"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.