Skip to Content
Food

Meet the Indigenous Mujeres From Oaxaca Cooking Tlayudas for Struggling Families in Mid-City

10:50 AM PDT on June 8, 2021

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n two neighborhoods of metropolitan Los Angeles, a group of Indigenous Mexicans from Oaxaca are organizing and practicing their traditions of mutual aid among their own communities. Known in Zapoteco variants as gotzona or guelaguetza (Sierra Juarez and Central Valleys Oaxaca, respectively), it is the practice of reciprocal exchange and looking out for one another. 

    Even though they are over 2,000 miles away from where this year-round practice started in Oaxaca in Mid-City Los Angeles, the group of indigenous Angelenos maintain the generous tradition in the U.S. Recently, the receivers have been the most underserved and underfed communities hardest hit by the pandemic. 

    According to a March 2021 report by the California Employment Development Department and U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment in the City of L.A. was at 10.6 percent. Most who filed for unemployment since the first City lockdown in March 2020 were BIPOC communities at 65.3 percent where women (6.4 percent) filed more than men, and younger workers between the age of 25 to 34 had the highest recorded unemployment than years before (WDACS). There is some sense of momentary food relief where multiple small businesses are popping up their grills, charcoal, table, and tablecloths!

    A tlayuda being made from scratch.
    A tlayuda being made from scratch. Photo by Joe Nankin.

    Yeaj Yalhalhj, is a Zapotec family-owned and run flower shop on Pico Boulevard in Mid-City LA. Aside from selling flowers, you can also find traditional clothing, jewelry, and other artisanal creations from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. In the Pico-Union area, sisters Anahi and Melina, organize and distribute fresh produce bags full of produce as part of the Veggie Mijas BIPOC womxn-led collective in front of their mom’s business, Royalty Cleaners, also located on Pico Boulrvard. 

    “We are not a nonprofit, we are not an organization. We organize collectively by choice.” We are bringing Guelaguetza [Gotzona] to the City.”

    Together, the Zapoteca sisters and Yeaj Yalhalhj provide fresh produce or freshly cooked meals otherwise not accessible to struggling individuals and families. The Mid-City Cookouts started by Yeaj Yalhalhj invites Oaxacan-owned small food businesses to set up every Saturday or Sunday in front of the local flower shop. Some of these vendors have been hustling their side business to make extra cash or sufficient money to feed their families. However, since the pandemic outbreak, most have turned to street and house food vending to provide for their own families after losing their jobs. 

    From freshly made Tlayudas or memelitas to handmade Oaxacan ice cream, vegan pastries, and drinks, these cookouts provide a wide selection of delectable goodies. One of many community cookouts to spring up since the outbreak, the Oaxacan mutual aid cookout continues to grow and provide hot meals following Indigenous Oaxacan comunalidad (communal) practices of sustaining the community. In explaining their support, the organizers stated: “We are not a nonprofit, we are not an organization. We organize collectively by choice.” We are bringing Guelaguetza [Gotzona] to the City.”

    The Veggie Mijas.
    The Veggie Mijas. Photo by Melina Bautista Cruz.

    Recently, this group put together a community space, @xtaushoka, open to all at Yeaj Yalhalj to showcase the multiple talents of Oaxaqueños, as well as the ways in which they maintain and (re)create Indigenous traditions, unity, and life among migrants. At the moment you can catch photos, art, and archival exhibits from Wednesday through Sunday. You can schedule a visit or donate.

    Mid-City Cookouts

    To find out how you can donate to them visit them at venmo.com/joe-nankin or venmo.com/yeajyalhalhj. To find out more about the small businesses or make an individual order find them on Instagram: @yeajyalhalhj, @royaltycleanersla, @Oaxdee27, @las_jefitas, @rositaeats, @la_cocina_oaxaqueña_con_adela, @nievesxochioax, @nieveslapechita, @tepachezapoteca.

    Stay in touch

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    More from L.A. TACO

    What To Eat This Weekend: Cannabis-Infused Boat Noodles, Thai Smashburgers, and “Grass & Ass”

    Plus, a pizza festival and a respected chef from Toluca, Mexico comes to Pasadena to consult for a restaurant menu, including enchiladas divorciadas, and more.

    April 12, 2024

    Facing ‘Immediate Layoffs,’ L.A. TACO Launches Membership Drive to Save Our Publication

    After Sunday, we do not have enough money to make another payroll. We need 5,000 members to become sustainable. Our deadline is April 26th to hit this goal.

    April 12, 2024

    The Final Round of TACO MADNESS 2024 Is Now Open for Voting! It’s Highland Park vs. San Fernando Valley

    It was an incredible comeback to deny last year's winner and bring a first-timer from the San Fernando Valley to the finals. They will have an uphill battle against Villa's Tacos, who lead all teams in total votes so far in the 2024 competition. L.A.'s favorite taco will be decided on Sunday, April 14th, at 11:59 P.M. 

    April 11, 2024

    This New Koreatown Onigiri Spot Is Unlike Any Other in Southern California

    Supamu, which started as a food truck and a series of pop-ups, brands itself as Southern California’s first Okinawa-style onigiri. What sets its onigiri apart from competitors? All the details are in the post, plus where to find it.

    April 10, 2024

    When ‘Tomorrow’ Never Comes: The Saga of a DTLA Bar Staff’s Struggle To Get Paid

    A barback recalled a time when he had to use a payday loan app to cover a dinner bill. “How can you, with a straight face, hand someone a check knowing that there isn’t money in the account,” the barback questioned.

    April 10, 2024
    See all posts