Recently, a little after 7 a.m. on a fine cool Los Angeles Winter morning, I found myself on Hoover Street a little South of Vernon. If you know the area, or areas like it, you won’t be surprised to hear that at that time of day there were tamaleras everywhere. At major intersections, of course, and also near schools, selling tamales y champurrado for breakfast. You can see a picture somewhere near this sentence that I took while waiting my turn in line.
The whole scene is entirely social. There are grandmothers buying a dozen at a time to take home, people on their ways to work buying two or three for breakfast, maybe for lunch too, and schoolkids buying singles to eat while they walk.1 The tamalera creates a little bubble of warm sociability around her, momentarily protecting those inside from the chill of the foggy damp onshore flow.
This doesn’t happen only on the streets of South Los Angeles, of course. Last month Gustavo Arellano published a lovely article in the New Yorker entitled The Comfort of Tamales At The End Of 2017 about the significant social role of this ancient food2 in Mexican-American culture. And you can feel that sociability strongly while waiting in line to buy tamales on an L.A. street in the morning.
But as you’re probably aware, it’s looking more and more likely that the City Council, despite their generally supportive pro-vendor rhetoric, is going to allow business interests and property owners to veto street vending on a highly localized basis for essentially no rational reason at all. One of the most random exclusionary zones recommended in the November 2017 report of the Chief Legislative Analyst is anywhere within 500 feet of Hollywood Boulevard.
Continue reading Tamales Nos Cuidan: Social Cleansing, Kerry Morrison, Donald Trump, And The Battle For Legal Street Vending In Los Angeles And Beyond