Economic Development

By: Candice Aman

Photo by: Savore

Spirits were high as a surge of hope and anticipation pulsed through the air when guests began arriving at Mercado La Paloma, a bustling marketplace and economic development project in South L.A. that houses various vendors, services, and non-profits, for its 10th anniversary fundraising event on Friday.

Called “Taste of Mercado La Paloma,” the event celebrated the Mercado’s growth and impact upon the surrounding community by showcasing the best of what it has to offer: food, art, culture, and most importantly, the people that has helped to shape the project during the last decade.

“I don’t think that there’s been a plan for [the Mercado] to take 10 years to get to this point,” Bruce Saito, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and the night’s Master of Ceremonies said. “It’s been a challenge all those years but this place has made an incredible impact on the community.”

As a division of the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation (ECHC), an organization that strives to achieve long-term community development, Mercado La Paloma continues to be invaluable resource for the surrounding neighborhood by providing residents the opportunities for jobs, education, and healthcare all under one roof.

Julie Gutman, Executive Director of Program for Torture Victims (PTV), a non-profit dedicated to helping torture survivors from all over the world rebuild their lives, recounted stories of doing business from unstable work environments before finally coming into the Mercado in 2001.

Full article:

Growing enthusiasm for his national cuisine helped chef Ricardo Zarate achieve his dream of opening a Peruvian restaurant after a decade of frustration. Mr. Zarate, who went to cooking school in Lima, spent 12 years working in high-end Japanese restaurants in London.  Convinced that Peruvian food deserved a place on the world stage, he began hunting for investors in 2001, but couldn’t convince enough deep pockets that it was the next big thing. Finally, in 2009, while living in Los Angeles, he pulled together $30,000 and opened Mo-Chica, a stand serving six dishes in a market food court in downtown Los Angeles.

Read more: The Next Big Thing

Join us for a Community Collaborative Celebration “Recognizing Our Riches!”   With you involved, South L.A. will be a healthier place to live!  Meet more than 30 community organizations working together to bring more parks, safer streets, healthier food options and affordable housing to our communities.  Let’s Learn, Talk and Plan together to Improve South Los Angeles. ¡Si se Puede!

Spanish/English translation and child care will be provided.  Breakfast and snacks.  And some surprises too!

Date:            Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Time:          8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Address:   Bethune Middle School

                      155 W. 69th Street

                      Los Angeles, CA 90003

Please bring plastic bottles to help support the recycling program at Bethune Middle School.

R.S.V.P. Cynthia Rojas at or call (213) 493-6543.

Health as a Human Right in South Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative Celebrated their Eigth Annual Community Forum at the USC Davidson Conference Center at the USC Davidson Conference Center.  The forum included several workshops that highlighted successes and challenges in our community. 

Worshops: Beat on your Street, Potato Chips to Produce, Promotores, Some like it hot, Community walking groups, gridlocked, L.A.’s Untapped Markets, South L.A. update.  

Esperanza Promotoras: Norma Linares, Olivia Mendez, Evelia Castañeda, Rosita Giron, Elizabeth Guevara, Aurora Flores, Norma Benitez, and Maria Bejarano.

I’ve finally shed my scared-eater skin and decided to try new styles
of cuisine. The decision came to me on New Years 2008, when I devised
my 101/1001 list. “Hey Evan,” I thought to myself, “Why don’t you try
to eat more than American and Italian food for a change? Other people
do, and they don’t all get food poisoning every day!” So I’ve been
trying new things. Tonight I suggested a Peruvian place to Nicci
called Mo-Chica. She almost suggested somewhere else, but then she
read the Yelp reviews and changed her mind. Good thing for us, we had
an amazing dinner tonight. Mo-Chica has definitely been the best
adventure in new cuisine I have taken.


The eatery is located near the campus of USC, at 3655 Grand Avenue.
The building which houses it goes by the name Mercado La Paloma. The
best description of the place would be a standalone food court. There
are a half dozen small restaurants inside. Each one has a few tables
dedicated to its clientele. As Nicci and I approached the counter at
Mo-Chica, a young woman helped us to a table for two near a small
stereo speaker emitting Peruvian music. She handed us two menus, and
proceeded to describe the appetizers to us. At first, we decided on
Causa Del Dia (potato salad of the day), but after our waitress told
us that the Ceviche was “famous,” we switched our order. After a few
questions about the main courses, Nicci and I decided on our dishes:
she ordered Aji De Gallina, and since I was planning on ordering that
I quickly switched my order to Arroz Con Pollo. Nicci snidely
commented something about my ordering chicken and rice, but after I
told her I was interested in seeing how it was prepared in Peruvian
cooking she understood my choice.


