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Olvera Street the Alley of the City of the Angels

Jun 16, 2009 by Lisa Newton

Taking a quick appraisal of most of our State’s–and the Southwestern States– its hard to not see our history from simply reading a map or street sign—from San Francisco, San Jose, Sonoma Valley, to San Diego. Practically everything California was, is and remains deeply rooted in Spanish and Mexican history, culture, and language.

Talk about the original mixing bowl and melting pot we’re it. California’s present day reality is still deeply rooted from the settlement, the pueblos meaning housing, that fueled quite a bit of the migration and discovery of California by ways and means from Mexico.

In its most basic form and substance—California’s development, character, and style are uniquely American and a product of the no-holds-barred “West we Go” and frontier Pilgrim spirit. Indeed sans Alaska and Hawaii, this is where it all stopped.

Demographically and physically, not only is it the oldest part of Los Angeles, Olvera Street pays homage to Mexico’s influences here–with its own panache it’s both a shopping Mecca and haven for our history and for our partisan indulgence for everything Mexico– from food to leather goods to puppets to pottery.

Let's Shop

Early History of Los Angeles

Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by a group of Spanish settlers consisting of 11 families — in all about 44 men, women and children in total.

The town, complete with a church and rectangular plaza surrounded by house lots and planting fields, was placed in its current location adjacent to Olvera Street in the early 1800s. Spanish colonial rule lasted until 1820. The town came under the control of newly independent Mexico in 1821. During this time of Mexican rule, which lasted until 1848, the Plaza area was the heart of Mexican community life in Los Angeles and center of an economy. Source: Olvera Street

Authentic Mexican

Mexico City and Los Angeles are Sister Cities

Over the years, both citizens and the city’s local leaders have helped to keep this area a central location of activity, celebrating Los Angeles’ connection to its neighbors to the south. In fact, Mexico City has been a “Sister” City to Los Angeles since 1969.

Step up

Besides the obvious shopping and authentic Mexican food, what attracted me to this street was the old architecture that lines the alley.


View Olvera Street Los Angeles in a larger map

The genuineness, charm and historic warmth was immediately felt by me as I not only walked these old tiles and steps of Olvera Street, when Travelin’ Local and living here I keep one eye to living “La Vida Loca” and the other to my next sublime adventure.

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Culture, Downtown, Los Angeles, Metro, SoCal

17 Responses to “Olvera Street the Alley of the City of the Angels”

  1. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts) says:

    The area does look quaint. I would love to get my hands on those gorgeous tiles. I would also love to try authentic Mexican food because it looks so delicious.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..Brave Iranian Woman

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Paisley (Paisley Thoughts), Oh, you should have smelled the food. I was meeting a friend for lunch so I didn’t eat anything, but I’m looking forward to going back.

    [Reply]

  2. Lisa's Chaos says:

    Now you’ve made me hungry! I bet they have great food! And I’m loving the atmosphere! I wanna ride the donkey! lol!

    Lisa’s Chaos’s last blog post..North Hero, Vermont

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Lisa’s Chaos, LOL…….Music was being played at a few of the shops, and I almost felt like dancing. Definitely a great place.

    [Reply]

  3. David says:

    Excellent story about Olvera Street and California and Mexico’s simple yet complicated history with one another.

    Well researched and executed.

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @David, Thanks, David. California history is an interesting mix of so many different cultures. I love doing the research.

    [Reply]

  4. D. Travis North says:

    Great observations and back-history. To an outsider, this is starting to turn into a ‘chicken and the egg’ scenario: Which came first? Your photographer’s eye or your strong interest in the cultural and historical landscape? That debate surely doesn’t really matter, because the result is something that is interesting to everyone. But I can definitely see that your photography has enhanced your observation skills since the first post here. Case and point: Compare your second shot above to this one (from January) and compare your third shot above to Walking/Riding the Beach Trail (from December ‘08). Your angles are better, your exposure is better, your compositions are better. You may not know it, but your improvement in these areas are what allow you to notice details like that last shot of the steps. Not only that, but I wonder if you would’ve approached that shot (placing the camera so low) just a mere 6 months ago.

    See – photography improves everything. ;P

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..SP@Flickr: Sunset by Vmaddalena

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, I’m humbled by your observations, Travis. It means a lot coming from a skilled photographer like yourself.

    I’ve learned a lot over the last few months, and I look forward to learning much more.

    BTW, are you participating in the Photo Walk? It looks like a lot of fun. I’m going to one a few hours from LA.

    [Reply]

    D. Travis North Reply:

    @LisaNewton, unfortunately not. We have plans that day, but if they change somehow, I’ll try to get to one of the ones near me.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..SP@Flickr: Sunset by Vmaddalena

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  5. Will Campbell says:

    Olvera Street is one of my favorite places in the city, but it’s worth cutting through the romance and noting that like so many landmarks in Los Angeles it almost was lost by politicians who saw little use in protecting it. In the 1920s it had declined into little more than a decrepit alley. Its resurrection, completed in 1930 came thanks to the tireless efforts of Christine Sterling who sought not only to preserve its historic structures, but also to create Los Angeles first “City Walk.” Some see it harshly as a fake tourist trap, but it’s a true civic treasure.

    Will Campbell’s last blog post..A Non-Pit Pitstop

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Will Campbell, I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t see it as a “tourist trap” at all. I was fascinated by the old buildings and all the shops. Not to mention the food.

    I did read about Christine Sterling, so thank you for mentioning her. :)

    [Reply]

  6. Diane C. says:

    I have fond memories of visiting Olvera Street as a child in the 1960’s. The music, colors and food were all so festive. Vendors sold gardenias as souvenirs and I still associate the smell of gardenias with Olvera Street.

    Diane C.’s last blog post..Cactus Monday – More Saguaro Fruit

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Diane C., I didn’t see any gardenia dealers when I was there. I might have missed them, but I hope they didn’t disappear over the years.

    I love the smell of gardenias. :)

    [Reply]

  7. Kim says:

    I cannot wait to visit all these place you mention.. You make me feel as if I have just walked through the towns/areas you visit.. wonderful job Lisa.

    Kim’s last blog post..Weekly Winners – NYC Round Two

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Kim, Please let me know when you plan on visiting. I’d love to meet you in person, and maybe going on a photo walk together. Thank you so much, Kim.

    [Reply]

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