The El Pueblo de Los Angeles monument is home to a number of culturally focused museums. Last week, one of them, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the museum focused on Latinx and Mexican-American history, added a new public paseo to the area. The staff, along with business partners and County representatives, officially dedicated and opened the space on Wednesday, Feb. 19. It contains everything from native plants to a piece of the infamous Berlin Wall.
The LA Plaza Historic Paseo Walkway runs east to west, linking the LA Plaza Village residential complex on North Hill Street to El Pueblo. The paseo runs along the north side of the museum itself, with the Our Lady Queen of the Angels Catholic Church on the northern side. New arches mark the entrance at Main Street. Walking along the path, visitors can peruse gardens, the church’s cemetery, and new informational signs about the history of Los Angeles, including its pre-colonization past and the Gabrielino-Tongva Native Americans.
“What this project really does is it brings history to the people and it brings people to the history,” LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes CEO John Echeveste said during the dedication ceremony. He added that the new paseo is an extension in space and accessibility for El Pueblo’s district of cultural museums.
The pathway was funded by the California Natural Resource Agency, Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District and developer Trammell Crow.
The centerpiece of the paseo, beyond the walkway itself, is the 12-foot-tall section of the Berlin Wall standing just off of Main Street. On Nov. 9 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, a nonprofit based in Berlin offered to gift the segment to President Donald Trump, even putting a message on it addressed to him.
“We would like to give you one of the last pieces of the failed Berlin Wall to commemorate the United States’ dedication to building a world without walls,” the message concluded.
“Unfortunately [Trump] did not want to take up that advice, so we had it brought here, to its appropriate place,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said at the opening event.
Four months after the offer was made, the “Wall Against Walls” arrived at LA Plaza. It is set to be on display for an indefinite period of time, according to the museum.
Another public art piece on display is a large wooden coyote, from artist Alfredo Gutierrez. “Transportapueblos: Companion of Migrants” contains painted addresses of consulates, as well as messages in support of migrants. That went up last month, and is on view through mid-March.
Mi Casa, My City
Along with the paseo, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes also unveiled a new exhibition last week. The exhibition afroLAtinidad: Mi Casa, My City, on view through July 20, explores Afro-Latinx identity, and how it has helped shape Los Angeles.
The initial idea for the show started roughly two years ago, according to curator Mariah Berlanga-Shevchuk. She said the idea was to look at the nuance and camaraderie between the region’s black and brown communities, and what it means to be of mixed heritage. The exhibition is set up in multiple rooms in the museum, and arranged to look like a house, with a kitchen space, a bedroom, and a living room. She and co-curator Walter Thompson-Hernandez decided that the home-like set up was the best way to get an immersive sense of an identity.
“Because it can be a sensitive topic, and can be hard to talk about histories of oppression, we wanted to create a safe place for discussions, where people can feel comfortable, and non-Afro-Latinx people can have a glimpse of that community,” Berlanga-Shevchuk said.
Photos and artwork, ranging from pottery to massive paintings, were submitted by local artists and Angelenos last year. Photographs on the walls show smiling faces of Angelenos, from families to individuals. Other works include a series of pottery pieces, a black-skinned child’s doll, and a large self-portrait of artist Carolina Castano, with a series of tiny circular mirrors worked into it so viewers can also see themselves.
The exhibition is also interactive. In the “kitchen,” music plays off a boombox and visitors can open drawers to find commonly used spices. In the back room of the exhibition, set up to look like a backyard, visitors can sit at a patio table and write about their experiences in a notebook.
“Our argument is that Afro-Latinx people have always been a part [of Los Angeles],” Berlanga-Shevchuk said. She added that despite that connection, there has not been a show exploring that shared experience.
Since it is the first time the museum has explored Afrolatinidad identity, Berlanga-Shevchuk said the museum wanted to focus on the broader cultural identity and what it is like to be Afro-Latinx, rather than specific movements or points in Afro-Latinx history in Los Angeles. However, many moments are highlighted along the main hallway, with an L.A.-specific timeline tracing cultural and political milestones including protests in 1942 against discriminatory labor practices.
afroLAtinidad: Mi Casa, My City runs through July 20 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main St., (213) 542-6200 or lapca.org.