The Starlite Swap Meet


Starlite Swap Meet sign, photograph by Jennifer Renteria, 2009.

Lesson plan by Erika Garcia


Students will learn the history and culture of swap meets and how they are not only a space for vendors to profit from, but for families to build traditions and for communities to gather in collective space.

Students will organize their own version of the Starlite Swap Meet on their campus or at Zamora Art House in Zamora Park, El Monte. Students and their families will participate in a cost-free tianguis.

Core Reading

“The Starlite Swap Meet” by Jennifer Renteria in East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte.

Primary Resources

SEMAP Collection #9 Starlite Swap Meet and Drive-in:

Essential Questions

What are the origins of the swap meet? How has it transformed into what we know today?

How is the history of swap meets in the United States connected to the history of Mexican, Latinx, and Asian migrants and refugees?

Explain the ways spaces, like swap meets, benefit the community?

What are ways we can create/organize our own community-run swap meet on campus?

The community surrounding Starlite Swap Meet is being gentrified at an alarming rate. The lot of the swap meet has been designated to be converted into luxury condos that most surrounding residents cannot afford. What does the displacement of community-based spaces tell us about the future of BIPOC cities?

Key Terms

Urban/concrete landscape
Swap Meet/pulga/tianguis
Community; sense of
Cost-free events


Activity: ¡A que ir al tianguis!

This activity will encourage students to create their own sense of community by hosting their own version of a cost-less Starlite Swap Meet on campus or at Zamora Art House in Zamora House in El Monte. Students and teachers will have the opportunity to make their own tianguis donation-based, give what you can, and take what you need, if there is cause for raising funds.

How to:

  • Direct students to analyze primary source “Swap meet weekend day time lapse” by Jennifer Renteria to get an idea of what it takes to organize an event. In addition, encourage students to visit local bartering events like Santa Fe Swap Meet
  • Begin by drafting an outline that includes: schedule of swap meet, location and time, and logistics of event (how many tables, chairs, and canopies will be needed)
    • Questions to ask:
      • Who is participating?
      • Is admissions free?
      • What is the purpose of organizing a “swap” meet vs selling market?
  • Present to your administrators for approval
  • Once approved, begin drafting marketing assets. Encourage students to dive deep into SEMAP Collection #9 for the various ways Starlite organizers advertised their event.
    • Direct students to create graphics for both social media purposes and fliers.
    • Encourage students to present the information in their other classrooms to inform educators and surrounding students.
  • Reach out to community-run organizations to ask for their participation. The South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP) can contribute free family and individual portraits to visitors using antique cameras and professional lighting. South El Monte novelist Carribean Fragoza can serve as a public scribe and provide free love letters, confessions, despedidas, in English, Spanish, or Spanglish.
  • Organize students and their families to bring items to swap with one another.


Encourage students to draft a written response that details their experience organizing and participating in a cost-free swap meet.


Model of Starlite Swap Meet by students of Mountain View High School, 2023. Photograph by Alfred Mendoza.

Starlite Swap Meet