Graduation Year

2017

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Anthropology

Reader 1

Seo Young Park

Reader 2

Joanne Nucho

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Rights Information

© 2017 Rebecca Millberg

Abstract

This thesis challenges the common, simplistic understanding of Los Angeles’ Olvera Street as merely a cultural landmark or popular historic site. Instead, I argue that, as a ‘Mexican marketplace’ that is simultaneously presented as historical, Olvera Street has been imbued with substantial power to shape the perception of Latinx culture and identity in Los Angeles. To investigate Olvera Street’s role as a key site in the larger struggle over racial and cultural meaning in the city, I begin with a historical analysis of the social and political contexts of the site’s construction. I then investigate the relationship between Sterling’s original vision for Olvera Street and the way the site is framed, imagined, and physically constructed today. I then examine the potential consequences of the discovery that Olvera Street continues to produce hegemonic ideas about Mexicans and Mexican culture in Los Angeles. Finally, I explore how Olvera Street’s merchants both as individuals and collectively through the Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation (OSMAF) have substantial power to shape the meanings assigned to Mexican (and more broadly Latinx) identity at Olvera Street.

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