Olvera Street: el origen de Los Ángeles

Olvera Street: this is the origyn of the city of Los Ángeles

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The history of Los Angeles began on Olvera Street, an emblematic place that honors Mexico and its influence on the origin of the city

Have you ever heard of the origin of the city of Los Angeles? According to American historian John D. Trausch, the history of this city began in September 1781, when King Carlos III of Spain ordered 11 Mexican families to settle in Los Angeles, originally called El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles. The families that arrived were made up of 11 men, 11 women and 22 children; two of them were Spanish and the rest Mexican.

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View of Olvera Street in Los Angeles, California, circa 1955. Source: Frederic Lewis/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

After the War of Independence, in 1821, Los Angeles became part of Mexico. However, by 1848, after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the city became part of the United States when Mexico handed over the territories of Texas, New Mexico and upper California to the neighboring country.

The first modern settlements in the area were on what is now known as Olvera Street, the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles, and where the city is said to have originated. According to 19th-century maps, the street was previously called Wine Street or Vine Street, due to the nearby vineyards and wine cellars. The name of the street was officially changed in 1877 to Olvera Street, in honor of Agustín Olvera, the first judge of the Superior Court, who fought against the Americans in the war.

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Source: Los Ángeles Magazine

“The turn of the century brought with it abandonment, decadence and deterioration. With the abandonment came the forgotten of the city, the poor migrant workers. Many of the city’s unemployed gathered in the square and it became a hotbed of radical politics. Revolutionary icons like anarchist Emma Goldman and Sun Yat-Sen, the father of modern China, spoke there. But the street continued its downward spiral of abandonment,” said John D. Trausch, who also assured that many called Olvera Street “Pueblo de Sonora,” due to the origin of most of its inhabitants.

Olvera Street, a living tribute to Mexico

The history of Olvera Street, as it is known today, began to be written in 1929, when Christine Sterling, a wealthy and high-society woman from Northern California, discovered that the street had become an abandoned place and ruins. Seeing those early buildings, she envisioned a Mexican market and cultural center in the heart of Los Angeles, with the goal of preserving the memory that gave rise to the city.

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Source: Michael Julian / Time Out

The Ávila Adobe, the first building built in 1818, and 26 other structures surrounding the plaza were scheduled to be demolished that year. However, Harry Chandlereditor of The Angeles Times, and Christine Sterling were the promoters of the creation of Olvera Street under this new concept, reaching investors with the vision of restricting car traffic and making a square like the ones in Mexico, an idea that became a reality in 1930. 1930.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Olvera Street remains under that vision, and has been named one of the best avenues in the United States by the American Planning Association. Visitors can enjoy cultural expressions of Mexico and see the 27 historic buildings that surround Plaza Olvera. In addition, here you can see the first church, fire station and theater of the city. There are also old houses like Casa Pico, which belonged to Pío de Jesús Pico, the last Mexican governor of California.

olvera street el origen de los angeles
Source: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times.

For tourists from all over the world and Americans, visiting Olvera Street is an opportunity to get a little closer to Mexican culture. The place is surrounded by restaurants, where you can find Mexican food such as tacos and churros, as well as handicrafts. Events are also held for celebrations, such as May 5 and Day of the Dead.

Have you been to Olvera Street?

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