First Look: La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes

First getting shpritzed with some holy water during Saturday’s Blessing of the Animals and next dutifully adjourning to a patio table at Olvera Street’s La Golondrina where we watched the parade of animals and peoples pass while partaking religiously of our own personal Blessing of the Margaritas, Susan and I decided afterward to wobble along the cobbles and across Main Street to check out the freshly opened La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in the awesomely restored Brunswig and Garnier Block historic buildings just south of La Placita Church.

On a side note, seeing how it’s not a whole lot of people who arrive bearing reptiles, I’m pretty sure we made museum history as being the first (and perhaps only) people to visit the place with a tortoise in tow, and Buster was warmly welcomed (and admitted free of charge).

What an amazingly interactive and fantastic place — long overdue — and I greatly enjoyed the inaugural exhibition of “LA Starts Here,” an exploration of Mexican and Mexican-American history and culture spread throughout the expansive first floor, while wonderfully occupying the second floor was “Calle Prinicipal,” a hands-on re-creation of 1920s-era Main Street, at that time the heart of Los Angeles’s growing immigrant community.

Flickr photoset of the above thumbnails are viewable here.

What surprised me the most was how moved I was by a simple exhibition showcasing what I feel was one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by this city upon its citizens: the eviction and destruction of Chavez Ravine. The installation, consisting of a high chain link fence, through which pictures and quotes are visible under the heading of “Urban Renewal: Division of the Barrios,” left me deeply touched, especially by the following two statements:

“I don’t want to be responsible for taking another man’s private property through the use of eminent domain and giving it over to another private individual for his private gain.”

— De Witt McCann, aide to the mayor, resigning his job

“You may call this blight, but we call it our neighborhood.  Sure, we say get out if you can. But why not pave our streets? Give us decent streetlights like they have in Westwood or Pasadena. What gives you the right to take our land away from us? We didn’t sign on to ’eminent domain.’ It’s unspeakable the way your dragged Mrs. Aurora Archega out of her very own house in Chavez Ravine — and put her in jail! You call it progress. We call it injustice.”

— Camos Vecinos

There’s much to see and experience and enrich yourself with at La Plaza. I highly recommend a visit. It’s open noon to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, college students and military, $5 for children 5 and up, and free for children under 5.

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