Privatizing History in Downtown L.A.
Posted on Feb 12, 2010
Olvera Street, the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles, is a pocket of near-authentic Mexican culture where one can buy chorizos, clothing and handicrafts. But the city’s budget crisis is leading to a push to privatize the monument, giving way to an influx of Starbucks and Pollo Loco on the historical street. —JCL
It’s unfortunate, but many of us Los Angeles natives take Olvera Street aka El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument or La Placita Olvera for granted. It’s the place to buy taquitos, folklorico shoes and other Mexican handicrafts. We go there to eat, stroll, take pictures on donkeys and just hangout. Every year they put on great programs to celebrate different holidays. I have fond memories of winning the best costume contest for Mardi Gras one year (Chicken Girl!) My mom always tells her story of spotting Marlon Brando sitting in the Plaza one afternoon, staring forlornly into space. For myself and my family, Olvera Street is an institution, a part of our personal history.
I recently read the book Los Angeles’s Olvera Street by William Estrada and was surprised by the history of this Los Angeles landmark. If it weren’t for the efforts of Christine Sterling, who recognized the area as a historic treasure, the whole street (actually it’s kind of an alley) would have been demolished and long forgotten by now.
Well, it’s time we all channel our inner Christine Sterlings because we received an urgent email tonight from a LA Eastside reader regarding a very important meeting tomorrow. It seems the City of Los Angeles, in it’s typical short-sighted way wants to privatize Olvera Street. I’m sure it sounds good to the CAOs and accountants to do so, but our history is much more valuable than the small profits number-crunchers try to come up with. This is not to say that there is no room for change or new ideas but privatization usually brings homogenization and corporate culture something Olvera Street, for all it’s faults, refreshingly lacks. Our city has enough malls.
Flickr / The City Project
Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles.