Professional mermaid isn't a position that comes up often for job seekers. But for 70 years, a Florida roadside attraction has been the profession's biggest employer. On a cold, gray Saturday morning, dozens of women swam laps in iceberg blue water at WeekiWacheeSprings State Park as onlookers bundled up in coats and mittens cheered them on. Close to 60 aspiring mermaids are competing to earn just eight slots on the park's famous mermaid squad.
Rebeca Gonzalez grew up eating artichokes from her grandmother's farm in the central Mexican state of Tlaxcala. But for years after emigrating to the U.S., she did not feed them to her own kids because the spiky, fibrous vegetables were too expensive on this side of the border. When she prepared meals at her family's home in Garden Grove, Calif., Gonzalez would also omit avocados, a staple of Mexican cuisine that are often costly here. "I saw the prices and I said, 'No, never mind,' " says...