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Built in 1968, El Mercado de Los Angeles is located in the Boyle Heights district of the city of Los Angeles east of the LA River and adjacent to East Los Angeles (an unincorporated portion of the County of Los Angeles often cited as the heart of the Mexican/American community) on the corner of 1st Street and Lorena Street and is accessible by the Metro Gold Line's Indiana Station located two blocks east. El Mercado is a three-floor indoor shopping center that offers dining and restaurant services, entertainment with live mariachi bands and shopping from various vendors. Although El Mercado is themed and represents a space that honors Mexico and Mexican culture, other Latinos from different ethnicities visit and shop there.
As an indoor shopping and meeting place, El Mercado also provides economic agency for Latinos as vendors selling music and films, exotic boots, belts, hats, a jewelry store, Mexican handcrafts, toys, cosmetics and services such as travel and sending money to their natal communities. Through selling and bartering Latino vendors engage in market exchanges that give agency to both the buyer and seller. El Mercado de Los Angeles is a place where Latinos can gather together for social purposes and to enjoy cultural experiences through food, music, and other forms of semiotics such as the paintings on the buildings and a mural of the Virgen de Guadalupe that link them to their native lands.
In East Los Angeles, Latinos constitute approximately 97.1% of the population. The heavy population of Latinos in East Los Angeles demonstrates the appropriation of space due to the process of de-territorialization. De-territorialization of culture refers to the weakening relationships between culture and place. Traditionally, many thought of culture restricted in localized terms, that is cultural was rooted to a particular geographical area, nation, or state but as East Los Angeles proves different, Latinos as cultural subjects, continue to traverse national borders bringing along with them their cultural practices and traditions in different territories. Territorialization on the other hand can be more understood as the process of turning a space into a place, as explained by Clara Irazabal and Ramzi Farhart in their article “Latino Communities in the United States: Place-Making in the Pre-World War II, Postwar, and Contemporary City”.
El Mercado is place that allows Latinos to assert their identity to foster a sense of belonging and build an intimate community space. Lourdes Gutierrez Nájera explains in her article “Hayandoese: Zapotec Migrant Expressions of Membership and Belonging” how Yalaltecos communities in Los Angeles affirm their identity and create a sense of ethnic belonging and community through participation in life cycle events and every day practices.
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