Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles, California, and is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. Many Latinos refer to it as “La Placita Olvera.” Circa 1911 it was described as Sonora Town.
Having started as a short lane, Wine Street, it was extended and renamed in honor of Agustín Olvera, a prominent local judge, in 1877. There are 27 historic buildings lining Olvera Street, including the Avila Adobe, the Pelanconi House, and the Sepulveda House. In 1930, it was converted to a colorful Mexican marketplace. It is also the setting for Mexican-style music and dancing and holiday celebrations, such as Cinco de Mayo.
In the midst of Downtown industrialization, Olvera Street is a quaint, colorized, and non-confrontational environment. Olvera Street is successful in depicting the quaintness of Mexican culture. The Avila Adobe aside, however, the buildings on the street date from at least seventy years after the founding of the city in 1781, and have little if any authentic association with the city’s founding, or with its former status as a Spanish, then Mexican outpost. Olvera is really a named alley, unusual in Los Angeles, rather than a true street. This can be seen from the fact that most of the buildings originally had their main entrances and addresses on the adjacent and parallel Main and Los Angeles Streets. In addition, the frontages along Olvera Street are uneven, as is typical with alleys. Nevertheless, for virtually all of its history, it has been named as a street, sometimes also being identified as Wine Street, in reference to a wine cellar once located there, as well as wineries that once stood nearby.
As a tourist attraction, Olvera Street is a living museum paying homage to a romantic vision of old Mexico. The exterior facades of the brick buildings enclosing Olvera Street and on the small vendor stands lining its center are colorful piñatas, hanging puppets in white peasant garb, Mexican pottery, serapes, mounted bull horns, oversized sombreros, and a life-size stuffed donkey. Olvera Street attracts almost two million visitors per year.