What do you picture when you think of Los Angeles?
Hollywood Stars? Traffic? Palm trees? American excess spilling from high rise office towers and luxury shops?
⭐️ 🏎 🌴
ALL of this exists in LA, but the city has so much more to offer.
Enter Olvera Street
Olvera Street is a Mexican shopping district located in the heart of El Pueblo de Los Angeles historical monument. This area IS the birthplace of LA. Many of the city’s oldest structures are here and a day spent in the neighborhood will give you a taste of LA’s humble beginnings.
The earliest indigenous people settled in Los Angeles by 8000 B.C! The Portuguese arrived next, led by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. The area eventually came under Spanish rule with the arrival of Gaspar de Portolá in 1769. He established a small outpost which was further expanded in 1781 when 11 families moved permanently to the site.
1781 is considered to be the official founding of Los Angeles. The governor at the time named the growing settlement El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, or "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula.” source The area remained part of colonial Spain until 1821 when Mexico declared their independence. At the conclusion of the Mexican American War (1846-1848), Los Angeles and all of California became part of the United States.
Visiting El Pueblo
After decades of traveling to Los Angeles, I finally visited this part of the city in April. Our first stop was Los Angeles Plaza Park. This square features statues of several historic figures and is a central gathering spot for many of the city’s celebrations including, Las Posadas, Cinco de Mayo, and Dia de los Muertos. Several historic buildings surround the plaza including the city’s first hotel and fire station.
Olvera Street opened as a marketplace on Easter Sunday, 1930. The market was the brainchild of a young woman named Christine Sterling. Two years prior Miss Sterling had been waking in the historical neighborhood when she noticed Avila Adobe, the city’s oldest house, marked for demolition. In a fundraising effort to save the home, she also envisioned creating a Mexican marketplace that would harken back to the earliest days of the city’s founding. Miss Sterling succeeded both in saving the home and in creating the market.
Adjacent to the Olvera Street marketplace is Avila Adobe. As I briefly mentioned above, this is the OLDEST home in Los Angeles. The home was built in 1818 and was the residence of one of LA’s earliest mayors. The home remained occupied by members of the same family until 1868. It eventually fell into disrepair until restoration efforts began in the 1920’s. Today the building serves as a museum showcasing life in early Los Angeles.
Another site in el pueblo is Plaza Olvera. This small park, surrounded by orange and fuchsia bougainvillea, features a statue of Antonio Aguilar. Aguilar, a star of both stage and screen, has a huge fan base amongst California’s Mexican American community. In his life Aguilar recorded over 150 albums, and he has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. It is said he spent three night sleeping in Plaza Olvera when he first arrived in Hollywood, making this a fitting location for his tribute.
So, in an area with a shopping focus, what did we buy? We came home with only two items. The first was a hand painted magnet set. One magnet depicting a woman in traditional folklorico dress and the other showing a male mariachi. The second item purchased was a hand carved and painted wooden octopus! Sort of an odd choice, but the detail in the thing and the colors of the paint drew us in.