Los Angeles is the only major American city where street vending is illegal, but that will soon change.
A campaign to legalize the city’s sidewalk sellers, which has been in the works for years, is finally gaining strength from President Trump — or rather, from local resistance to his immigration policies.
In the city’s Piñata District, southeast of downtown, tabletop shops offer everything from baby clothes to cellphone accessories to lunch. Estela Peralta flips tortillas on a hot plancha. She chops succulent carnitas and offers a variety of homemade salsas.
“Mira,” Peralta says, pointing to a tub of guacamole and describing its ingredients. “Avocado, tomato y chile.”
Her husband, Enrique, is known for making crispy pork skins. When he left Mexico for the United States, his father gave him one piece of advice: “You should dedicate yourself to what you know — making chicharrón and making carnitas,” he says in Spanish. “A pig always has feet and a head. There you’ll have no problem.”
The Peraltas do have one problem though — their little street food operation is illegal.
Selling on LA’s sidewalks isn’t allowed, even though 50,000 vendors do it openly. For years, vendors have had their wares confiscated, been ticketed, even charged with misdemeanor crimes. Peralta thinks the penalties are unfair.
Photos: Parker Yesko for NPR