There is a complexity to my home city that is often lost in description. It is a city with roots that reach back to the Kizh settlement of Yangna, the peaceful and violent interaction with the Spanish who came for Crown and Cross.
Even within that group there was the complicated, artificial categorizing that was a part of the casta system. Parents from this continent and that continent = mulato, parents from this other continent and that other continent = mestizo, grandparent from (fill in the blank)… then you are lobo, chino, morisco.
To walk down the street where the graves of these people and the earliest core of the City of Los Angeles lies still speaks to this many layered past. After years of being rundown, La Plazita – the place where my parents were wed and where I was baptized – now looks neat and clean.
There are signs that this is not a set; the imperfections of life are very much present. There’s a bag of trash, and a person who is sitting where he may later lay down his head when darkness comes, because this is place that is safe. There are señoras leaving the court area where food is sold, organizing takes place, and where sanctuary has been practiced for centuries.
Across the street is a mix of the past and the future mingling, not mixing. Olvera Street: an historical interpretation revived by Christine Sterling, that is now home to those who most likely would not understand her interpretation of their homeland. They don’t know her name, but appreciate the place she helped recreate, because it is a good bit like home.
It is a mix of cobblestone pretenders and a promise to fix streets, of signs and signals, of tourists and homies. There is a Chinese which will be joined by an Italian Museum that will begin to represent some of the groups that have interacted in this place.
I was sorry that I wasn’t quite quick enough to catch the señora tossing breadcrumbs to the pigeons. Perhaps it is enough to enjoy the contrast of her dress and the 20th Century plastic.
Anything but simple.