Column: Their pupuserias survived the riots. Now, Central Americans thrive in South LA

Alexis Navarrete, who is a second-generation owner of La Flor Blanca, a pupuseria near USC in Los Angeles. As the L.A. riots escalated, Rolando Navarrete and his siblings paid local men to protect their pupuseria.

Refugees from El Salvador, the Navarettes had scraped together the cash to open La Flor Blanca two years earlier near the corner of Vernon and Broadway. It was one of the first Central American restaurants in historically Black South L.A.

“Can you imagine that?” Rolando’s son, Alexis Navarrete, said recently. “You had a family that had saved their entire life savings to start up the restaurant, and the L.A. riots occur.”

Many businesses in La Flor Blanca’s South Park neighborhood suffered extensive damage. The young, tiny eatery not only survived the riots but ultimately thrived. And around it, a Central American community grew.

Thirty years later, there are as many pupuserias in large swaths of South L.A. west of the 110 Freeway as there are taquerias and burger stands.

Evangelical storefront churches painted in the blue and white common to all Central American flags stand near massive Black houses of worship. Paintings and decals of quetzals, the long-plumed, vibrantly colored national bird of Guatemala, are as common as murals […]

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