Mercado La Paloma: Interview in a Community Space
7th March Saturday
Mercado La Paloma is a successful example of a local community space in South LA. It provides local businesses easy access to retail space, hosts arts and culture related public events and helps build community. Walking into Mercado, we got a good sense of South LA’s rich diversity and culture. All the shops and restaurants are very ethnically oriented and represent a local culture. All of these stores build a community through their products and help enrich South LA’s history and culture. We began our interview process with an Ethiopian Restaurant called Azla Vegan.
The are one of the successful organic restaurants in Mercado. “We serve things we would eat ourselves”, says the marketing manager of Azla. They not only serve organic food, but acquire produce from local gardens for their in-house catering. While providing easy access to healthy food in South LA they also team up with schools and local organizations to teach families and children about the importance of eating healthy as well as teach them how to prepare better meals. Azla promotes, preserves and enhances the diversity and culture of South LA by organizing pop up restaurants for collaborative events with local artists and musicians in the community. Their carefully curated photo-digital presence has been instrumental in promoting their food in such a diverse area as South LA. In fact their social media campaigns have been so successful that various local organizations, such as Black Women of Wellness have reached out to them. They believe they are successful because the community benefits from their business. By creating a comfortable and safe space through their food, Azla continues to successfully promote healthy eating in the community.
Our second interviewee was a teacher who has lived in South LA since 1964. “This is such a diverse community. There are so many culturally places to visit”, was the first thing she said when asked about what she thought of South LA. She has seen this place change in various ways, be it the increased gentrification which has leaed to higher property values or the development of a stronger sense of community in DTLA. However, there are various sort of problems associated with these kinds of development. Despite Downtown developing into a better community, it is still very segregated from it’s western areas, the areas where all downtown service workers come from. Thus while these developments have created more jobs, segregation is a huge issue according to her. Additionally she believes that the local community has an enclosed environment, especially with the growth in recent construction. Hence there is a definite need for more open spaces as well as solve the issue of traffic.
USC plays a vital role in the community especially in the sector of education through the organization of various student programs. But there is still a long way to go in order to make dream of USC or a college education more accessible. Most importantly, USC in general seems very off-limits to the local community. “There is nothing inviting about it”, she says. Thus there is a huge potential to tap into various USC resources to better engage and benefit the local community.