Los Angeles is home to a broad, diverse, and provincially deep community of people identifying as Latino, Afromexicano, Afrolatino, indigenous, Kriol, Latinx, Garinagu, and many more from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. It also counts a huge group of local Chicanos, and Central-Americans born and raised in the countless cultural enclaves like Boyle Heights, Westlake, and South Central. LA is the second largest Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Oaxacan, and Belizean city on the planet and the collective Latino and Latinx population are the majority in the City of Angels. That being said, it’s hard to find a neighborhood in LA or the greater metropolitan area that’s not Latino, including right here in Hollywood, where I get coffee at La Monarca Bakery, or groceries at Catalina’s, a South American supermarket that caters to all Latinos. My convenience stores are Oaxacan, and I buy seasonal foods like flor de izote from Guatemalan street vendors, and avocados that are always ripe. This is Los Angeles, here Latinos and Latinx eat, shop, and produce immigrant and second generation entrepreneurs.
Online you’ll find LA woman-owned street fashion and accessories worn by locals at Bella Doña, Raggedy Tiff, Hia de tu Madre, Mexico en la Piel, and Selva Negra, reflecting Mexican-American and Latinx couture. There’s also fashion pop-ups, often featuring several vendors selling clothing and jewelry from young creatives like Querida Los Angeles, Once Upon a Charm, and Viva La Bonita, where women can honor themselves, and receive positive messages from the streets of LA on tote bags such as “dream big mija”, and to remember you’re “allergic to pendejadas.” Treat yourself to high-quality personal care products at Rizo’s Curls, Loquita Bath and Body for hibiscus flower face masks, get it all at Shop Latinx, a marketplace for Latinx producers, and tune in to Dulce Ruiz’s webpage with links to her YouTube channel for Latina fashion and lifestyle tips.
For children’s books, check out Lil’ Libros: founders Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein had more doors slammed in their faces that there are taco trucks in LA, but instead of giving up, they published Lil’ Libros on their own. The founders were told that Latino children don’t read books, before they self published, and now their children’s books featuring Latino icons Celia Cruz, Frida Kahlo, and Selena are distributed nationwide.
If you’re curious about what millennial LA Latinos, Chicanos and Latinx are up to, read LA Taco for the latest news coming out of Boyle Heights, East LA, Huntington Park, and Whittier written by members of the community, then binge watch “Gentefied,” on Netflix by co-creator Linda Yvette Chavez, about gentefication and gentrification in Boyle Heights, and “East Los High” on Hulu.
And when it comes to food, there’s no better place in the USA to experience regional Mexican, Central-American, and Oaxacan cuisine in homes, on the streets and in restaurants. Todo Verde has cookbooks, online classes and catering, leading the vegan-Mexican food movement here in LA, and pick-up a copy of LA Mexicano, the only book dedicated to Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles.
And while there are thousands of Latino-owned businesses to support in the City of Angels, we recommend that you eat, dress, play, shop, and live the ultimate Latino and Latinx experience at these 27 favorite spots that help make up the way of life in our brown communities.
Bill Esparza is a James Beard Award-winning writer, and author of LA Mexicano.