A Hope-Filled Chat + Hot Salsa Recipe From One of LA’s Hardest-Hit Latino Restaurants

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

The coronavirus, and the social distancing practices put in place to stop its spread, have affected several small businesses across the country. Beloved shops like Eduardo Flores’ restaurant on Los Angeles’ famous Olvera Street are no exception.

Olvera Street is a historical part of Los Angeles, located across the street from Union Station. Under normal circumstances, folks who come to this corridor of shops and carts will find themselves immersed in a few of the rich, vibrant smells and sounds that make up the heartbeat of Latino culture. However, the bustling destination—usually filled with city officials and wide-eyed travelers—is now desolate.

Flores, owner of Juanita’s Café—a 76-year family-run business—is somehow still surprisingly jovial in cadence when we speak on the phone. There’s an aura of hope in his voice as he discusses the distressing pandemic affecting his and neighboring businesses along Olvera Street.

“The Olvera Street merchants have found themselves up against a wall multiple times over the near-century that we’ve been in business,” he says. “We will prevail once again as we have in the past and be the beautiful Mexican marketplace so many visitors have come to love.”

Flores’ business is one of several that have taken a hit after international efforts to flatten the curve escalate. The entire state of California, for example, is on lockdown.

“People are being told not to go converge anywhere so we actually are losing about 95% of their business. I don’t think any one merchant here on Olvera Street—I know this is a nationwide issue—but I don’t think any merchant is making enough money [on] any particular day to actually break even. I certainly haven’t,” he assures.

One might think that colder, dreary weather would encourage local clientele to order takeout or delivery. Even with both still being an option, sadly that’s just not the case.

“I’ve laid off all of my employees except one,” Flores tells Remezcla. “There is not enough business to support having them come in.”

Flores’ business currently remains open as it falls in the essential list of businesses able to continue to operate during the pandemic.

“We are hoping that businesses will get a bit of a kick on the weekend, he says. There’s still an underlying element of hope in his voice, despite witnessing concerning hoarding practices around the country and having to scale back on food production.

“Hopefully we can purchase [food] again in a couple of weeks. If people bought the normal amounts there would be plenty for everybody but they’re not.

Those in LA can support Flores by ordering from Juanitas during their limited hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also tune in to their Instagram and Facebook for more. In the meantime, here’s a rough recipe for hot salsa from Flores,  which you can make wherever home is:

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.
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