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Living On Their Own Efforts

By Isaias Alvarado on July 6, 2011
© La Opinion

The colors of a traffic light governing the work of José Barraza: green tells you to run a sidewalk and the red can come to ask motorists if they want to clean the windshield of their cars. Most are surprised and do not accept, very few will say yes and give you some money.

"Many are rare, are amazed to see someone like that. But we all struggle to survive. Who does not work shall not eat," said Barraza, 22, resident of Lynwood. Few believe this to be an American by birth who learned to "swallow fire" to juggle and clean cars on the streets of Chihuahua.

In Los Angeles had changed activity, but an economic crisis that put him back ends at the intersection, now on this side of the border. "I started to clean windshield because there is no work at Home Depot. When there is no work I come to this corner," he explains.

High levels of poverty that has created an unemployment rate of 12% is reflected in the streets of the second largest U.S. city. Some places are even moving images, like a mother in the parking lot of a shopping center in Pico Rivera, begging with a baby in her arms.

"I have no job, no home," says the reporter before leaving in a hurry. The woman is young, does not seem to exceed 25 years, and the baby would be born a few months ago.

In other places such as the Alvarado Corridor in Westlake, and the main streets of South LA, there are more vendors and you can see young people with painted faces and juggling balls to get a few bucks.

Jose Luis Hernandez, Mexico State, learned to navigate the car at high speed crossing the intersection of Alameda Street and Vernon Boulevard for a living. For five years there selling mangoes and pears with chile. "You have to throw forward, as you can. You win just to survive, because others do not," he explains.

This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the recession is called by Ricardo Moreno, director of the nonprofit organization Bread for the World as the "informal economy of survival", reflecting the difficult stretch that are going through the poor, blacks , Latinos and undocumented immigrants.

Beyond statistics and official aid, the latter have been found in the streets the only way to stay ahead, says Moreno. "People are trying to survive."

"I've noticed that change in recent years to observe the 'informal economy of survival' that is changing the face of Los Angeles," he says. "You find the earworm at paletero, which sells chewing gum, which cleans the windshield of the car."

The list is Stephen Xec, a Guatemalan who for three years to sell water, sodas, orange, pink, peanuts and flags of Mexico in the Vernon Boulevard, near Highway 110. "Since I came to America I have not rested one day. Sunday is when more work," he says.

Under the intense sun, Xec offers its products to drivers. An African American calls and buys a bottle of water. "I worked in sewing and earned nothing," he recalls.

According to estimates, nearly 100,000 families, including those of Barraza, Xec Hernandez, survive on an annual income of less than $ 10.000. They are so poor they need public assistance to pay rent for housing and purchase food, and are users of public transport.

Moreno says that the official figures which measure poverty are not exact, but there are other ways to observe them. "An undocumented person can not apply for unemployment benefit, they are invisible in official statistics, but become visible" through informal trade indicates.

Jose Barraza prefer to remain away from the eye of the authorities, so we chose a corner in Rosemead and San Gabriel boulevards, between the cities of Pico Rivera, South El Monte, which is only guarded by the California Highway Patrol ( CHP). "From the police side that bothers us, but on this side not," he says.

When the traffic light turns red, this young man takes his boat with water and a cleaner. One woman said yes without knowing what you asked, gets angry when the water begins to fall on the windshield. At the end gives $ 3 tip.

"I also throw fire with the mouth and juggling with fire, but first I'm going to win the public," he says.

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