Olvera Street

When speaking of Los Angeles as an invented and imagined city, there are few who would not think of Olvera Street as one of the first places at this city’s root. Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles. Because of this, tourists herd to this area to enjoy what they think is an authentic taste of Los Angeles’ Spanish roots. As part of the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District, the current title of this historic district that served as the city’s center under Spanish rule from 1781-1821, Olvera Street must be upkept by local government in such a way that stays true to Spanish origins. In some ways, the street does this itself, simply by existing and being operated mainly by those of Hispanic heritage, but in other ways, the street is a product of the imagined foundation that Los Angeles was founded upon. In November of 1928, young Christine Sterling went for a walk in the area and saw that the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, was slated for demolition. This stirred her to begin a campaign to raise money to repair the house instead of having it be destroyed by the city. In her doing this, the street evolved into the bright future she imagined for it. Sterling wanted to create a Mexican marketplace near the Avila Adobe where people could experience the Spanish and Mexican heritage of Los Angeles firsthand. Because of Sterling’s efforts, not only were many historical buildings were saved, but decades away, in modern times, people can enjoy a taste of Los Angeles’ hispanic heritage by visiting restaurants like Cielito Lindo, where mariachi bands sing and enjoy authentic Mexican taquitos as I was able to.

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