Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles

By Mario T. García | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Preparing Sanctuary

La Placita Church (Our Lady Queen of Angels Church) is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. It is one of the smallest churches in the city, yet it is perhaps the most significant. It is, or has been, a Mexican church, and today it is also a Latino church, though most parishioners are still of Mexican descent composed of both U.S.-born and immigrants. It is a parish, yet it has no real parish boundaries, and what can be considered to be parish borders are very limited. To the west and north, the church is bordered by Chinatown, housing projects, and commercial businesses; to the east, there is Union Station and the railroad and commuter trains; and to the south is the Hollywood Freeway and the downtown skyline, including City Hall.1 Adjacent to the church is Olvera Street, which, beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, became transformed by Anglo boosters into a fantasy Mexican village aimed at attracting tourists to its Mexican restaurants and shops and providing them a little bit of “Old Mexico.” La Placita is a parish, but it draws its parishioners from many other parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Mexicans and other Latinos historically have come from miles to attend a church that represents a comfort and safe zone for them, providing services in Spanish and nurturing Mexican and Latino Catholicism. Today it lies in the shadow of the nearby and recently constructed Cathedral of the Queen of Angeles, a massive, postmodern church in comparison to the simple and functional architecture of La Placita. The cathedral is the cathedral, but to many Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, Central Americans, and other Latinos, La Placita is the real cathedral, or their cathedral. As Father Juan Romero observes of this little church: “It’s the very center, historically and certainly anthropologically and sociologically. It’s the heartbeat of Los Angeles. It’s the crossroads. It’s the real cathedral.”2

La Placita is also located in the historical origins of Los Angeles, where the initial Spanish settlement or pueblo was founded in 1781. It came to be

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Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 5
  • One - San Antonio 31
  • Two - Seminary 56
  • Three - Priesthood 86
  • Four - Company Man 124
  • Five - Conversion 154
  • Six - Organizing the Barrio 181
  • Seven - Community Priest 207
  • Eight - Preparing Sanctuary 248
  • Nine - Declaring Sanctuary 307
  • Ten - Expanding Sanctuary 343
  • Eleven - The Good Pastor 390
  • Twelve - ¡presente! 445
  • Epilogue 498
  • Acknowledgments 501
  • Notes 503
  • Bibliography 539
  • Index 545
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