Melissa Chou preparing dessert. | The Migrant Kitchen

Ep. 3, Mercado: Artisanal Street Food & L.A.'s Best Mole

On a bustling street corner in Downtown L.A., the tantalizing smell of freshly deep-fried chicharrón wafting in the air comes from a street vendor who is a master at the craft. Over at Grand Central Market, the family behind a long-standing shop has been dutifully providing Hispanic goods to the community for the last few decades.

In this episode, we get a glimpse into the lives of the two Mexican families behind these different business ventures, and explore what they have in common: hard work, dedication and hope.

At a time when an influx of immigrants fled from their countries for better labor opportunities in the United States, Celestino Lopez opened Chiles Secos, a stand in Grand Central Market that offered the community a familial sense of home. The late purveyor brought to L.A. imported Hispanic products, including mole pastes, dried chiles, spices, beans, and grains. The story of his entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance is told through his widow Antonia Lopez and granddaughter Claudia Armendariz. Armendariz now writes the next chapter in her family’s legacy, as she has taken it upon herself to keep Chiles Secos relevant as the Grand Central Market evolves into something different than what it was before.

On the other end of the spectrum, we learn about the life of the street vendor through Enrique Peralta, whose crispy pork rinds are among the best in the city. He works diligently to be a good role model to his children, and tries to positively contribute to society in any he can. While street vendors are working for their livelihood and to supplement their income, they also face painful hurdles due to pushback from police. Through their stories, both families show immigrants' ongoing struggle to make it in the land of opportunity.

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