Mobilities of Street Vending: A Final Assessment by Karen Lazcano
Throughout the year, we have discussed the multiple ways through which mobility can be categorized. We’ve explored mobility as a means of transportation, having the ability to move from one place to another, how mobility ties in with racial hierarchies in the United States, mobility tied in with labor and the California landscape, and how the perception of Latin@s is built through mobility. In considering a topic to fit into our collective theme, I curated an analysis of the street vendor’s identity mobility in relation to the Los Angeles enclave. My exhibit explores a history of activism within the street vendor community in Los Angeles and follows that trajectory with ties to mobility to the present.
I begin with a brief history of Olvera Street, a historical monument in the founding of the city of Los Angeles and widely considered the first space in which street vendors, or ‘puesteros,’ were introduced to the city landscape. Anecdotes of street vendors beginning in the 1930’s Olvera Street demonstrate the transformation of street vending as a form or visual display into that of activism. The contributions street vendors have made to Los Angeles through the form of an underground economy also show the extent to which vendors claimed space in both a tangible and discarnate bearing.
Intersectionality exists through the ways that street vending has changed itself and Los Angeles. Street vending grew in Los Angeles as a form of Latino urbanism and became a vessel for economic mobility where one did not exist. Challenging the accessibility of that this prospect has provided has been met with the formation of community activism. In the late 1980’s, the Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes (Association of Street Vendors, AVA) was founded as a form of community organization for street vendors after the city of Los Angeles outlawed street vending.
The fight for street vendor’s rights extended from seeking to sell their goods without being fined by the city, also including issues of racial targeting and police brutality. This form of activism still persists today, with organizations such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and their Street Vendors Project. Furthermore, it has transcended from a physical activism to one that exists in various forms of media consumptions.
My project explores the transformation of street vending as a decorative aesthetic element on Olvera Street in Los Angeles to a form of economic, social, and political mobility. The history behind street vending in California is an important element because it serves as the foundation for the transformation into a movement. Furthermore, the ways through which street vending has embedded itself onto Los Angeles and California establishes how it has become a mobile medium in the identity of vendors and the landscape.
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