How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Need a last-minute pink teddy bear? Try one of L.A.'s curbside cupids

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011


Ever wonder who the people are who camp out with their displays on the curb, selling flowers and stuffed animals late into the evening every Valentine's Day? A couple of them tell their stories in this piece from last year, which I'm reposting as I hit the road to buy my own last-minute gifts:

Just before Valentine’s Day each year, a small army of immigrant entrepreneurs stakes out street corners, freeway off-ramps, tables outside established businesses or just busy stretches of sidewalk, spreading out small loads of romance-themed gifts for sale.

You’ve seen these guys – they’re the ones waiting for you to drive up and claim that pink teddy bear holding the red embroidered heart that reads “I (Heart) U,” wrapped in crisp cellophane.

Who are they, and how do they get hold of so many pink bears to sell anyway? Yesterday, I met up with Gustavo Angel, 28, one of Los Angeles’ diligent curbside Valentine vendors, who was working the intersection of Sunset and Echo Park boulevards.

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American snapshot: Echo Park

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

The Costa Alegre restaurant, a long established fixture on Sunset Boulevard, advertises its new vegetarian menu - yet another sign of changing times in Echo Park.

The neighborhood bucked the national trend in the 2010 Census, with its Latino population shrinking over the last decade, and its non-Latino white population growing.

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There are more Latinos in California, but not in Echo Park

Photo by Kent Kanouse/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Chango coffee house on Echo Park Avenue, part of the gentrified Echo Park, October 2005

Earlier this week, the 2010 census results for California revealed a state in which overall, the white population has shrunk in the last decade, while the Latino population has continued to grow. But what about in L.A.'s formerly Latino neighborhoods that have gentrified?

In ultra-gentrified Echo Park, the trend happened in reverse. The Eastsider LA blog featured a post on the neighborhood's changing demographics, citing census numbers which show that since 2000, the percentage of Latinos in census tract 1974.20, sandwiched between Glendale Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, dropped by 10 percent. At the same time, as the neighborhood became synonymous with hip, rents skyrocketed and non-Latino white creatives and young professionals snapped up property, the white population climbed 10 percent.

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Meet L.A.'s curbside Valentine vendors

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Gustavo Angel and his Valentine gift display in Echo Park, February 13, 2011


Just before Valentine’s Day each year, a small army of immigrant entrepreneurs stakes out street corners, freeway off-ramps, tables outside established businesses or just busy stretches of sidewalk, spreading out small loads of romance-themed gifts for sale.

You’ve seen these guys – they’re the ones waiting for you to drive up and claim that pink teddy bear holding the red embroidered heart that reads “I (Heart) U,” wrapped in crisp cellophane.

Who are they, and how do they get hold of so many pink bears to sell anyway? Yesterday, I met up with Gustavo Angel, 28, one of Los Angeles’ diligent curbside Valentine vendors, who was working the intersection of Sunset and Echo Park boulevards.

“My regular work is washing loncheras,” said Angel, a Salvadoran immigrant who has sold gifts on the street for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day since soon after he arrived eight years ago. “I saw people selling these and I thought hey, I can try this.”

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