“L.A. began on Olvera Street,” a StoryCorps participant recently told us. So we decided to check it out. Olvera Street is the oldest in the city and in 1930 it was turned into a Mexican Marketplace to honor and celebrate the culture.
Today it’s a bit of a tourist trap consisting of a row of tiny stalls selling everything from leather bags to tamales. Our favorite is “C-26″ which happens to be the first and oldest candy store on the street, founded by Frank Martinez in 1939. These days, C-26 is run by Frank’s grandson Rey (pictured above), who grew up eating the milk pecan bars, tamarind balls and cactus candy sold in his grandfather’s shop. “I had 14 cavities by the time I was 12,” he said while shyly hiding his smile behind his hand.
Just outside Olvera street under a great big tree, we ran into this duo gusto-fully singing Mexican ballads. 83-year-old Rafael Rosales and his partner Lydia, 60, are regulars here. Rafael says he’s been playing the guitar since he was 3. He laughed, “I have long, long, long, long, long-time story to say.” Just the kind of stories we like.