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EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES

This historic district protects LA’s oldest structures, all built between 1818 and 1926. Close to the site where 44 Mexican men, women, and children established El Pueblo de Los Angeles in the name of the Spanish crown in 1781, it also reflects the heritage of other ethnic groups that arrived later, including the Chinese, Italians, and French. As LA grew into a metropolis, businesses relocated and the area plunged into deep decline. Now restored, three of El Pueblo de Los Angeles’ 27 structures contain museums.

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Map of El Pueblo de Los Angeles

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info El Pueblo Visitor Center: Avila Adobe, Olvera Street; 213-628-1274; open 9am–4pm daily; www.elpueblo.lacity.org

prac_info Olvera Street market: open 10am–7pm daily (some shops may open earlier and close later)

prac_info Avila Adobe: open 9am–4pm daily

prac_info Old Plaza Firehouse: open 10am–3pm daily

prac_info Chinese American Museum: 425 N Los Angeles St; open 10am–3pm Tue–Sun; adm $3

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  • Olvera Street is great for an authentic Mexican meal. Try the popular Casa Golondrina or the casual La Luz del Día.
  • Volunteer docents offer free guided tours of El Pueblo at 10am, 11am, and noon Tuesday to Saturday. Check in next to the firehouse. The visitor center offers self-guided tour pamphlets.

1. América Tropical

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Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s controversial 1932 mural is a visceral allegory about the exploitation of Mexican workers.

2. Blessing of the Animals

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Leo Politi’s endearing 1978 mural shows the old Mexican tradition of thanking animals for the joy and service they provide humans. Celebrations take place in the Old Plaza each year.

3. Old Plaza

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Music, dancing, and fun fills the Old Plaza during lively fiestas. It has sculptures of King Carlos III of Spain (1716–88) and Felipe de Neve (1724–84), and a plaque listing the original settlers honors LA’s founders.

4. Olvera Street

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Named after LA’s first county judge, this busy, brick-paved lane has been a Mexican marketplace since 1930. Wander past and try some tacos or tortas.

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Colorful items on sale at Olvera Street

5. Sepulveda House

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Eloisa Sepulveda built this huge 22-room Victorian house in 1887 as her home, a hotel, and two stores.

6. Pico House

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Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, built this grand edifice in 1870. It was LA’s first three-story structure and once a hotel.

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The facade of Pico House

7. Plaza Catholic Church

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Worshipers have gathered in LA’s oldest church since 1822. The original was rebuilt in 1861. Features include the painted ceiling and the main altar framed in gold leaf.

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The Plaza Catholic Church is the oldest church in LA

8. Chinese American Museum

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The Chinese first settled here in the late 19th century. This museum, housed in the 1890s Garnier Building, traces the community’s history.

9. Old Plaza Firehouse

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This two-story brick building is a must-see. Firehouse No.1 with its all-volunteer crew and horse-drawn equipment was operational until 1897. Check out a small exhibit of memorabilia.

10. Avila Adobe

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LA’s oldest surviving house, built by mayor Don Francisco Avila in 1818, went through several incarnations as a military headquarters and boarding house. Today, it contains a visitor center.

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A room in Avila Adobe

THE MOTHER OF OLVERA STREET

Had it not been for Christine Sterling (1881–1963), an LA socialite-turned-civic activist, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles area may have been completely different. Dismayed by the seediness of LA’s oldest neighborhood, Sterling launched her 1926 campaign to save it, backed by LA Times publisher Harry Chandler and others. In April 1930, Olvera Street was reincarnated as a busy Mexican market. The Avila Adobe contains an exhibit on her triumph.

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