The ceviche took about ten minutes to prepare and serve. The portion
might be considered by folks looking for hearty portions to be too
small for two people to share. I think we were both satisfied by what
we were able to eat. The dish was prepared with a handful of raw sea
bass cubes, cilantro, corn nuts, hominy, and seaweed in a spicy,
lemony and milky sauce. Everything tasted really fresh. The light
ingredients in that size portion made for an excellent starter. For
$5, it almost felt like theft!

The presentation of the main courses was stunning for such a small
place. Each dish was served along with its sides in proper china, on a
large wooden tray. The plating was remarkable. You’d never think you
were in a warehouse-like marketplace by the way everything was served.
Nicci’s Aji de Gallina was described as shredded chicken, walnuts,
hardboiled egg, and boiled potatoes in a bread sauce. It looked like a
yellow curry, and smelled kind of like alfredo sauce, but the flavors
were definitely Latin. In actuality the sauce was a combination of
yellow chillies, milk and bread. Our waitress was kind enough to
describe all the components of the dish. It was served with a side of
green beans, bread, and rice with hominy. The green beans were
surprisingly sweet. The side of white rice gave us the chance to
sample a trio of homemade sauces. One was a savory cheese/bread sauce,
one was a moderately spicy mustard-colored sauce, and the red sauce
packed a pretty good kick.

My dish, chicken breast (plus one leg) and sauteed rice with peas,
carrots, tomato, onion and cilantro, was served in a salsa madre. It
came with a side salad, sweet green beans and bread. The mixed greens
salad was lightly dressed and — like the ceviche before it — tasted
remarkably fresh. The chicken was well-cooked, crispy on the outside
and tender on the inside. The rice was expertly flavored, and did not
require any of the three sauces I chose to liberally mix into the
dish. The portion size was perfect — not to hearty, just enough to be
sufficiently full upon completion.

As we were finishing our dishes, our waitress returned to the table
and said that the chef had decided to cook for us a dessert — free of
charge — which she called an “experiment.” It was a carob mousse. She
said it would be chocolate-flavored, but I don’t think there was any
actual chocolate in the dish. The first taste completely took us by
surprise. We were not expecting such a delicate yet rich treat. If
they made a beer with that roasted coffee-like sugary flavor I’m
pretty sure I would fall in love with it. Aside from its phenomenal
taste, the dish served a second purpose as the perfect palette
cleanser. Any hint of fire from our spicy main courses was immediately
smothered by our cool, decadent dessert.

The meal we ate at Mo-chica was outstanding. I was shocked to learn
that they’ve only been in business for three months. From the local
music to the stunning presentation and bold Latin flavors, I could not
have asked for a better introduction to Peruvian cuisine. What’s more,
the entire meal cost less than $30! The kind staff and chef at
Mo-chica deserve to be singled out as incredible and friendly food
preparers and providers. The choice to gift us a free dessert was a
very kindhearted gesture, and shows a commitment to customer service
that one rarely finds in Los Angeles. Hopefully once they make enough
money they will open more locations. Nicci and I both look forward to
returning in the very near future to this culinary gem near USC.

Oh, yeah, Mo-chica also delivers! Amazing!

3655 Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Mon. – Sat. 11:00am – 10:00pm

By Evan ~ August 7th, 2009. Filed under: dining out.


The Mercado La Paloma is a site of transformative change.  The space is a former garment sweatshop which Esperanza has transformed into a vibrant marketplace.  The Mercado Houses 14 small family-owned businesses.  All of our Mercado vendors are first time successful business owners, creating job opportunities for our community, serving healthy authentic food, and selling handmade art crafts.

