La Plaza del Cultura y Artes is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum and cultural center which hosts temporary and permanent exhibitions dedicated to Los Angeles’ Mexican-American constituency and heritage, as well as the Native American people who lived in California. It is housed in the Vicrey-Brunswig Building, the Plaza House, and an over two-acre outdoor campus on the westside of Olvera Street, within El Pueblo del Los Angeles’ Historic Monument. It sits directly next to La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles, and a former burial site believed to be that of California indigenous tribes (updates about the latter can be found here).
La Plaza de Culturas y Artes’ ongoing bilingual exhibition, LA Starts Here!, wherein museum visitors are introduced to Mexican and Mexican-American history in Los Angeles, are treated to photographs and personal stories of the past, artifacts from long ago and short films that help explain how the Mexican roots of Los Angeles are a big part of today’s modern Los Angeles culture.
This exhibition also explores Los Angeles through the timelines beginning with the Tongva presence, followed by Spanish colonization, through the Chicano movement and what it means to be a city cultivated by the Mexican-American experience today.
Los Angeles County, as well as other local museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, help run the La Plaza del Cultura y Artes’ temporary and permanent exhibits. Here are photos of the more recent temporary exhibits worth exploring:
Peloteros in Paradise: A Los Angeles Béisbol Story
April 22 – October 31 2016
An eye-opening exhibit about baseball and the Mexican American community in Southern California, visitors are schooled with visuals and informative write-ups of the development of early Mexican American teams, such as the Carmelita Chorizeros, as well as the painful displacement of the residents of Chavez Ravine, followed by the Dodgers’ controversial move to Los Angeles in 1958. There is also a section displaying all that I can remember as a child about the frenzy surrounding Fernando Valenzuela, a/k/a “Fernandomania” in the 1980’s.
Katharsis: Images of ‘Lucha Libre’ in Mexico, 1940-2007
June 18, 2016 – ongoing
La Plaza de Culturas y Artes currently hosts an exemplary retrospective exhibition featuring the photography collection of the Fundacion Televisa. The subject matter prominently features the showmanship of Mexican wrestling known as “Lucha Libre,” wherein the Mexican wrestlers are iconically presented in a positive light — warrior, entertainer, cultural icon, etc., all for mass entertainment and a homage to the ancient Aztec people.
Calle Principal, the permanent interactive exhibit housed on one-half of the second floor of the museum, is an experiential design space specifically geared towards families who want to introduce children to Mexican-American life in 1920’s Los Angeles. Real artifacts from the past (all behind glass displays) juxtaposed with displays and play models of items commonly found at businesses belonging to Mexican-American families of the 1920’s allow visitors a peek of the experiences and lifestyle of the people from that time.
La Plaza de Culturas y Artes is a gem of a museum in that visitors of all backgrounds and ages are invited to view the world through the Mexican-American experience. It is the hope for me, at least, that my children will be able to tell a different story of how they view life in Los Angeles after this fantastic museum outing.
La Plaza de Cultura y Artes
501 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
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