La Crisis: Jardineros okay for now

El Jardinero by Los Originales de San Juan

The Wall Street Journal had an article on how paisa gardeners in Los Angeles don’t seem to be suffering as much their compatriots in construction and other blue-collar jobs. Despite La Crisis some of them seem to be doing remarkably well.

Many Immigrants Still Till the Land of Opportunity
As Some Foreign Laborers Head Home, Veteran Gardeners Find Their Dream of Middle-Class Prosperity Uneroded

“Gardening isn’t like working at a factory, where you depend on one employer,” says Manuel Quezada, a 54-year-old veteran gardener, as he and his team put down sod in the front yard of a house here. “If I lose one house, it doesn’t hurt that much.”

For immigrants, gardening has long been a stepping stone to prosperity. Japanese immigrants with a background in agriculture pioneered residential gardening in California in the early 20th century. The physical labor didn’t require education or fluent English but it lifted them into the middle class. In the mid-1960s, Mexican peasants began flocking to the U.S. Southwest in large numbers. By the 1980s, they had come to dominate the residential gardening niche, Mr. Ramirez says, and some have thrived financially.

I can see how this industry would continue to do well. Some neighborhoods are required to have a certain amount of landscape maintenance and most of these folks that live in these areas are not going to do it themselves. However, if water rationing is implemented (California is currently in emergency drought conditions), I wonder how long it will be before gardeners start feeling the pinch.

On a related note, I’ve been hearing anecdotal tales about immigrants moving back home or at least away from Los Angeles. Anyone have friends or family affected by La Crisis that have decided to move on?

4 thoughts on “La Crisis: Jardineros okay for now

  1. Interesting, you make a good point about the water rationing affecting them.

    I have family that WAY before La Crisis toward the midwest because life is simpler and cheaper out there. My parents rent a 3 bedroom apartment with two bathrooms, a laundry room, ample living room and ok kitchen for like $750 a month. In fact just talking out loud with some of my friends, deserting the sinking ship, so to speak, and going back to Mexico or another country doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Some of their parents want to move back and kinda go into retirement and just live out the rest of their lives. Why keep busting your ass here when you can go back home and chill till the cows come home. My first choice is Japan.

  2. My dad talks about moving down there to the old ranch since he is retired, he want’s to rent his property and live cheaply over there. I am not sure if he is really going to do it he has been retired a while now.

  3. Real free enterprise as it was meant to be. Hustling a buck, the immigrant story in the US from the Eastern European Jewish rag men and the Italian vegetable carts to the Chinese hand laundry.
    Ducking the rocks thrown at you, avoiding the tax man, getting hustled yourself by the mano’s lisa’s.
    But bringing home the bacon (or carnitas in the Mexicano’s case), feeding your family and hoping the next generation moves on up.

  4. back in the day, i think it was easier to make money gardening. i think in the past, people were willing to pay more for the lawn because their wages were better. so you could set prices higher. at least 3 of my neighbors were the old school Japanese gardeners. they owned their houses. mostly it was an immigrant business, but there were some nisei doing it too due to discrimination.

    i thought they were history, so to speak, but when they were trying to restrict leaf blowers a decade back, they came out of the woodwork. mostly, these old guys complained that, mexican gardeners needed to be more politically organized.

    i guess everyone has to learn that eventually.

    anyways, denoument to the story, nobody on the street gardens anymore. even i don’t go there to mow the lawn anymore. we hire a dude who lives in l.a. and has a route in the neighborhood.

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