"A lot of people ask, 'Should I go back to my country, to Mexico or Guatemala or El Salvador,' " said Juliana Contreras, 45. "People ask, 'Should I go or should I stay?' I usually tell them if it's bad here, it's worse in their countries."
Still, the streets teem less than before. Is that because fewer people are going out and spending money, or because immigrants have left?
"Before the economic crisis, there was a lot more money and a lot more people," she said. "A lot of people left the state. Few that I know left the country."
In front of a tamale place near the corner of 7th and Alvarado streets, Cesar Diaz, 29, clutched a can of Red Bull on his day off. The construction worker from Mexico City said many of his relatives and friends left California after the economy reeled.
"A lot of them have gone to other states -- Utah, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada," Diaz said. "I went to Pennsylvania where I have an uncle but I hated the weather. I came back."
Diaz said he has lived in L.A. for 11 years and no longer thinks of leaving. Gradually, work has picked up, he said.
"This is my home. My home is California," he said. "The people I know who left, I don't think they'll come back here to live. Where they went is their home now. They're doing well and they found fixed jobs."