Audio story: Central Americans enrich food and culture in So Cal


Matt Gush | @mattgush

A colorful mural of Izalco, El Salvador painted outside El Chavocho, 4273 Beverly Blvd. The Salvadoran restaurant is one of many Central American businesses in the area. April 25, 2021

Emily Melgar

Emily Melgar: As the border crisis and battle for immigration reform in the nation rages on, thousands of Central Americans have made Southern California their home, introducing remarkable food and culture.

The Golden State, known for its vast cultural diversity, is heavily influenced by Mexican culture. However, the “south of the border” influence goes beyond Mexico, and with hundreds of thousands of Central Americans immigrating to California since the 1980’s, the lifestyle in Los Angeles has inevitably evolved.

In 2010, the city of Los Angeles recognized the area between Adams Boulevard and 11th Street on Vermont Avenue as the El Salvador Community Corridor. The bustling neighborhood hosts a myriad of colorful Salvadoran businesses and offers the opportunity for these lively people to share their old world with the people here in their new world.

Whether undocumented, residents or naturalized citizens these Central Americans, from countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, have made So Cal a place that offers them, and the community, a literal taste of their heritage.

For them, bringing their customs and their way of life to California is how they keep tradition alive.

Guatemalteca Bakery and Restaurant has been serving authentic Guatemalan bread and food for over 45 years with three different locations in Los Angeles County.

Panadería El Salvador, a Salvadoran bakery, has two popular locations in LA.

Salvadoran restaurant La Praviana, located in South Gate, has become well known for its pupusas, El Salvador’s national dish, and has built a strong presence in the neighboring community over the last 40 years.

While restaurants like La Praviana have been successful, other restaurants did not have the same fortune when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At least four local pupuserias in the area have closed in the last year.

Luckily, restaurants like VCHOS Pupuseria Moderna, whose name comes from the slang word “bichos” meaning “young people”, are paving the way for future generations to pass down traditional Central American food and culture.

They plan to open their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Summer 2021 that will be located in the city of Montebello.

I’m Emily Melgar, Opinion Editor, Talon Marks.