The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

Synopsis

City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, thereby creating a socially meaningful place at the core of a city. At the heart of historic Los Angeles, the Plaza represents a quintessential public space where real and imagined narratives overlap and provide as many questions as answers about the development of the city and what it means to be an Angeleno. The author, a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Los Angeles, is well suited to explore the complex history and modern-day relevance of the Los Angeles Plaza. From its indigenous and colonial origins to the present day, Estrada explores the subject from an interdisciplinary and multiethnic perspective, delving into the pages of local newspapers, diaries and letters, and the personal memories of former and present Plaza residents, in order to examine the spatial and social dimensions of the Plaza over an extended period of time. The author contributes to the growing historiography of Los Angeles by providing a groundbreaking analysis of the original core of the city that covers a long span of time, space, and social relations. He examines the impact of change on the lives of ordinary people in a specific place, and how this change reflects the larger story of the city.

Excerpt

Devra Weber

The book you are holding is about Los Angeles’ historic heart, the Plaza, the Placita, a space of contested memories, forgotten histories and their reclamation. The Los Angeles Plaza is personal and evocative for those who grew up in the city. The book triggered my own memories of growing up in L.A. By the early 1950s, my Los Angeles–born father was taking me (and my pet of the moment) to the annual blessing of the animals at the Placita church. My mother took me to Olvera Street’s Christmas posadas, after days of carefully rehearsing songs of the posadas from a tattered songbook. Filtered through the eyes of my Anglo bohemian parents and Chicano neighbors, the Placita, Our Lady Queen of the Angels Church, and Olvera Street played a central part in forming my notion of Los Angeles and my sense that it was at its core a Mexican city. The realization that some of my notions were based on myths, stereotypes, and orchestrated dreams—well, that would come later.

The Los Angeles Plaza expands an understanding of the city for all readers. Estrada’s own multigenerational familial memories of the Placita were and are a jarring disjuncture from the institutional histories imposed on him during school trips that obliterated the Mexican L.A. he knew. The book challenges such institutional memories through an evocation of historical . . .

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