Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Have you ever gone back to your old childhood neighborhood but as an adult?   You look down your former street and wonder why it looks so small now?   That tiny block in my youth once seemed to go on for miles and felt about two football fields wide.

That is my recollection of Olvera Street in Los Angeles.  When I went there as a kid it seemed like an endless lane packed with vendors, food, and my favorite…toys!  Going there as an adult, the tree-lined street didn’t seem as long.

The aroma of authentic Mexican food still filled the air and colorful booths were packed with clothes, hats, shoes, tiles, handmade leather goods, etc. just as they were back then.

My Mom always bought me one of those wooden puppets that had four strings to control the hands and feet.   It was a must have, and I was happy to see that they still sell them there!  In fact about ten were hanging on a display where a small boy was tugging on his dad’s shirt asking him to buy him one.

With all of the high tech games today, it is nice to know that such a simple toy like that has not been forgotten.

Other than it not being as large as I remember, Olvera Street hasn’t changed much.

Even now, the sweet aroma of food floods the air, there is  entertainment in the square, mariachis, and the same vendors selling their goods.

The History
Olvera Street, known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles,”   is a block-long Mexican Marketplace that was created in 1930. It preserves the customs of early California and some of the merchants today are actually descendants of the original vendors.

Besides the tented vendors, the narrow shaded street features cafes, old structures, and restaurants.


The tree lined street has street vendors on one side

There are also brick and mortar stores which are actually brick and mortar!

The Culture
There is main center square where you can sit and watch the provided entertainment which can include bands, dancers, or singers.    On this day, a woman dressed in colorful Mexican attire was singing songs that entertained all that were gathered around.

To keep with the spirit of the place, we sat down in a hole in the wall café to test out the authentic Mexican food.  Based on the crowds, I am guessing that this is how they like it prepared.   Nearby, the ball of a homemade tortilla was gently rolled out to soon become a fresh warm delicious staple of the Mexican culture.

In our tiny establishment, the popular drink Horchata was pouring into many a glass.

I was half inclined to join in, although with a couple of Coronas instead, but I knew I had to drive.   I settled for munching on a taco in the back of that four table café while watching a Mariachi band stroll through the crowd.

Olvera Street is open 10:00 am to 6-8pm daily and until 8-10pm on the weekends.  I like how they leave it open, maybe we will close at 8:00, maybe 10:00. That is the Mexican way, family, home, and food, all important in its own way.

If you are looking for something to do in the Los Angeles area, check out Olvera Street.

The best part, admission is free.

Next time, we visit Chinatown which happens to be right around the corner.


Map of Olvera Street

Stories and Photos: Debbie Colwell

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