Selling nostalgia: The emotional labor of immigrant Latina food vendors in Los Angeles

Lorena Munoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The sidewalks of Latino immigrant neighborhoods in Los Angeles are often coded with layers of trans-border informal economic cultural processes that shape and inform the practices of everyday lives in the Barrios. Sidewalks come alive with street vendors selling a variety of “typical” prepared foods from Latin America. Since street vending is illegal in Los Angeles, vendors “illegally” transform sidewalks to ephemeral informal markets that cater to other Latino immigrants. In this article, I argue that productive nostalgia is often used by vendors as an entrepreneurial strategy to keep their food sales up by selling typical foods to customers who consume nostalgic imaginaries of home through food, while activating memories of back home, that are then discussed with the food vendors. For vendors in my study, constantly activating memories from back home becomes unpaid emotional labor, as for some vendors the constant reminder of home while being away from that particular home becomes labor intensive management of emotions. Based on 35 oral histories, 75 interviews, and participatory observation I collected from 2003–2007, I learned that Latina food vendors, in addition to intensive physical labor, engage in emotional labor through productive nostalgia as entrepreneurial strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-299
Number of pages17
JournalFood and Foodways
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Emotional labor
  • food vendors
  • latinx immigrants
  • productive nostalgia
  • street vending


Dive into the research topics of 'Selling nostalgia: The emotional labor of immigrant Latina food vendors in Los Angeles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this