EAST LOS ANGELES -- This market may be sandwiched in a small parking lot between homes and a freeway, but there’s nothing low-key about it.
The new Queer Mercado, launched a few months ago in East Los Angeles, is brimming with personality — bassy party music, colorful booths selling candles and clothes, and even a dancer in unicorn garb.
“The atmosphere, the music, the entertainment. It’s ... really fun and lively,” said artist Juan Moncada, who goes by Johnny Modo and draws caricatures at the market.
A safe space
But what makes the market really special, say organizers, is the representation it provides for the LGBTQ+ community on the Eastside. It’s meant to create a safe space for the community to buy and sell wares and benefit from information and services provided by nonprofit groups at the market.
Torie Colocho said the market provides trans, non-binary, gay and non-straight folks a “vending space where they are able to feel free, where they are able to feel excited, where they are able to feel connected with themselves and those around them who can relate to the similar struggles that they go through.”
The event empowers vendors who might face discrimination elsewhere and it can be therapeutic, allowing vendors to build their own personal connections and find a community of supportive colleagues and friends, said Ryan Montez, who is one of the market organizers, along with Diana Diaz and Gaudencio Marquez
The Mercado has raised the profile of several vendors. For instance, the market gives Moncada, the artist, a chance to get his name out and potentially meet small business owners who might commission him for advertising content.
Fostering these kinds of connections and economic development opportunities for small and independent local businesses is a key part of the market’s goal, said Marquez.
Uplifting the LGBTQ Community
“We’re intending to uplift the LGBT-Queer community by creating, one, a celebratory space and atmosphere, but also an opportunity for economic development, economic opportunities for vendors,” Marquez said. The market “is a space for us to uplift brands that are Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, and LGBT, and then also just think about how we can incubate and start developing ideas.”
The Queer Mercado is held the third Saturday of each month outside of the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy, 319 N Humphreys Ave.
UT Community News, produced by Cal State L.A. journalism students, covers public issues on the Eastside and South L.A.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the organizers of the market. The organizers are Diana Diaz, Gaudencio Marquez and Ryan Montez.