Monday, July 04, 2005

Isla de Encanta

When my parents come to visit Los Angeles, they usually want to do two things: eat at a local Colombian restaurant and go to Olvera Street. I only took my parents there for the first time a couple of months ago, and they fell in love with it.

Olvera Street is in downtown LA, a short drive from my digs in Silverlake, and boasts itself as the birthplace of Los Angeles, originally known as El Pueblo de Nuestro Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula River). It's got some original buildings and storefronts incorporated into the marketplace it is today, which sells Mexican trinkets, candy clothing, leather goods, etc... There is also a really nice gazebo where you can either find some traditional dancing going on, or breakdancing busker types in front of it. Always a hub of activity, and plenty to eat, which my folks like.

(Thing is, my parents live in San Diego, and I think Old Town in San Diego - which is basically the same thing except on a much bigger scale - is way better. )

This Sunday, when I asked what they wanted to do, my father said, "Well, your mom wants to go down to Olvera Street..." so off we went. The same deal: buy some funny things, look at clothes, eat some churros. Today, the performance in the gazebo was a youngish Mexican singer, belting out the traditional Mexican tunes in the traditional Mexican flavor, and the crowd was eating it up. My mom (who is from Colombia) explained to me that these songs have been around forever, and are recorded over and over again in the same style and are hugely popular throughout Central and South America, not just in Mexico. "Kind of like lounge stuff, Rat Pack stuff?" "Exactly, " she said, "Just like Frank Sinatra's music."

The guy on stage was emulating a certain singer, and there was a crowd of people in front singing along loudly. To our right was a little old lady, occasionally getting up from her chair to gesture wildly and clap, singing enthusiatically the whole time. She was about four feet tall with crooked teeth and a big smile, big white hair, dressed in white slacks, a white t-shirt and sneakers. Eventually, her excitement got the better of her and she wandered up towards the front. The singer came down from the gazebo, danced her around a little, and then gave her an autographed poster which she proudly carried back to her family.

Musicians - always having their way with the ladies.