Los Angeles has been one of the West Coast’s jewels of culture, innovation, art, and history for decades. Summit Press had the opportunity to visit one of the cities many cultural hubs this weekend. The famous Olvera Street, across from Union Station, is a pedestrian region established in 1930 with the intention of revitalizing and preserving Mexican-American history in LA.
Upon visiting the streets, we were overwhelmed with colors and scents of Mexican culture. Shaded cobblestone walkways are surrounded by small vendors with trinkets, and items from Mexico as well as Central America. Through historical preservation and community effort, Olvera Street is what it is today, thanks to the Angelenos who keep it alive.
For generations, vendors have worked the market stalls. Originally, the street was intended to recreate the romanticism of an early California trade market. The trade market of old may have changed, but the crafts remain the same. We were lucky enough to meet one such vendor by the name of Martha Manriquez. Her family has been working the streets since the early 1930’s. Don Juanito’s Mexican Imports is the name of her small establishment. For over 5 generations, the family has had an impact on the cultural hub. Martha spoke of her oldest family members who had settled in Los Angeles from the city of Puebla in Mexico. As the story goes, her grandfather walked the entire distance from Puebla to California.
We were told three shoeshine boys helped establish one of the earliest table vendor shops in the 1930’s, along with help from Christine Sterling. Mrs. Sterling was seen as the mother of the street, and was one of the earliest pioneers in developing the rich culture that is now Olvera St.
While exploring the shops, we came across a leather-smith that has been in business for over 40 years. Murillo Leather, founded in 1971 by Manuel and Camerina Murillo. We had a chance to see how the leather is prepared and sewn together. The same artisanal crafts are replicated day after day, and visitors are able to experience what an early Spanish trade center would have looked like. Armando Murillo inherited the shop and has continued the trade to this day, with his wife Lupe. We witnessed gun molds being used to create holsters and many styles of western leather belts. This stand was just another example of the many different establishments that have left an impact on the city’s history.
From leather handiwork to Mexican Imports, Olvera Street is one of the many beautiful hidden treasures that Los Angeles has to offer. We hope our short gallery shows you a bit of the beauty we experienced, and wish you the best of luck on your local adventures.
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