The Times has caught on to the demographic shifts in the middle of the Valley that are finding places like Van Nuys taking in more Latin American immigrants from beyond Mexico. As the stream of illegal arrivals from Mexico slows, "the greater Van Nuys area, with its apartment-rich neighborhoods, has become a thriving hub not of Mexican immigrants as much as Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Ecuadoreans and Peruvians. They are blending into towns next door — Panorama City, North Hollywood and Reseda — to form a sprawling colony of sorts," says the LAT's Catherine Saillant.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than along Delano Street, just west of the Van Nuys Civic Center, where vendors ply the sidewalks outside apartment houses selling pupusas, fried plantains and a vinegary slaw called curtido, all Salvadoran specialties....
In the local churches, community events often focus on heaping buffets, a Guatemalan tradition, and less on the grilled meats, energetic folklorico and brass music favored by Mexican families. And at Delano Recreation Center, Mexican teams that used to dominate the adult soccer league now account for only 35%, recreation director Ramon Cerrillos said.
In their place, Cerrillos said, are players from Central American countries, especially El Salvador. In fact, many of the Mexican players told him they were returning to their home country — something the immigration studies also indicated. Others, he said, just disappeared.
In addition to border enforcement that makes it more difficult for Mexicans to enter the United States without papers, the economies of the countries further south tend to be in more distress, leading to more immigration. Still, as Sailant notes, Central Americans account for just a fraction of all the immigration from Latin America. It's perhaps more noticeable in Van Nuys, which until two decades or so ago was the civic and commercial heart of the San Fernando Valley suburbs. The government civic center remains in Van Nuys — courts, a police headquarters, a mini-City Hall, the offices of elected politicians — but not much else that marks Van Nuys as a hub among Valley places. So this trend is interesting.
The center of the Van Nuys community is the intersection of Van Nuys and Victory Boulevards, where a newsstand that used to attract apartment renters and job seekers — buying the Valley News and Green Sheet fresh off the presses, at night — now sells colorful masks to the locals. Here are a few photos from the corner.
All photos: LA Observed