Appreciating the Landscape - Latin American Barrios

by LaRose, Yvonne Friday, November 10, 2006
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Was it yesterday or was it today? Probably the former. It was the day that I arrived at the Alvarado and Wilshire bus stop, peered across the street at the congested store front of the 99 Cents Store and determined that I should stop being angry about the nearly impossible to navigate thoroughfare and appreciate the cultural aspect of it.

Wilshire and Alvarado is one example of this style of living and commerce, of doing business. Another mecca is located at Vermont and Wilshire. There are others but I haven't taken the time to give cognizance to the cultural awareness that they afford. Instead, I bow my head and fight to plow through the oppression of the crowd. I become vexed at how the street vendors overtake the sidewalk (they nearly make going from point A to point B impossible as you exit a bus) and wonder why in the world they insist upon overtaking the sidewalk so that people have to fight to get through to their destination.

But yesterday, I saw the richness of the experience and appreciated it. I remembered the bus ride I took in Zihuatanejo and how people literally pushed their way onto the vehicle and we bumped and jostled along narrow roads in order to reach the marketplace where vendors were crowded under a tent hawking their wares. It was yesterday that I remembered that trip to Zihuatanejo and began to appreciate the richness of the cultural influences of Los Angeles.

Then I began to speculate as to whether these spontaneous placetas are unique to Mexican culture or to several Latin American cultures. The veil of blindness lifted ever so slightly and I was able to appreciate that the vendors are people from another country and have limited (if any) English skills. They came here (as our forefathers did in the 17th Century) to found a new, better life for the sake of their children. They came here in order to earn a decent wage, but conditions force them to use their wits, not their education. So they've created cottage industries of selling beads, jewelry, and food. They sell these things on streets in the barrios of the city because it is what they are accustomed to. Their predecessors and neighbors have counseled them that this is the thing to do in order to survive. They insist that their children learn as much as possible and earn the best grades possible so that they won't have to live the same existence. Many force their children to learn English so that they will have opportunity in the Promised Land, El Norte.

My heart softened for a few minutes yesterday as I allowed the realization to sink in. I stopped being annoyed at the crowd and the insensitivity of crowding out foot traffic. And I wondered how much of life I've been ruing because it caused an inconvenience for me as my rat in the maze existence wears its miserable way to Destiny.

What does this have to do with recruiting and sourcing? Appreciation of culture and diversity. Taking into consideration the determination a candidate has in order to survive and excel. Appreciating the underlying intelligence that is required to operate these cottage industries and make them thrive. Understanding that it takes a certain amount of salesmanship, persuasion, customer service, math skills, and many other talents that the ordinary person does not gain by merely drifting through life until the sheep's skin is bestowed on them for having sat through classes and written papers in order to coerce the professor into awarding an above average passing grade.

Which potential candidate has the desired skills and talents and intelligence? It's for us to test and assess and measure and use our best estimate in order to select the one with the most promise for the mix that we seek to create.

Tomorrow is a new day and I'll no doubt return to being annoyed at being crowded off the sidewalk or detoured into a direction that forces me to take extra steps. But with these words, I hope those of you outside of Los Angeles (and those who are here) will appreciate the dense cultural quilt we have, as one patch of it is Latin American influenced.