Mariachi Plaza: The possible end

Mariachis and business owners fear that the Plaza might be torn down.

Talk of Mariachi Plaza being transformed into a shopping center is giving mariachis something new to vocalize about.

"I'm upset because they want to tear down mariachi plaza for a shopping center," said Manuel Chavez Ruiz, one of the many mariachi musicians.

Mariachi Plaza is a historical one stop destination for people to find and hire mariachis for any type of event. Mariachi is a tradition that has been around for many years and represents the culture and essence of Mexican people.

"We are here all day. We are waiting for people who are coming here so we can get a job," said Ruiz. The mariachis give their business cards to potential clients and then those clients call them for a job.

Located in Boyle Heights, mariachi musicians have been singing in Mariachi Plaza for over 80 years. This is one of only locations in the United States that offers a central area for the musicians to gather at.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is planning to demolish the shops and build two new buildings. Many local shops would be torn down due to this proposal. There would be an eight-story building that contained six levels of parking and two floors of medical offices and a three-story building with a restaurant, shops and a gym. The plan includes renovating approximately 120,000 square feet of land.

"They want to kick the mariachis to build a shopping center. I don't know why," said Ruiz "Mariachis are fighting to keep this tradition here in LA for all the people that like Mexican music. Mariachis want it here. I don't know who wants to remove it, who wants to erase the tradition that has come from a long time ago."

The Agency hopes to bring more people to the community by creating this shopping center. This will affect the many mariachi players that fill the plaza everyday awaiting opportunities to play traditional Mexican music.

"It's something that comes from Mexico something traditional. This is something forever for the future of the kids," said Ruiz.

Once the community got wind of the plan, the agency immediately faced a large onslaught of criticism. The business owners as well as the mariachis felt that they were not told about this plan until very late.

Due to the negative response of the Boyle Heights community, the plan has been halted until Feb. 2015.

If this plan goes forward, the future of mariachi players is questioned.

Louis does not think that the future of mariachi will die, but will instead experience some hardship. This will remove a huge tradition. He described it as being being cut, but still being able to survive with a scar.

The Mariachis say that if the plan does go through then hopefully they will stay true to the community and offer traditional Latino options. This will ensure that the future of the mariachis if the plaza remains.

"If they want to do it. Change it hopefully they change it in a nice way. Put more restaurants and some nice places," said Ruiz.

Mariachi Plaza is not the only area being affected. Downtown, which is only a few streets away has been undergoing gentrification for many years now. Therefore, the likelihood of stopping this process may be difficult.

Recently a new cafe called La Monarca just opened alongside the square. This cafe has many other locations in trendy areas like Hollywood, Santa Monica and South Pasadena. While it deviates from the aesthetic of the rest of the community, La Monarca offers traditional Mexican desserts. By catering to the large Latino demographic of Boyle Heights, the modern looking cafe does not effect the culture of the area.

In a Los Angeles Times article, Arturo Sneider of Primestor Development said, "Our goal is to find out what the community needs the most and what's feasible." He ensures that the mariachis will remain in the plaza. "They will continue doing exactly what they do -- looking for work and playing music. We just look forward to elevating what's already there, " said Sneider.

                    <em>Manuel Chavez Ruiz spends at least three times a day at the Plaza.</em>



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Manuel and Carlos sing "Si nos dejan"