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The Color and Culture of Olvera Street

by Penny Sadler

The Color and Culture of Olvera St. doorway Olvera St. Los Angeles California ©pennysadler 2012 Adventuresofacarryon.com

On the surface, you see a vibrant and colorful street with an authentic marketplace atmosphere. It’s packed with restaurants, shops, and vendors selling imports from Mexico: brightly colored piñatas, candles, maracas, blankets and clothing. There was a musician playing Peruvian music in the Plaza the day I was there. The whole area, including the Avila Adobe can be seen in a few hours. It’s a multi-sensory experience with great aesthetic value.Olvera Street is a beautiful reminder of the origins of the City of Los Angeles.

Growing up in California, I didn’t spend a lot of time around downtown Los Angeles, but as an adult I’ve really enjoyed exploring and getting to know L.A. With every visit I like it more and more. It’s a culturally diverse city with a port and a great art scene.

I work in the film and television industry, so there’s a natural affinity there as well. I love the huge billboards advertising the latest film or show. Read more about things to see and do in L.A. in my short memoir, Why I Love California.

My most recent trip took me to Olvera Streeet and the oldest standing residence in the city, the Francisco Avila Adobe. This area is the location of the original city of Los Angeles.

©pennysadler 2012 Olvera St.

Here are a few facts about Olvera Street, and the area known as El Pueblo De Los Angeles.

The Color and Cultures of Olvera St. @PennySadler 2012

Colorful traditional wardrobe of Mexico,

Plaza Olvera St. L.A. ©pennysadler 2012

Street musician in the plaza, Olvera St., Los Angeles

The area was settled in 1781 by the Spanish, who were in power until Mexico asserted itself and took over the pueblo. The first houses and adobe structures, the parish church, and the first streets were built during this period.

By the 1880’s, the railroad brought a massive influx of immigrants, mainly from Mexico. It continued to be the center of civic life until after the Gold Rush, when the area fell on hard times.

mexican blankets olvera street ©pennysadler 2012

In the 1920s a woman from San Francisco, Christine Sterling, was interested in the history and sociocultural value of the area. She drafted a plan to save the Adobe and Plaza from demolition and turn Olvera Street into a tourist attraction. Sterling is responsible for Olvera Street and the restoration of the Avila Adobe as it is today. Without her determination, the Adobe and surrounding buildings would likely be dust in the wind.
With funding from the wealthy citizens of Los Angeles, and hard physical labor provided by prisoners from the county jails, the restoration was completed. In 1929 the street was officially closed to traffic and in 1930, Paseo de Los Angeles officially opened.

In 1953 is was listed as an historic monument with the City of Los Angeles.

English: Avila Adobe, Olvera Street, Los Angel...

English: Avila Adobe, Olvera Street, Los Angeles, California, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading this quote from Sterling’s diary made me laugh out loud: “One of the prisoners is a good carpenter, another an electrician. Each day I pray they will arrest a bricklayer and a plumber.” Not only did this woman have vision, she had a sense of humor, though I’m sure she was quite sincere in her prayers. She lived in the Avila Adobe until her death in 1963.

English: Avila Adobe, Olvera Steet, Los Angele...

English: Avila Adobe, Olvera Steet, Los Angeles, California, USA(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For more information on celebrations and cultural activities in the area, read:

Many thanks to my good friends, Brenda and Rich, for taking me to Olvera St. in spite of the fact that they are longtime residents of Los Angeles, and have been there many times. A special thank you to Rich, for encouraging us to visit the Avila Adobe, which started my research on the history of Los Angeles. And finally thank you to all the internet researchers and explorers before me.

the color and culture of Olvera St. ©pennysadler 2012.Olvera Street, Los Angeles.

All content and photographs copyright Penny Sadler 2012 unless otherwise noted.

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Mary @ Green Global Travel September 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm

I could embrace this side of LA. Get me away from all of the traffic and commercialism.

Penny Sadler September 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm

There are many little neighborhoods like this in LA. Just have to know where to find them.

Micki September 6, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Thanks for this! I’m actually a big fan of LA. The city gets a lot of bad press, but honestly there’s a lot to do and see in LA, if you just dig a little. I’d never heard of Olvera Street before!

Penny Sadler September 7, 2014 at 9:00 am

LA is good fun with lots of history. You’d like Olvera St. It is a bit small but you have a lot in the immediate area, Union Station, China Town, The Adobe, Pico House, oh and Philipe’s for a French dip sandwich.

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family September 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Beautiful and colourful!

Terry at Overnight New York September 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm

1781? Nice to know Los Angeles has some serious history!

Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Terry, aren’t you a native of California?

noel September 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

It’s wonderful to see well preserved places like this and also get a nice background and history. Thanks for sharing a little about this lovely area.

Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Thanks Noel!

Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) September 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

Ahh I love Olvera Street! Like you, I grew up in California but didn’t spend too much time in downtown L.A. I went when I was last home though, and there is so much good stuff to see.

Beautiful pictures, by the way!

Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

There really is a lot there. Thanks!

Wandering Educators September 3, 2014 at 9:02 am

Oh, these colors! Love them!

Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

Me Too!

Cool Building: Union Station, Los Angeles - Adventures of a Carry-on | Adventures of a Carry-on September 3, 2013 at 11:28 pm

[…] If you go, plan to spend about half a day or more there, enjoying the sights and having lunch on Olivera Street or in […]

Suitcase Stories (@Suitcases2) April 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I am a sucker for color and markets so this was right up my alley!

Penny April 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I know me too! 🙂 If you’re ever in LA the area around Olvera St. is a great tourism spot. Besides Olvera St. there’s Union Station and China Town. There’s also some famous place for french dips sandwiches, I can’t think of the name, I don’t eat them, hence I can’t remember. 🙂

Penny December 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Seems to be ok now,
I just liked it! LOL

cindy knoke December 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Love this post, but couldn’t get the “like” button to work! Happy Holidays!

Penny December 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

How weird. Well computers and anything connected with them, i.e. interenet, not always perfect!
Happy Holidays to you too1

island traveler August 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm

The joys of colors and rich culture comes alive at Olvera Street! Beautiful.

Penny August 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thank you for the nice comment. I think I must have been a Latina in another life. 🙂


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