Olvera Street

Olvera Street is a historic district in downtown Los Angels.  It is also known as "birthplace of Los Angeles"
  • Address: 622 North Main Street, Los Angeles, California, 90012
  • Type: Mexican-style marketplace
  • Architect: Various
  • Opened: 1877

General Information

Olvera Street is one of LA’s most popular tourist attractions. It is a block-long quaint Mexican-style marketplace with cafes, restaurants, boutiques and street vendors selling authentic Mexican arts and crafts. You can browse the clapboard stalls for goods such as clothing, leather goods, musical instruments, sandals, woven blankets, devotional candles, toys and chotchkes. There are many restaurants that are along both sides of the street. If you have a sweet tooth, there are booths that sell milk candies, caramel "filling" churros, bread and other goodies.

There are several historic buildings including the Avila Adobe and Sepúlvda House. These are both open to the public. On the weekends (usually during the summer) there is Aztec folk dancing. Olvera Street is also the site of several major annual festivals including Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Blessing of the Animals.


Olvera Street is one of the oldest streets in the City of Los Angeles. Olvera Street was originally known as Calle de Las Vignas or Wine Street. The street was renamed in 1877 in honor Agustin Olvera, the area's the first judge of the County of Los Angeles. In the 1880's, there was an influx of Anglo and European settlers to Los Angeles. By the 1920's, Olvera Street was falling into disrepair. Los Angeles became a primary destination for Mexican Immigrants. As a result of this demographic increase, there was a resurgence of Mexican culture in Los Angeles.

In 1926, a local woman named Christine Sterling realized that the historic heart of Los Angeles needed to be preserved. She campaigned to save the Avila Adobe from demolition and revitalization Olvera Street with a help of newspaper reporter including Harry Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times. By 1928, the lack of financial support threatened that the project fade into oblivion.
Sterling continued bringing attention to this issue. Local companies donated building materials and the Los Angeles Police Chief provided a crew of inmates to do hard labor on the project. Sterling, who oversaw the project, wrote in her diary "One of the prisoners is a good carpenter, another electrician. Each night I pray they will arrest a bricklayer and a plumber." Additional financial backing was gained through a $1,000 a-plate luncheon organized by Chandler. A for-profit organization, Plaza de Los Angeles Corporation, was formed to provide the financial basis for the restoration of Olvera Street. In 1929, the City Council passed an ordinance to close Olvera Street to through traffic.

On Easter Sunday (April 20) 1930, Olvera Street opened as a Mexican marketplace. It was immediately a successful tourist attraction.

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) 

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a nine day celebration of life and honoring of the deceased. This differs from the Catholic All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1st, and All Souls Day, celebrated on November 2nd. For these Catholic holy days, prayer is directed to God and the Saints to care for the departed love ones.
The Day of the Dead originated with the Aztecs and the Mexicans. This celebration evolved after the Spanish conquest and arrival of Catholicism. Over the years there has been a melding of the pre-Columbian and Spanish/Catholic rituals and traditions. In the United States, The Days of the Dead is thought to be similar to Halloween because they occur around the same time. Actually the two holidays have little in common.

The Day of the Dead celebration includes face painting, street theater performances, mariachi, Aztec dancers, ballet folklorico, piñatas and many other activities. The Dia de Los Muertos traditional altars (ofrenda) will also be on display throughout the Plaza area beginning in mid-October.

On Olvera Street Dead at Día de Los Muertos Novenario begins with the blessing of everyone participating in the procession (photography is not allowed during the blessing). The ritual is performed with copal incense and cempasúchil (orange marigold) petals. Anyone is welcomed to receive a blessing and join the procession. This is to keep away negative spirits or energy. The marigold petals are used in the blessing to prepare a path for the deceased loved ones.

The altar, also called "ofrenda", is a focal point of the Day of the Dead Celebration. It is usually constructed by the family as an annual remembrance to their dead loved ones, who return home to make sure all is well and that they have not been forgotten. The altar consist for four levels and four sides, representing the four stages of life, the four points of the earth, the four seasons, and the four mathematical points upon which the pyramids were built. The four principle seeds used by the Aztecs were tomatillo (green tomato), cacao, chile and corn. The four elements of life are water (the conch shell), fire (candles), earth and wind (flute and conch shell).

For each of the nine days of the Novenario, a family or community organization leads this procession. After the procession, there is traditional entertainment in the Plaza area.

Las Posadas is a novenario (nine days of religious observance) 

Las Posadas is a novenario celebrated for the most part in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and by Hispanics in the United States. It begins on December 16th and ends December 24th. Las Posadas is celebrated by Latinos and Spaniards and people who appreciate the culture and holiday of the Mexican and Spanish.

The celebration has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years. Many Mexican holidays include dramatizations of original events, a tradition which has its roots in the ritual of Bible plays used to teach religious doctrine to a largely illiterate population in Europe as early as the 10th and 11th centuries. These plays lost favor with the Church as they became popularized with the addition of folk music and other non-religious elements, and were eventually banned; only to be re-introduced in the sixteenth century by two Spanish saints as the Christmas Pageant, a new kind of religious ceremony to accompany the Christmas holiday.

Las Posadas has been a part of Olvera Street since its founding in 1930. Reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem with traditional songs, colorful costumes, and vibrant music brings one of the oldest Christmas stories to life. While the event is rooted in Christian and Catholic traditions, it is attended by people from all religious backgrounds, and all are welcome to participate.

Each night the crowd gathers as the pastores, or shepherds, are led by the angel to ask for shelter at one of the shops on Olvera Street. Initially turned away, Mary and Joseph are finally given shelter and songs of celebration can be heard up and down Olvera Street. 

The procession starts and ends at the Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles. At the end, each visitor is given a cup of hot champurrado and a piece of delicious pan dulce, or sweet bread. This is a nine (9) night festival, ending on Christmas Eve with a live Mary and Joseph, honoring the birth of Jesus.


1. ^ a b c d e "Historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles". http://www.inetours.com/Los_Angeles/Pages/Olvera_St.html. Retrieved on 2009-09-16.
2. ^ a b "Olvera Street". wikipedia.org. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olvera_Street. Retrieved on 2009-09-16.
3. ^ a b "Jose Rafael Moneo Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels". wikipedia.org. http://www.arcspace.com/architects/moneo/cathedral_feat/. Retrieved on 2009-08-15.
4. ^ a b "Avila Adobe". wikipedia.org. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avila_Adobe. Retrieved on 2009-09-16.
5. ^ a b "The Oldest House in Los Angeles Avila Adobe". Pamplet.
6. ^ a b "La Ofrenda - The Altar".
http://www.olvera-street.com/html/la_ofrenda_-_the_altar.html. Retrieved on 2010-02-05.
7. ^ a b "Las Posadas".
https://www.olveraevents.com/las-posadas-olvera-street. Retrieved on 2018-07-08.


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