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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors

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Street of Memory and Citizens of the Past?

My first item is a film titled Street of Memory. Produced in 1937, the short film shows images of Olvera Street. In the short film, the viewer can clearly see the theme park-themed landscape that Sterling wanted to accomplish. The puestos are run by puesteros dressed in traditional Mexican clothing--including colorful dresses for the women and men wearing sombreros--an extreme compared to the Anglo consumers that toured and shopped the street.

Overlapping the video segment are sections of Phoebe Kropp’s  Citizens of the Past?: Olvera Street and the Construction of Race and Memory in 1930’s Los Angeles. In it, she highlights the story of Olvera Street, the first appearance of street vendors as puesteros, and how conflicts over space and the degradation of identity portrayal united them as an organized force. These initial forms of community activism within the street vendor community of Olvera Street continued to manifest itself in the Los Angeles landscape and still does today.

The following segments are highlighted in the clip:

  • Mythic landscape of 1930’s Los Angeles (36)

  • A Mexican Street of Yesterday in a City of Today (36)

  • ..a bifurcated history and city, a kind of intellectual colonialism (37)

  • If visitors wanted to see the best interpretation of a theme on a street, Olvera Street was where they should go (39)

  • Built of wood and roofed either with canvas or palm thatch, the puestos, according to many commentators, provided the principal Mexican atmosphere of the street.  (40)

  • How Olvera Street negotiated this seemingly problematic moment further illustrates the links between public memory, racialized politics, and the control of public space. (45)

  • The public message Sterling and Olvera Street conveyed was that Mexican expression was better channeled toward music and crafts than toward politics or the economy. (46)

  • Mexican uses of the street and challenges to its memory were neither consistent nor continuous, but their claims on the space were clear.  (47)

  • Many resisted wearing them, and within a few weeks of the opening, “a group of puesteros deserted” the street, “judging that their Mexican culture was denigrated.”  (48)

  • The physical and symbolic transformation of Olvera Street, it is important to remember, may have been on the edge of an Anglo downtown, but it took place in the heart of the Mexican community.  (47)

  • The Mexican community of Los Angeles has been in the process of renegotiating the fantasy on Olvera Street since its opening, and in many ways is still doing so.(47)

  • The characterization of Mexicans as quaintly traditional craftspeople made them appear anomalous within the larger context of the economy. (46)

I curated my selection with the intention of demonstrating a connection between a visual representation of Olvera Street and street vendors as decorative elements, and conclusions on vending mobilization. The segments are snippets of the history of street vending on Olvera Street as connected to the formation of a movement and the inclusion of activism. They serve to enforce my claims of street vending as a medium for mobilization through activism.

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