 A recession Obsession is, 1) a meal so great that it stays in your mind long after digestion’s end, and, 2) plays nice with your sensitive wallet.  Is there a better place than Los Angeles to eat a wide variety of amazing food that so happens to be inexpensive?  Probably not.  We’re as lucky as we are well fed.  We last obsessed over Tandoori tacos, and KyoChon’s Korean Fried Chicken.  Today, we obsess…

Full article: Recession Obsession: Mercado La Paloma

Congratulations Mo-Chica!    The new Peruvian Restaurant at Mercado La Paloma, which opened in the spring of 2009 has been making headlines for its unique and delicious food. 

MERCADO INTERIORS 4 UPLOAD 5_09-8558Ricardo Zarate remembers reading a 2004 article in the Economist magazine predicting that Peruvian cuisine was the Next Big Thing. The moment he read the article, he knew it was right: Peruvian was the next big thing, and he wanted, desperately, to cook Peruvian in his own restaurant.  The Peruvian community in Los Angeles is large but scattered, and Peruvian restaurants are mostly solitary creatures, with none of the visible concentration of Koreatown or Thai Town  – writes the LA Times.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for two years, and I still don’t know where the Peruvian community is,” Zarate says jokingly.

Full Story: LA Times: Hidden Peruvian Treasures.


Congratulations! Mo-Chica, the new Peruvian restaurant at Mercado La Paloma for making headlines in the LA Weekly with their delicious Ceviche. 

Since its Grand Opening last April, Mo-Chica has been a great success!

Serving ceviche with cubes of sushi-quality tuna in a thick vinegar emulsion sharp with chile, soft and tart and brutally spicy all at once, served with slivered red onion, a half-ear of giant-kerneled corn and a soft chunk of sweet potato.

 Full story by Jonathan Gold on: LA Weekly

It’s time and past time for thanks and recognition of many fine people who devote their time and resources to making this world a better place.

  1. The entire staff of the Office of Community Beautification.

They manage funds that provide much needed money for beautification programs throughout the city (e.g. parks, murals, mosaics, trash abatement and gardens) and are among the nicest, most helpful group of people I have ever worked with.

Thank You Community Beautification Staff!

They return calls, are always happy to provide help and offer free workshops in useful subjects such as using technology (website design, using twitter, facebook etc.)

One often hears complaints about the uncaring nature of government employees. I’m happy to report that the staff of City Beautification gives lie to such assumptions.

We will be using a grant from The City Beautification fund to restore the mural “The Meeting of Minds” (situated on Mercado La Paloma, 3655 South Grand Ave.) The Mural pictures many people important to our community, Lucille Royball Allard,  Rita Walters,  Sister Diane Donoghue ( retired Director of Esperanza), Bruce Saito (head of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.) as well as Health Promoters, Vista Volunteers, children and adults who are contributing toward making our community a welcoming, healthy, thriving, diverse, artistic place. These community figures mingle with great figures from the past millennium: Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Aldous Huxely, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Ann Frank. The mural pictures the flow of ideas (represented by these figures) from the last millennium through to the present and into the future. From Leonardo da Vinci to the young artists and babies in our community, the mural personifies those who have and are continuing to advance the philosophical ideals that create and foster a healthy, diverse, peaceful and beautiful community into the next



When giving thanks to public employees, I must always include

  1. GERRY VALIDO, Management Analyst

Citywide Graffiti Abatement Monitor / Graffiti Court Liaison /Program Manager-Educational Outreach Program

Office of Community Beautification, Board of Public Works

Department of Public Works, City of Los Angeles.

 That’s a mighty long title, and he deserves it! He is always responsive and has helped keep “Meeting of Minds” graffiti free for 8 years.

After the restoration of the mural, he will once, again cover the mural with a protective coating, which provides defend against vandalism.

Thank you Gerry!

 I am also long overdue in giving thanks to those who volunteer their time and gifts to enhance life.

Margaret Sosa is one of those people.

I have known Margaret for many years. She is a paper cutter of extraordinary gifts and skill, she unselfishly and unfailing shares that talent with others. Her Papel Picado pieces are wondrous works of art, yet she is humble, humorous and generous beyond belief.

I (and the staff of Esperanza) are fortune to have the gift of such a warm, wonderful artist

Thank You Margaret!

 Papel Picado

 I also want to share with you my excitement about a series of new projects we are planning.

The Art & Science program, working with the Health Program is planning a series of public garden projects.

These will involve:

  • Creating an organic food garden in Estrella Park. This will provide healthy produce to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. It will also promote a connection with the Earth and growing plants, which is often lacking in the city.

