MARIA ARGÃœETA sells produce outside her home in Boyle Heights. Photo by Kimberly Parada.
MARIA ARGÃœETA sells produce outside her home in Boyle Heights. Photo by Kimberly Parada.
MARIA ARGÃœETA sells produce outside her home in Boyle Heights. Photo by Kimberly Parada.

Part 2 of a 4-part series.

When she lost her husband to cancer two years ago, Maria Guadalupe Argueta’s budget collapsed, and she ended up leaving her home and all her belongings and living with her six children crammed in a minivan.

“We parked outside Lincoln Park,” said Argueta. “We spent four difficult days there,” with access to public bathrooms only during the day. “We didn’t know what to do, and no one would rent us anything.”

Argueta realized she had to find a way to survive. It was not easy, but she found a part-time job at a downtown produce facility and also began selling excess fruit from her home.

Several times a week, Argueta sets up a stand with watermelons, oranges, cantaloupes and lemons outside her rented home in Boyle Heights.

Makeshift signs tied up against the barbed wire fence announce $3 bags of lemons and two bags of oranges for $5.

With only a couple of English words and plenty of smiles, she greets her customers, who include neighbors, passersby and even drivers in the afternoon traffic.

“You have to provide for your family, and there is no other option than to work,” explained Argueta, who supports six children, a grandmother and her disabled mother.

The $100 she earns weekly from her sales helps pay for cell phone bills and her mother’s foot pain medication.

Even with limited education and a lack of work experience, the widowed mother continues to be optimistic. The money she earns is not much, she says, but for now, “There’s no other choice than to risk your life.”

Tomorrow: Meet Caridad Vasquez, a street food vendor who is fighting for her right to sell on the streets of Los Angeles.

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