The Olvera Street Merchants were the first group to launch Dia de los Muertos celebrations this year on October 6th. And the women of Los Angeles definitely got into the spirit of this ancient and now very popular holiday.
It is almost a month until Dia de los Muertos or All Saints Day, as it is also known, on November 1st, the day after Halloween. These two holidays have run together here in Los Angeles into one huge party.
So here is what I saw:
According to one vendor there are 20 other Day of the Dead events in Los Angeles this year. The two big ones I intend to go to are at Grand Park in downtown L.A. where the large colorful altars will be unveiled on October 27th and 28th. Then on November 2nd – 4th, there will be altars in stores and Halloween events inOld Town Pasadena.
Imagine this challenge: convert a train ticketing hall with 40 foot high ceilings into one of those dark digital game arcades from way back when. Or convert the same space into a dark glittery discos from that same era.
Well, it wasn’t quite as dark or as glittery as in the ’70s and ’80s, but the Retrocade Experience at Union Station was fun and free during this last weekend. The music from that era was loud and the players focused on the games including some that were warming up for a Pac Man contest.
I’m not going to explain any more; just show you some photos.
The cornerstone for the church commonly called “La Placita” church in the historic district of the Pueblo of Los Angeles was laid by Franciscan Luis Gil y Taboada in 1814 on the ruins of an older church founded in 1784. It is the oldest church in Los Angeles.
And, much to my surprise, La Placita has recently been painted all white…well, except for one wall on the side by the cemetery so perhaps the painting is not complete. Quite frankly, I preferred the beige and red colors of the previous exterior paint. Because it is a parish church and Sunday services were being held I did not see if the interior has been repainted too.
This church faces onto the historic plaza at the end of Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles.
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The Avila Adobe is the oldest remaining home in Los Angeles. (The nearby La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, more commonly known as La Placita church, is 4 years older and I’ll be writing about it in the next post.)
This home was built by Californio cattleman Francisco Avila in 1818 as an in-town residence for his family. He also had a home on his ranch near what is now the Mid-Wilshire area by the La Brea Tar Pits.
Members of the Avila family lived in this adobe until 1868 then turned it into a rental. By 1926 the building had fallen into disrepair before being restored as part of a revitalization of Olvera Street.
The building is now managed by the National Park Service and entry is free. It offers a good idea of how well-to-do people lived in Southern California back in 1818.
This cart, below, was built by Darryl Robertshaw in 2004 as a replica of the carts used originally to bring produce to Olvera Street, the main street of Los Angeles. There is a similar cart used for bringing in grapes on display at the San Gabriel Mission.
Kitchens back then were always separate from the main house– not only in California, but in homes around the world. Here in California, the Avila kitchen was outdoors on one side of the courtyard.
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From a block away I could hear the Mexican music from the bandstand in the enter of La Placita at the historic Pueblo de Los Angeles near Union Station. Hundreds of people had gathered in the area and it felt just like a central plaza in a small Mexican town. And the music was almost non-stop thanks to the Olvera Street Merchants Association which sponsors entertainment in the Plaza during summer months. Supposedly it is for tourists, but it is very obvious that locals love it, too!
And dozens of people were dancing to the sounds of a Mexican DJ up on the bandstand in the middle of the plaza.
After a while the DJ folded up his speakers and left. Before long one of the Native American/Mexican Indian dance troops started beating their drums and dancing. Their costumes look a lot more Mexican Indian than American Indian to me, but who am I to judge? They look cool!
And when I wandered away from the bandstand down a narrow lane on Olvera St. what did I find but two mariachis. The rest of the band and a singer were inside the restaurant. (More from Olvera Street in the next post)
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Charles Lummis was quite a guy! Adventurer, author, editor of the L.A. Times, cross-country hiker, archeologist, photographer, and founder of the Southwest Museum.
He was also somewhat infamous for the parties he held at his home, El Alisal, in Highland Park. You can see my post about Lummis ‘s home here.
Now, almost a hundred years after his death, he has become the namesake of a celebration of life, fun, music and art in the Arroyo in northeast Los Angeles. Here is a link to the Lummis Days organization. I understand that the Arroyo Arts Collective also helps with this event.
On Sunday I came across the official parade for Lummis Days after visiting the Southwest West Museum‘s pottery exhibition. Parade participants gathered in front of the museum entrance, then marched to Sycamore Grove Park where a concert and puppet show were held.
I only stayed for the parade and here is some of what I saw.
Back in the late 1980s and 1990s when the Metro system was being built in Los Angeles, the city went all out for art. In the stations built since then there is still art–usually modest tile panels–but nothing quite as extravagant and amazing as the artwork in the Red and Gold lines. The artists back then were given almost total freedom to do what they wanted with very generous budgets.
The Civic Center Station in downtown L.A. is probably most famous for its “flying men” sculptures suspended from the ceiling. There are also dozens of tile mosaic murals lining the walls upstairs in the station, but I suspect many people walk right by them as they rush to the trains or to the street upstairs. They were designed by Faith Ringgold and produced by artisans at Mosaika Art and Design in Montreal.
So here are a few of these many glass tile mosaics. Because L.A. is such a sports town–8 professional sports teams here–I picked a few sports murals to show you. But there are others–especially musicians and dancers–in the Civic Center Station.