El Pueblo facing biggest challenge yet: Recovering from the pandemic

It has been the heart and soul of Los Angeles since the pioneering Pobladores from Mexico settled near this very spot in the 18th century. It is where cultures come together – the new and the old; and the colorful and the quiet. 

Since then, some of Los Angeles' most cherished pieces have stood the test of time. The Downtown Los Angeles institutions include the Avila Adobe, the oldest residence in Los Angeles County; La Placita church, which was founded in 1814; and other buildings, including the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes.

FOX 11 spoke with Abelardo de la Pena Jr., who is the communications director of the museum.

"It's a place of ceremony, of festivities," he said. "It's a place of public discourse. People could still come over and, you know, get on a soapbox and give a speech. They can hold press conferences. There you see a lot of marches. They start maybe a city hall. They end up here. If it has to do with immigration or civil rights or they end up here at LA Plaza, you have your Cinco de Mayo celebrations. You have your other two celebrations. It's the center of Mexican American life here in Los Angeles."

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Now, El Pueblo is facing one of its biggest challenges yet: Recovering from the global pandemic. With decreased foot traffic, many restaurants and shops on Olvera Street had to shut down for good. Some people experiencing homelessness have begun moving in.

"I mean, deserted or they had in fenced off the plaza itself and where usually there are music going on, lots of activity. Aztec dancers, this guy that would come and play his Aztec, his Andean flute almost every day, it all quieted down. And very disheartening because as being the center of old Los Angeles and kind of the center of Mexican life," de la Pena said.

While it still looks relatively quiet during the week, things are slowly returning to normal on the weekends.

"As people start opening up, as things start opening, reopening, and people are ready to move on and experience what they've experienced before coming back to a place like LA Plaza," de la Pena said. "And people are also rediscovering it and discovering that. So I see a big future for it."

Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.