The east edge of MacArthur Park, just down the hill from the flattop skyline of downtown Los Angeles, boasts a pedestrian bustle uncharacteristic of this four-wheeled city. On one corner, in front of a pharmacy, buses discharge passengers every few minutes; halfway down the block, a plaza offers entrance to the L.A. metro, and a man with a battery-powered amplifier plays the electric guitar in the sunshine. It’s busy, and not just by Angeleno standards.
But the outstanding feature of the scene here is the cavalcade of vendors, mostly Latina immigrants, hawking a supermarket’s worth of wares from blankets, carts and makeshift tables beneath rainbow parasols. Some sell ready-to-eat food, like bacon-wrapped hot dogs, crispy churros, fresh fruit, grilled corn, peanuts and ice cream. The majority sell imperishable odds and ends; in this block alone, black garbage bags brimming with brand-new athletic socks, folded blue jeans, wristbands embroidered with “L.A. Dodgers” and “S.F. Giants,” bootleg DVDs, cellphone chargers, headphones, belts, Barbies, instant coffee and shampoo. You can also buy bread, vegetables and flowers.