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.

Read More...

American snapshot: Boyle Heights

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


February begins tomorrow, but flower shops throughout Los Angeles have already spent weeks advertising their Valentine's Day packages (paquetes) in different ways and multiple languages. At this place on First Street, the chunky-cute hand painted birdies are an added bonus.

Read More...

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.”

Read More...

Five Valentine meals to share with your amor

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.

Photo by jonathanb1989/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Their romantic dinner might taste like plastic - better to share some shabu shabu or an Ethiopian stew.


Forget momentarily about chocolate, oysters and the rest of the usual food suggestions that accompany Valentine’s Day, about aphrodisiacs and expensive dinners. As a favor to lovestruck foodies in the Los Angeles area, a few colleagues and I recently came up with an unscientific but well-loved list of some of the best date-friendly offerings to come out of our immigrant enclaves.

Five favorites:

Ethiopian There’s something very intimate about sharing a meal from the same dish, eaten with your hands. The spongy injera bread serves as a both plate and utensil with which to scoop up savory stews, called wot, and other dishes, making the meal a tactile experience. The food itself is fragrant, seasoned with garlic, ginger and other spices.

One place to find it: Nyala at 1076 South Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-5918

Read More...