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Los Callejones: How Santee Alley’s Vendors Have Adapted to Sell Coronavirus Supplies in the Street (Photo Essay)

3:12 PM PDT on April 20, 2020

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]antee Alley and the fashion district are a ghost town. 

The usually bustling neighborhood known by Latinos in Los Angeles as “Los Callejones” is abandoned. Owners have packed up their belongings and headed home until they are allowed to come back to work. Block after block, the post-apocalyptic emptiness amplifies the uneasiness. 

Once you hit Maple Avenue, the fashion district comes back to life a bit. Up and down Maple, as soon as you get off the freeway, is filled with vendors selling masks, toilet paper, sanitizers, and other essential items. Going from the uneasiness of the empty blocks a few streets over to Maple Avenue is a comforting experience. Maple offers a glimpse of the sorely missed old norms. The undeniable hustle and nostalgic warmth at each opened trunk bring back memories of a time when everyone flocked here looking to buy discount merchandise that seems so long ago.

One vendor explained that he is a store owner in the fashion district, but after being forced to close, he turned to sell masks. “I have three kids. I have to support my family.” The reality is that most of the vendors lining Maple Avenue do not have any other means to generate income. With the Mayor extending the stay-at-home order to May 15 and longer if needed, many whose professions are not deemed essential will have to find other ways to make money during this generation’s ‘Great Depression.’

On Friday, China announced the first contraction of its nation's GDP in recorded history, dating back to 1992. Slowly, other nation’s economies will follow suit. We are only a month into what looks to be a long road ahead. While the initial shock may have subsided, the full effect on the economy is still in limbo. 

For now, the vendors selling masks can put a few dollars in their pockets, but what are the implications of another month on lockdown? When these masks sell out or people stop buying masks, what will happen then? 

The spirit of the individuals who work in Los Callejones is the foundation of what L.A.'s hustler mentality is built on. Even when there are no more masks to sell, Angelenos will switch it up to the next hot commodity to sell in the street. 

In the midst of a pandemic, Maple Avenue is doing its part to keep the community safe and the economy going. This underlining energy has fueled Angelenos for decades and instills hope for the coming months. No matter what is thrown at Los Angeles, Angelenos will adapt and rise.

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