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Drive further, and men waving day-glo flags directing cars into empty lots appear, operating with a finesse that might suggest they moonlight as LAX ground crews. Beyond that, hidden in plain sight amongst rows of unremarkable looking warehouses, is the Alameda Swap Meet.
Snyder Continue Reading Each building house dozens of stalls selling, well, pretty much everything: There's a petting zoo for the kids. Shiastu massages and acupuncture are available out back. On Sundays a live church service blasts out of loudspeakers, competing with the constant clamor of wandering Mariachis.
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The crowds swell to what must be twenty times Vernon's "official" population. Spanish is preferred, but the language of bargaining is universal.
Quesadilla de Flor de Calabaza G. Snyder The real show, as you may have guessed, is the food.
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Not just any food, but what is probably one of the most comprehensive and superb collections of Mexican cuisine heaped together in one place outside of Mexico. The food stalls seem stretch the length of the complex. In one corner, stands a hulking red tornado of al pastor spinning on a spit crowned with fresh pineapple. Nearby a row of grandmothers work slabs of blue masa into oblong huraches or quesadillas, then stuff them with gracious handfuls of squash blossoms, a malty smear of huitlacoche, or slow-simmered tinga de pollo.
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And yet there's more meat: Mariscos El Bucanero, famous for goblet-sized cocteles, blows through enough shellfish in a weekend to make a fisherman blush. From left to right, the flavors are: A crowd eats seafood under a tiki-style canopy. A wall next to el Swapmeet has been tagged, a major issue for local property owners. I miss how the smell of churros—cinnamon, brown sugar, and baked dough—used to make my mouth water as we passed by the lady who sold them three for a dollar.
I loved how the Spanish music mixed with the booming sounds of voices speaking more Spanish deep in my eardrums. These candies were at the level of my head when I was a little kid.
And when we would go to the area where my father bought ingredients for the tamales he made and sold, I appreciated the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the look of stands filled with greens from nopales, green peppers, cilantro. El Swapmeet is less than two miles from downtown L. During the weekend, it fills with people from the afternoon to the evening.
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Street vendors sell food outside, and vendors sell more food inside to locals and to people of all backgrounds who come from different parts of Los Angeles. Bandas play rancheras, baladas, and cumbias onstage outside in the sun, and crowds form to listen and dance. On one side of the building, goats, mules, and other farm animals are on display for kids to pet; you can even ride the mule for a price.ALAMEDA SWAPMEET
Inside, vendors yell to sell clothes, electronics, and jewelry. For my undocumented family, el Swapmeet was our neighborhood store, a five-minute walk from our house. It also was a way to stay rooted to our motherland. Status limited us from going back to Mexico, but el Swapmeet was our gateway to the culture and identity that sometimes felt lost to us. We were there two or three times a week for years, with my mother doing the shopping for the food she made at home.
I never knew how precious this was until I had to leave South Los Angeles in