vendors. Competition between vendors exists, but mercados in general often function as sites of both economic competition and collaboration between vendors within the mercado. The sense of competition is increased between the relationship between vendor and customer.
At swap meets, or mercados like El Mercado, complex relationships exist between buyers and sellers. Mercados are less bureaucratic spaces that corporate stores or even independent businesses. Vendors must apply for a permit at El Mercado, yet the vendors frequently make informal exchanges such as bartering/trading, or bargaining for prices. These informal market exchanges give agency to both the buyer and seller because each have a role in setting the terms of the business transaction. El Mercado de Los Ángeles not only provides cultural significance to the consumers who come to it, but it also provides a space for affordable items and economic negotiation.
Monetary and cultural remittances at El Mercado
El Mercado de Los Angeles offers a variety of services that help send off monetary remittances to Latin America. The Mercado also provides travel and calling services that help customers participate in the formation of cultural remittances to Latin America.
Monetary remittances at El Mercado
El Mercado also serves as an important site of cultural and monetary remittances between the United States and México, specifically. This mercado is a site of cultural that is the product of cultural hybridities. It is also a site that actively constructs cultural hybridities in the United States and México. El Mercado offers services to send money back to México securely as well as offering a currency exchange between pesos and United States dollars. Customers are able to send monetary remittance home to México by using the services at the Mercado. These services also assist vendors at the Mercado send some of the profits that they make at the Mercado to family members or communities abroad. These remittances are often directed at families or hometown associations.
Cultural remittances at El Mercado
The Mercado de Los Angeles also facilitates opportunities to create cultural remittances for Latino migrants. The mercado offers international calling services and a travel agency that sells international plane tickets. These services aid the fluid migratory process that physically transports migrants from their countries of origin to the countries of current residence. Along with the physical transportation, the Mercado specializes in transculturated goods and items. Many of the stores specialize in traditional Mexican clothing, books, or films. Yet, these traditional items are presented in a transculturated context, outside of México or Latin America. The mercado becomes a transculturated site that participates in cultural remittance when it facilitates the physical circular migration of migrants returning to their home country. Migrants returning home bring cultural remittances to the land that they left, and El Mercado de Los Angeles is an important site of this cultural remittance process in Los Angeles.
Semiotic meaning-making at El Mercado
El Mercado de Los Angeles actively produces and shapes culture through a variety of ways. Semiotics describes a series of processes in which meaning is given to the world around humans. As humans interpret visual sensory clues about the world, meaning and culture are produced. At the mercado, mariachi music and visual murals are two principal ways that semiotic processes produce culture.
Mariachi at El Mercado
The cultural significance of El Mercado is complemented by presence of semiotic cultural elements such as music and the murals present at El Mercado. Semiotics is a process through which visuals, sounds, and other sensory experiences are given meaning and made socially significant. The process of semiotic meaning-making is present at the mercado, especially through the mariachi restaurants. The third floor of the mercado is composed of three restaurants that are well known for not only the food but the mariachi music that they all play. Dolores Inés Casillas, a theorist who writes about cultural semiotics, considers listening to sound a political practice. She views nostalgic sounds from home countries as a means of remembering the home country while constructing space in the land of migration. This sense of political listening supports the idea that El Mercado de Los Angeles is an active sight of cultural production through the visuals and music present at the mercado.
Murals at El Mercado
The Mercado de Los Angeles website also portrays some of the several murals that are present at this marketplace. The themed mariachi restaurants on the third floor provide a visual representation that constructs a cultural space in the heart of Los Angeles. From the Yucatán inspired dining room to an Aztec themed dining room, the mercado provides many visions of a traditional México lindo. These visual forms are not representations of transnational scenes, but of pastoral memories of historical scenes. These pastoral visuals represent an idealized and fond memory of areas throughout Latin America. This space provides meaningful space for the customers of El Mercado de Los Angeles and contributes to the semiotic construction of cultural hybrities at the mercado. The semiotic components of meaning-making affect the Mercado of Los Angeles as a site of economic and cultural significance.
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- "Photo Gallery". El Mercadito Restaurant.
- El Mercado de Los Angeles official web site