Today, our last day in LA, we decided to go to the more historical areas of LA near downtown. We took the bus from our area and stopped off just outside the (relatively) new Disney Concert Hall, designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry. I, inadvertently, seem to be turning into a groupie! So far, I have seen his buildings in Bilbao (when I travelled there with my friend Heidi to visit The Guggenheim Museum), in Chicago (outdoor concert area near Anish Kapoor's "Bean" sculpture) and, now in LA (both his design for a residential home in Venice Beach and the Disney Concert Hall in Downtown)!
We walked (much to the shock and horror of many Americans who tend to loathe walking and taking public transport!) all the way through Little Tokyo to the El Pueblo historic district which are the origins of Los Angeles and, largely, dominated by the Hispanic community.
We popped by the visitor's centre and, although, we'd missed the last tour of the day, the kind man at the desk, Steve Carrizosa, offered to take us around the area.
Los Angeles started because of the river - over 50 miles but, now, mostly covered in concrete. LA River has a very sharp gradient so that is why the city of LA was built in its current location in 1815 - because of previous locations being flooded near the river. The trees in the central plaza were gifted by the Australians over 100 years ago.
California was the farthest away from the Spanish colonial centre of the empire. Trade here was cattle hides and tallow fat. The ships would come to Santa Monica and drop off all the good from Europe and pick up all the hides and tallow. The first military city was San Diego. Very well strategically placed to protect Spain's interests in the region. The Spanish soldiers didn't get good food in California and this had to be shipped from Mexico - it was salted and took several months. A decision was made to start 2 major agricultural areas in California to supply the army with fresh food. Missions were established to convert people, to teach natives how to farm intensively for the purposes of feeding the army. The Jesuit order was asked to give an inventory of everything they had but they kept stalling and stalling, so the King of Spain ordered the army to get rid of the Jesuits and replace them with the Franciscan order, who were more compliant with the requests of the King.
Felipe, the governor in 1777, started the community of San Jose with natives and retired Spanish soldiers. The community were 11 families (44 people in total) who were a mixture of mulatos, mestizos, Native Americans - they shared the Spanish language and Catholicism. There are plaques on the ground around the Plaza in El Pueblo that commemorate these Founding families.
Across from the plaza is the La Placita church which is extremely popular with people in the area and holds 13 masses on Sunday. Over 10000 people attend service here! Next to the church is a burial site which was discovered when the church wanted to add an extension and began construction work. In accordance with native traditions and customs, the Native American Grave Repatriation committee has to manage the process of removing all the bones and taking them somewhere else for burial.
You can't get away from the fact that LA is undeniably Hispanic - both in origin and in the current make-up of the community at large. As a whole, according to Aeromexico's inflight magazine, Escala, "of the 42million Hispanics currently residing in the US, almost 31million are of Mexican origin, in other words 75 percent of all the Hispanics and 9.95 percent of the total population". Personally, I love that about Los Angeles - probably because I love Mexico and Mexican food, music and culture. It is so vibrant, colourful, exotic and enticing and I think this is what makes the city so unique.
Afterwards, we walked back to Downtown, this time to the Central Market, where we had a light afternoon snack, and then through the Fashion District. I'm not a huge fan of Downtown areas in the States - and the one in LA is no exception! They seem to lack a "soul" and are usually full of homeless people and dodgy-looking druggy types. We decided to leave and head home so we could pack for our early morning departure to Costa Rica.
Once back at our accommodation, we were hungry and on a spur of the moment whim, decided to try out a food truck. Although we were staying in Korea Town, we were disappointed with the Asian food there (from our first night's experience at a local Thai restaurant that had poor quality food). So we walked the 2 miles to the nearest Mexican food truck with rave reviews and ate a delicious dinner for 2 for $10 for both of us! They were a Oaxacan style truck and even made their own tacos from scratch - just like in many places in Mexico! Yum yum - the lengths I will go to for good food!