Saturday, April 16, 2011

La Plaza de las Culturas y Artes opens today in Los Angeles

A Mexican grocery store in Mercado Plaza, downtown Los Angeles, 1936
From their website: A Mexican grocery store in 1920s downtown L.A.
From USC School of Communication & Journalism - by Tanner Keith

La Plaza de Cultura y Artes is located in the exact spot where Los Angeles was founded in 1781. The newly renovated five-story building is now filled with interactive experiences for visitors to explore the lives of the people who make up the city's history.

La Plaza represents the nation's premiere center of Mexican American culture. Miguel Angel Corzo, the president and CEO of La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, believes people from all backgrounds will be able to enjoy it. "I think they will gain a sense of identity and understanding for other people's identities," Corzo said. "I think they will also identify whether they are Mexican American or not with the trials and tribulations of migrants and what that brings with everyone coming to this country having to suffer sometimes injustice and success and always in the pursuit of freedom and happiness."

The inaugural exhibit, L.A. Starts Here, examines the founding of Los Angeles through the eyes of Mexican Americans who first settled here. But it's more than just an exhibit of artifacts. "One of the important things here is that we do not collect objects," Corzo said. "We collect stories and stories are forever."

In early January, construction for La Plaza was put on hold when workers dug up several dozen bodies dating back to the 1800s. It turns out the site was formerly a cemetery where more than 450 American Indians were buried. Corzo is working with Native American groups to preserve and re-intern the human remains.

"We are working with all of the parties to find a solution that will satisfy everyone," Corzo said. "And also to take advantage of educating our visitors about the historic site and the importance of Los Angeles that lies underground."

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