El Monte farmers market returns in time to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

2020 was a false start for the city’s then-new farmers market

Vendors engage with event attendees as the night rolls in. (Courtesy of Erik Adams. UT.)

Erik Adams, Community News Reporter

Just as El Monte residents were starting to enjoy having a new farmers market in town in 2020, it was shut down because of the pandemic.

Now, it’s back in full swing and there’s a lot to celebrate, including being able to gather again and Hispanic Heritage Month.

In El Monte, about 65% of the city’s 113,000 residents are Latinx and the city celebrated this rich culture and heritage with upbeat northern Mexican music and vendors selling fresh produce and snacks at the city’s farmers market event last week. Safety measures included posted signs reminding guests to wear masks and a mobile testing site available for all who attended.

“We’re back on, following all of the L.A. County protocols,” said Alma K. Martinez, El Monte’s city manager. The market is not just “a space to provide organic fresh fruits and vegetables for the community, but also it has become a space for different vendors and artisans to sell their products. We’re able to theme every farmers market to meet the needs of the community and to go in line with the different festivities throughout the year.” 

For instance, the market had themes for Mothers Day, Fathers Day and LGBTQ earlier this year.

In September, Martinez said, the city celebrates Hispanic Heritage because “it’s not just Mexican Independence, which is being celebrated today, but different South American and Central American countries celebrate their independence through the months of September and October.”

Event-goers enjoyed a festive photo booth and themed craft-making booth, snacking on foods such as elotes and tamales, and listening to instrumental and cumbia tunes played by a live local Spanish-language band, Grupo Impakto Show.

“I wanted to come and celebrate my culture,” said Alondra Molina, speaking over the music. 

Molina, who has lived in El Monte for 18 years and is from Mexico, said she feels there are more opportunities to enjoy Latinx culture, especially as it “is more accepted with the younger generation.”

As the sun sunk lower into the horizon, children lined up near a large Sun-shaped piñata that  hovered above a blocked-off intersection and each child took a swing, laughing and twirling as they struck. A few minutes later, candy covered the ground, quickly followed by children snagging the treats.

Susan and Miguel Garcia, a married couple sitting nearby, watched the last of the candy being scooped up. They said they regularly attend El Monte’s farmers markets but this time, also came to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. 

The Garcias have lived in El Monte for 50 years. 

“Usually, if they have events, we participate,” Susan said, adding that they celebrate the culture by trying to “uplift the community and participating in what’s going on … If anyone is local [and] selling something, we try to buy it and make it worth their while to be there.”

The couple added that it felt good to be out and about again, especially for festivities like those for the heritage month.

“I don’t think there was anything happening last year,” she said.

But as far as feeling safe, the two both let out an “uhh” and laughed.

“At times,” Miguel said. “It all depends.” 

“Anytime we see [people] not wearing masks, it’s kind of concerning,” Miguel added. “But we try to always wear it.” 

Miguel said he’s diabetic, so must wear a mask to keep safe, despite some others not doing so. “When science backed up the facts and the numbers, there were no questions about [taking the vaccine],” he said. “I don’t understand the people who refuse to take the shot.” 

Susan chimed in, saying that in El Monte, for the most part, “almost everybody, everywhere you go, will have a mask on.”

She noted the high number of people at the event who were wearing masks: “Everybody takes care of everybody and I really appreciate that from the people in this city.”

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected].