LA Plaza: LA Starts Here!

Fittingly, LA Plaza is located mere steps from El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, the original site where the city of Los Angeles was founded in 1781.

An Inaugural Gala was held on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at the new LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the nation’s first premier Mexican American cultural center. Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina was the honoree of the evening and the driving force that made this momentous effort a reality. For more than a decade, Supervisor Gloria Molina has championed LA Plaza, driven by her profound belief in the need for a place to document the history, culture and continuing contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles. The center would not be a reality without her relentless commitment, total dedication and passionate pursuit.

Mexican American stories are forever. More than two centuries ago, forty-four intrepid pobladores, or colonists, traveled from Mexico to establish Los Angeles. They not only founded a city, they gave birth to a new culture. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is an insightful journey into the complete and largely untold history of Los Angeles and Southern California. It is a place to celebrate and cultivate an appreciation for the enduring and evolving influence of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. LA Plaza is a place to relive the stories of the past, understand the challenges of the present, and invest in the exciting opportunities of the future.

The Museum: The Museum is housed in the Vickrey-Brunswig Building, which at one point was the tallest building in Los Angeles. It is located across the street from the historic Pico House. This building as well as the Plaza house on Main Street has been renovated to house La Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Interactive, entertaining and truly state-of-the-art exhibits at LA Plaza fully immerse visitors in the Mexican American experience, presenting personally moving narratives that leave visitors with a vivid and dynamic snapshot of LA’s past and present.

Exhibits: LA Starts Here! The first of its kind in scope and stance, this exhibit reveals the essential, often overlooked role of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the founding and shaping of Los Angeles from the city’s founding in 1781 to the present and beyond. Voces Vivas: Beating at the heart of LA Starts Here! is Voces Vivas, an original short film series featuring interviews with a broad spectrum of Mexican Americans. Intimate, opinionated and provocative, these films personalize the Mexican American experience through the individual stories of the interview subjects, enriching the viewer’s understanding of Mexican and Mexican American history and culture in Los Angeles. Calle Principal: LA Plaza’s hands-on interpretive history center takes children and families back in time to the Mexican American community of 1920s Main Street Los Angeles, when the area surrounding LA Plaza was the heart of the city’s growing immigrant community. Centro Yo Soy: Open by appointment, LA Plaza’s community history center invites visitors to join the conversation on identity and community by recording their own cultural experiences and personal histories. El Jardin: LA Plaza’s beautiful outdoor grounds feature a stage and performance space; La Huerta, an edible learning garden; la Cocina Compestre, an outdoor kitchen; and a vertical garden including flora from six Southern California ecosystems. La Tienda: La Plaza’s cultural store extends the visitor experience through unique and carefully curated merchandise that bridges the gap between traditional and historical, contemporary and modern.

Just about everyone in Los Angeles’ political, entertainment, arts and business community were present for the unveiling of LA Plaza and to honor Supervisor Gloria Molina. More than a thousand guests converged on the cultural center which included tours of the museum, a reception, dinner, speeches and performances. Among those in attendance were Eva Longoria, Edward James Olmos, Dolores Huerta, Hon. Congressman Esteban Torres, Julieta Venegas, Ceci Bastida, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County Assessor Juan Noguez and many others.

The major sponsors of the evening were: Walmart, California Community Foundation, PepsiCo, BP America, Primestor Development & L.A.R.D. Investments; Bank of America, Classic Distributing & Beverage Group, Inc. Entravision, Parking Company of America, Union Bank and the Walt Disney Company.