We also want to use companion planting to create a biologically healthy garden.

Companion planting means putting plants together in the garden that like, or helps each other out. Companion planting can have a real impact on the health and yield of your plants.

Sometimes, a plant is planted next to its “companion” because it’s more attractive to pests and serves to distract them from the main crop. An excellent example of this is the use of collards to draw the diamond back moth away from cabbage

Legumes—such as peas, beans, and clover—have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen for their own use and for the benefit of neighboring plants via symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. Forage legumes, for example, are commonly seeded with grasses to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Likewise, beans are sometimes interplanted with corn.

Some plants exude chemicals from roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighboring plants. The African marigold, for example, releases thiopene—a nematode repellent—making it a good companion for a number of garden crops.

Allelochemicals are chemicals produced by one plant that is toxic to another. Allelochemicals such as juglone—found in black walnut—suppress the growth of a wide range of other plants. So if you are trying to plant tomatoes under your walnut tree forget it!

 A positive use of plant allelopathy is the use of mow-killed grain rye as mulch. The allelochemicals that leach from rye residue prevent weed germination but do not harm transplanted tomatoes, broccoli, or many other vegetables.

Planting tall-growing, sun-loving plants together with lower-growing, shade-tolerant plants can result in higher total yields from the garden. It can also yield pest control benefits. When corn is companion-planted with squash or pumpkins, it is believed to disorient the adult squash vine borer and protect the vining crop from this damaging pest. In turn, the presence of the prickly vines is said to discourage raccoons from ravaging the sweet corn.

Tall or dense-canopied plants may protect more vulnerable species through shading or by providing a windbreak.

Beneficial habitats—sometimes called refugia—are another type of companion plant interaction that has drawn considerable attention in recent years. The benefit is derived when companion plants provide a desirable environment for beneficial insects and other arthropods—especially those predatory and parasitic species which help to keep pest populations in check. Predators include ladybird beetles, lacewings, hover flies, mantids, robber flies, and non-insects such as spiders and predatory mites. Parasites include a wide range of fly and wasp species including tachinid flies, and Trichogramma and ichneumonid wasps. Agro ecologists believe that by developing systems to include habitats that draw and sustain beneficial insects, the twin objectives of reducing both pest damage and pesticide use can be attained.

 We hope to use create easement gardens using Phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants and trees to remove or neutralize contaminants in polluted soil or water.

The word comes from the Greek φυτο (phyto) = plant, and Latin « remedium » = restoring balance, or remediation.

Phytoremediation may be applied wherever the soil or static water environment has become polluted or is suffering ongoing chronic pollution.

It is a clean, efficient, inexpensive and non-environmentally disruptive method.

Below is a list of some plants and the toxins they can extract from the soil. (I find it pretty amazing!)

We also plan to plant butterfly attractors such as milkweed to attract butterflies and caterpillars to our garden. This would enable our children and ourselves to experience first-hand the miraculous process of metamorphosis.

 Not only would this teach the children about gardening, companion planting, healthy growing practices, horticulture and beneficial insects, it would help create within them a sense of person responsibility for their community.

 The residents of the Figueroa Corridor, are often totally removed from nature and its processes. We believe it is important for our children to experience the wonder of nature first-hand. How can we create environmental stewards of our children and youth, if the only world they see is a world of concrete, dirt and garbage? You cannot learn to appreciate and protect something you have no exposure to.

  In addition, a garden of plants and mosaics would beautify our community, creating art and a garden bursting with life.

 We are also working on a project to create a butterfly /phytoremediation garden and mosaic playground with (The Los Angeles land Trust, SAJE and The Promatoras de Salud.)


Pictured above is Milkweed (Asclepias species, named after Asclepius, Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants) and a monarch caterpillar. Milkweed is named for its milky juice, which contains alkaloids and latex. It is the only sole food source of Monarch Butterfly larva,

 I will not, cannot name all the wonderful people these projects have put me in contact with.

But I do wish to commend Julie An a graduate of the USC School of landscape Architecture who wrote her master’s thesis on redeveloping local pocket parks and streets to make them more user friendly.

She has and continues to work and provide research on soil testing, garden designs, phytoremediation and possible donations and grants to help these projects come to fruition.

If she is an example of our new generation, we are in good hands.

Thank you Julie!



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