Op-Ed: Farm to table -- idealized on the walls of Latino grocers, food trucks and carnicerias
Markets and food trucks in L.A.'s Latino neighborhoods offer up more than one kind of sustenance. They advertise a rural dream, immigrants' memories — edenic, idealized — of villages and farms, meadows and streams
Dirt roads lead to tiled-roof houses; tractors replace cars and trucks; agave plants, prickly pears and furrowed fields frame distant volcanoes and church bell towers.
In these scenes men in sombreros ride horses, chop wood, fill dairy cans, plow the earth, and bake bread. Women balance baskets on their heads, flirt with caballeros, and happily do the wash. Flowers bloom, roosters crow, fish jump and cows wait patiently for the butcher.
It's never winter; it's always peaceable. Freeways and traffic jams, high rises and crowded sidewalks, stoplights and cell towers are nowhere to be seen.
The businesses behind the murals get their due: Meat market signs and “Productos Latinos” compete for wall space with paintings of diswashing soap, jugs of Clorox, bottles of Jarritos, and the day's sale prices. But the strongest images are reminders of the good life on the farm.
El Centro Ranch Market, 1801 W. 8th St., 1997
Los Angeles Street north of East 5th Street, 2003
Mercado Mexico, 3554 Whittier Blvd., 1998
Carniceria Latina, 6119 S. Broadway, 1999
Eliza Meat Market, 7408 S. Main St., 2006
El Rancho Carniceria, 11755 S. Vermont Ave., 2014
La Mexicana Mercado/Carniceria, 4800 S. Compton Ave., 2016
Carniceria Rosencrans, West Rosencrans Avenue, east of North Matthisen Avenue, Compton, 2000
La Oaxaquena Carniceria, South Lake Street at West 8th Street, 2013
Documentary photographer Camilo José Vergara is a National Humanities Medal awardee. His latest book, “ Detroit Is No Dry Bones,” will be published this fall. Camilojosevergara.com.
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