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9th to olympic

Starting from Towne Avenue to Central Avenue, as 9th Street transitions into Olympic Boulevard, is a row of small but colorful businesses. Windowless warehouses used as storefronts haven’t always been the most appealing method of business, but problem-solving runs rapid in this community. The sidewalks act as another form of display that windows could never compete with. Store owners and street vendors work and blend together. There are piñatas shaped as children’s current favorite characters, traditional pointed piñatas, and cake-like tiered piñatas with transparent centers that hold soft plastic, toy balls; serape textiles found as table runners and the lining for sombreros, bags, and apparel; bolsas de mercado in various colors schemes and sizes. Colorful, traditionally decorated ceramic mugs, vases, and calaveras; party supplies like streamers, metallic fringed curtains, hand-assembled recuerdos [party favors] for birthdays, quinceañeras, weddings, and baptisms; food vendors grilling meat, quesadillas, pupusas, with stations of agua frescas with extra pulp in abundance. The description of the space created is better met in person than in writing, but this is a mere start. There’s a mixed review of the name, but vendors know this street as the Piñata District, realtors and city planners alike know it as the Toy District, and some locals called it the Party Supply District. More than any art museum or gallery, or any cultural center, this district highlights the dynamic iconography of Los Angeles and its migrant citizens. These mostly Mexican laborers and their kin have created an incredible street that resembles home to me and many others that come from Mexican/Latinx backgrounds. It’s an interactive display of culture in past, present, and in a precarious futurity that is always threatened by late capitalism, gentrification, and presently by a pandemic. The Piñata District is filled with the folks who can do so much with so little; it is a district of placemakers and survivors.

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