I Love LA

“I love LA” certainly has a better ring to it than “I love El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula.” Maybe that’s why the name has been shortened over the years to the point that now it’s just two letters. This gives Los Angeles… CONTINUE READING >>

“I
love LA” certainly has a better ring to it than “I
love El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles
de la Porciúncula”. Maybe that’s why the name
has been shortened over the years to the point that now it’s
just two letters. This gives Los Angeles the distinction of
having both the longest and shortest name for a city in the US and
fourth longest in the world.

Prior to being dubbed that mammoth moniker by Don Fernando Rivera
y Moncada (his

own name a mouthful) and his band of forty-four Spanish
settlers back in 1781, the area was inhabited by the Tongva. The
Tongva territory covered all of what we now think of as Southern
California and the Channel Islands including Catalina.

While
journeying through The Golden State, we reckoned we
ought to see where The City of Angels got its start and that
meant a trip into the heart of downtown.

Nestled among the skyscrapers, train stations, bridges and parking
lots we found Olvera Street, the “Birthplace of Los

Angeles.”
A tiny block of mixed up Spanish-Mexican-Anglo heritage right in
the middle of modern America.

This
spot has been the center of LA since the 1820s when the plaza
was built on the edge of what was then known as Wine Street.
The road was officially renamed Olvera Street in 1877 in honor
of Augustín Olvera, a Judge for Los Angeles County.

Nowadays we find a lively tourist
area and historical district. Apparently the place rocks during
Cinco de Mayo and El Dia de los Muertos, a weeklong celebration
of joyful remembrance of lost loved ones.

Our
Olvera Street explorations began at Sepúlveda House.
Eloisa Martinez de Sepúlveda arrived here in Alta
California with her family at the age of eleven. They had
come from the State of Sonora, Mexico, which at that time was
a move from one state to another within the country.

Five years later, her family found themselves living under the rule
of the United States. Luckily

Eloisa’s family were landholders and

didn’t suffer the fate of many early inhabitants of the new American
Southwest after the Mexican-American War.

Eloisa
was one tough cookie. In 1887, widowed and left without the
property given as her marriage dowry, she built a commercial
building known as the Sepúlveda Block on land that
her also-widowed mother owned, quite a feat for a woman of
her day. The two story
Victorian-style building cost Eliosa $8,000 and featured businesses,
a boarding facility and her private residence.

Beautifully restored, Sepúlveda House remains today as the
Plaza District’s Visitors’ Center and mini museum providing a taste
of life in late nineteenth century Los Angeles.

Armed
with information from The Center, we took to the street. The
street is flanked by twenty-seven historic buildings dating
back to the 1800s, blending Mexican and the newly adopted
Anglo architectures. The original adobe
structures from the late 1700s no longer remain. Most buildings
are refurbished as restaurants or the ever present tourist area
crap shops but we nevertheless got a feel for how

LA rolled before
Hollywood came to town.

Down
the center of the narrow street small carts have set up shop
to ply their Mexican wrestling masks, paper flowers, cup and
ball toys, sarapes, cheap guitars, puppets and even an Elvis
on velvet or two.

Browsing the souvenirs amidst the aromas of the many authentic
cafes was killing us, so before we could make the last few
exhausting steps to the plaza, a sustenance stop was necessary.

There
are plenty of culinary choices on Olvera Street– from table
cloths adorned with fine china to walking-around-with wrapped tacos.
We chose an in-between — a sit down and eat from a basket establishment,
La Noche Buena, with its colorful atmosphere and tables in full
view of the

tortilla flinging in the kitchen.

Salsas
are generally a good yardstick when sizing up a Mexican restaurant
and La Noche Buena did not disappoint. Four varieties — muy
mild mannered to aye carumba! — served with whole fried corn
tortillas. Everything else was gravy after
that. After a few tacos al carbon and some killer taquitos, we had
regained the strength to manage the last fifty yards or so to the
plaza.

were wearing
powdered wigs and living in New England.

The
circular plaza in front of the old church is ringed with historical
markers depicting the founding of the LA and its counterpart
settlements up and down the west coast. Turns out the Spanish
had a well governed system of missions and presideos all across
the southwest.

Veronica,
a native California girl, was well versed in the mission
chronicles, but David was not taught about
the Spanish and Mexican side of things while growing up on the prairie
in the 1960s. As far as he knew the only people making history on
the entire North American continent in the late 1700s.

We’re never
too old to learn something new.

David &
Veronica, GypsyNester.com



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