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The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

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Winner, Gold Award in Californiana, California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2008 NACCS Book Award, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, 2010 City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, t Winner, Gold Award in Californiana, California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2008 NACCS Book Award, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, 2010 City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, thereby creating a socially meaningful place at the core of a city. At the heart of historic Los Angeles, the Plaza represents a quintessential public space where real and imagined narratives overlap and provide as many questions as answers about the development of the city and what it means to be an Angeleno. The author, a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Los Angeles, is well suited to explore the complex history and modern-day relevance of the Los Angeles Plaza. From its indigenous and colonial origins to the present day, Estrada explores the subject from an interdisciplinary and multiethnic perspective, delving into the pages of local newspapers, diaries and letters, and the personal memories of former and present Plaza residents, in order to examine the spatial and social dimensions of the Plaza over an extended period of time. The author contributes to the growing historiography of Los Angeles by providing a groundbreaking analysis of the original core of the city that covers a long span of time, space, and social relations. He examines the impact of change on the lives of ordinary people in a specific place, and how this change reflects the larger story of the city.


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Winner, Gold Award in Californiana, California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2008 NACCS Book Award, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, 2010 City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, t Winner, Gold Award in Californiana, California Book Awards, Commonwealth Club of California, 2008 NACCS Book Award, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, 2010 City plazas worldwide are centers of cultural expression and artistic display. They are settings for everyday urban life where daily interactions, economic exchanges, and informal conversations occur, thereby creating a socially meaningful place at the core of a city. At the heart of historic Los Angeles, the Plaza represents a quintessential public space where real and imagined narratives overlap and provide as many questions as answers about the development of the city and what it means to be an Angeleno. The author, a social and cultural historian who specializes in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Los Angeles, is well suited to explore the complex history and modern-day relevance of the Los Angeles Plaza. From its indigenous and colonial origins to the present day, Estrada explores the subject from an interdisciplinary and multiethnic perspective, delving into the pages of local newspapers, diaries and letters, and the personal memories of former and present Plaza residents, in order to examine the spatial and social dimensions of the Plaza over an extended period of time. The author contributes to the growing historiography of Los Angeles by providing a groundbreaking analysis of the original core of the city that covers a long span of time, space, and social relations. He examines the impact of change on the lives of ordinary people in a specific place, and how this change reflects the larger story of the city.

39 review for The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Groves

    I was obsessed with this book, waking up at 3 am and rushing downstairs to read it quietly while waiting to get sleepy again, and dreading that sleepiness. Granted, this is an academic book, and that category virtually requires boring prose, but this is an exception. William David Estrada is an excellent and vivid writer, throwing in details that make a difference to regular readers rather than just professors. For my purposes, only the middle chapters were of interest, but I pushed through to t I was obsessed with this book, waking up at 3 am and rushing downstairs to read it quietly while waiting to get sleepy again, and dreading that sleepiness. Granted, this is an academic book, and that category virtually requires boring prose, but this is an exception. William David Estrada is an excellent and vivid writer, throwing in details that make a difference to regular readers rather than just professors. For my purposes, only the middle chapters were of interest, but I pushed through to the end because I couldn't stop. I discovered so much about the Plaza that I never knew. Estrada recounts the businesses that flourished around the Plaza, including the restaurants, bakeries, barber shops, bars, pool halls, and boxing rinks, and the names of each. An exiled Mexican president hung around the Plaza, as well, and had so little money that one restaurateur took pity on him and regularly gave him a free plate of food. Estrada also breaks down the various ethnicities that were present in the Plaza community. He documents the political currents that predominated in the Plaza, including communists, anarchists, and other radicals. And he even tells the story of how Olvera Street was founded in the 1930s by the divorcee Christina Sterling, and the social purposes that it served, some racist, some reconciliatory. I think the strength of this book is that it tells stories. The period of China City, a manufactured remaking of Chinatown from the 1930s to the 1940s, is told as a story, not a series of citations or insignificant details. The remaking of the Plaza as a state park is told in the context of the social forces at play. Also, the Plaza is a focal point that allows the author to talk about the sweeping history of Los Angeles. The city started at the Plaza, and then in the 19th century it was centered in the Plaza. Going into the 20th century, the Plaza became the center of dispossessed minority life, and Estrada is able to tell the story of fringe cultures, including Hispanic, Chinese, Italian, homeless, and also, the institutions that made contact with them (I was going to say "preyed upon them," because it's unclear whether they helped them, as they professed to do, or simply wanted something from them), including the Methodists, the City Council, the INS, JFK, Governor Pat Brown, the Olvera Street administration, and the like. I wrote this review when I was halfway through the book and gave it four stars, but when I got to the end, I upgraded it to five. It's compelling all the way through. I complain bitterly about the prose of some books in this genre, such as Metropolis in the Making or Whitewashed Adobe. I hate convoluted prose. That is only one reason why I like this book so much. It has so much going for it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anel Bravo

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Fitzgerald

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaak Treiman

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angela Knipe

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Lewis

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gorfo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ona Russell

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucas Pastis

  11. 4 out of 5

    Larynn

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Monzón

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Jackson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie Thompson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Monica Ponce

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julio Alicea

  17. 4 out of 5

    El Tanuki

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jolene Ybema

  19. 5 out of 5

    Miyako Martinez

  20. 5 out of 5

    George Fontes

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Crain

  22. 4 out of 5

    University of Texas Press

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kat

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lizzy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  27. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ramirez

  28. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ávalos Gallegos

  29. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

  30. 5 out of 5

    Justin Bleeker

  31. 5 out of 5

    Monica Pelayo

  32. 5 out of 5

    Grasshopper_mo

  33. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  34. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  35. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  36. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  37. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn

  38. 5 out of 5

    Dominic Mitchell

  39. 5 out of 5

    Nick

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