History, Arts & Culture of Los Angeles

History, Arts & Culture of Los Angeles

From Pueblo To City Of Lost Dreams

The city of Los Angeles is home to almost four million people today. Although it is one of the largest cities in North America, Los Angeles started as a humble pueblo (Spanish term for village or town) that grew and boomed throughout its history.

In pre-colonial times, the area that we now call Los Angeles was called Yaanga (poison oak place) and was inhabited by the Tongva and Chumash people. The area was then claimed by Spain where they established a small settlement called El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula, translated as “Our Lady the Queen of the angels of Porcincula.” In the late 1700s, it was a small settlement with a few families but it quickly grew to a town of about 300 within a few years. Thus, the city as it was established, was initially part of Mexico where it served as the regional capital of Alta California.

In 1847 after the Mexican-American War, the city, along with California, became part of the United States of America. This was quickly followed by the discovery of gold in California which prompted the gold rush. People migrated to Los Angeles in droves to get jobs in gold mines, Thereafter the indigenous people were driven out by genocide and their numbers further diminished due to disease.

Before the end of the 19th century, oil was discovered in Los Angeles which also prompted further migration to the region. Along with these developments, the railroad system also expanded dramatically. People of all colors labored on the railroads, which is part of the reason why Los Angeles today has a very diverse population.

All these events would go on to shape what defined Los Angeles in the past, but perhaps one development that had the biggest impact on modern-day Los Angeles was the Hollywood film industry. The industry has so far defined the city for more than a century.

No doubt Los Angeles is a great city, but it is not without its dark side. Notable among this is its checkered history filled with tragic riots. There were the Zoot Suit riots in 1943 where Mexicans were attacked, followed by the Watts Rebellion in 1965 in which people rebelled against systematic racism, and the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittal of the policemen involved in the Rodney King beating. In addition to riots, the 1994 earthquake as a tragic event killed 57, injured hundreds, and caused billions of dollars of damages. These are just some of the events that have shaped Los Angeles as we know it today.

LA’s Culture and Arts

Los Angeles has been given quite a few nicknames since its founding, one of them being “the city of angels,” a literal translation of its name. However, one nickname that is arguably linked to the city as a hub of arts and culture is “the city of broken dreams.” This nickname is descriptive of the unglamorous realities outside of the Hollywood spotlight.

As the creative capital of the world, the city has a vibrant cultural and arts industry that is home to numerous artists, writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians, dancers and other creatives. Movies and the performing arts dominate the cultural and arts scene in the city with the industry annually producing a wide variety of films and TV shows. Some of the most notable sites in Los Angeles revolve around Hollywood and pop culture – the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Walk of Fame at Hollywood Boulevard, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the TCL Chinese Theatre to name a few.

Los Angeles also boasts more than 800 museums and art galleries, which is the largest number among US cities. The city houses the largest art museum in the West, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), along with the Getty Center, Museum of Contemporary Art, Petersen Automotive Museum, and many more on Gallery Row. These museums and galleries exhibit famous artists from Vincent Van Gogh to local and visiting artists.

However, not all art is housed in museums. Some of the most striking works of art in the city can be seen on the streets. Art murals make the city truly come alive. One of the most memorable and powerful murals on the streets of Los Angeles is the Great Wall of Los Angeles, which was designed by Judith Baca and was executed by over 400 artists. The 13-foot mural, painted on the wall along Tujunga Wash, depicts the history of Los Angeles from the pre-colonial times to the present, both the good and the bad. It is meant to serve as a reminder of the true origins of Los Angeles and of the diverse people who built and shaped it, and because of whom the city, and arguably the world, would not be the same.

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