To mark September’s Hispanic Heritage Month, Architecture Professor Luis Hoyos highlights eight architectural sites in the West that are significant to Latino culture and history.
Hoyos is a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that advises Congress and the president on preservation of national historical resources.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles
With more than 9 acres, El Pueblo de Los Angeles (also known as Los Angeles Plaza Historic District) comprises the historic and cultural resources that exemplify the founding and early growth of the city. The buildings and sites represent the city’s Spanish, Mexican, and early American periods.
Hoyos’ work on the historic district required structural retrofits to preserve seven buildings from the 1870s, including Pico House, which was built by Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule.
“Demolition of the buildings was being considered, says Hoyos. “Cooler heads prevailed, and we were able to do the retrofit. The device that was used is called ‘adaptive reuse.’ ”
East LA Blowout High Schools (Garfield, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Belmont and Wilson high schools), 1968
The East Los Angeles Walkouts or Chicano Blowouts were a series of protests by Chicano students about the inequality of their education in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools. Thousands of students participated in what was the first mass mobilizations by Mexican-Americans in Southern California.
“The buildings are historic because of events that happened there,” Hoyos said. “They’re also historic because they’re an embodiment of a certain style so in the 30s; you would get the modern or art deco and sometimes you would get collegiate gothic.”
In 2018, the 50th anniversary of the blowouts, L.A. Unified voted to demolish Roosevelt High’s R Building, along with its gymnasium and other buildings on the campus.
The Los Angeles Times published Hoyos’ op-ed “Roosevelt High School’s historic R Building should be preserved, not demolished” on May 4, 2018, just days before the school district made its decision.
Anti-Vietnam War March in East LA, August 1970
East Los Angeles
“Very often, we’re not talking necessarily about a building, we’re talking about a stretch of avenue or a series of connected events that happened, in this case what happened on Whittier Boulevard in East L.A.,” Hoyos said.
On Aug. 29, 1970, the National Chicano Moratorium March began at Belvedere Park in Los Angeles and ended with a rally at Laguna Park that was broken up when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department used tear gas and panic ensued.
Laguna Park was renamed Ruben Salazar Park after the Los Angeles Times journalist and KMEX news director who was killed by a tear gas canister thrown by a sheriff’s deputy into the nearby Silver Dollar Bar that no longer exists.
Forty Acres Compound
Forty Acres is a National Historic Landmark where labor leader César Chávez held his first public fast. It’s also where the Unified Farm Workers first successfully bargained for contracts that protected the rights of farm workers and ended a five-year table-grape strike.
“Forty Acres is significant because it was the first compound where César Chávez was able to organize the United Farm Workers in relative safety,” Hoyos said.
The site is actually 40 acres of land where volunteers moved government buildings that became a health clinic for union members.
“They even built a structure for Filipino workers. Because of discriminatory practices, the workers brought in from the Philippines to tend crops were prevented from marrying. They could not marry and form families. So, this building was housing dozens of aging bachelors,” Hoyos said. “The building still exists.”
Chávez moved to a new compound at Nuestra Senora de La Paz in Keene, California, that is now the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument.
César Chávez March Route from Delano to Sacramento, 1966
On March 17, 1966, César Chávez embarked on a 300-mile pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento, attracting national media attention.
“It is one of those moments of visibility for the farm labor movement that we really don’t have now,” Hoyos said.
“I’m not sure about the exact route. He planned it at Forty Acres because, when Cal Poly Pomona students and I surveyed the buildings for the National Historic Landmark, there’s a picture of him with a map from Delano to Sacramento, and he’s pointing to various towns where they would stop.”
El Teatro Campesino
San Juan Bautista, CA
Founded in 1965 by actor and playwright Luis Valdez on the United Farm Workers Union’s Delano Grape Strike picket lines, the company created and performed “actos” or skits on flatbed trucks in the fields and in union halls.
The theatre remains in San Juan Bautista. Valdez’s “Zoot Suit” opened in 1978 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, went to Broadway in 1979 and became a motion picture in 1981.
“None of these buildings are beautiful; they’re all utilitarian buildings. They’re all on the National Register or they’re National Historic Landmarks because of the social movements that they embedded, not because of architecture,” Hoyos said.
Rio Vista Farm Bracero Camp
El Paso, Texas
“We ran out of labor during WWII because everybody was off fighting, and the door was opened to Mexico through what was called the Bracero Program. Bracero means arm. That legally allowed tens of thousands of farmworkers to come into Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California often in rather odd conditions, because they were processed into camps that were fairly basic,” Hoyos said. “A lot of these processing centers were eventually repurposed or destroyed. Rio Vista is rare because it survives, and it’s a fairly intact example.”
U.S. District Court of Southern California
350 W 1st St, Los Angeles
In 1946, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez brought a lawsuit against the Westminster School District, challenging its practice of segregating students of Mexican descent into separate schools.
Senior District Judge Paul J. McCormick of Los Angeles ruled in favor of Mendez and co-plaintiffs on Feb. 18, 1946, finding separate schools for Mexicans to be an unconstitutional denial of equal protection.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld McCormick’s decision in Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County — years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.
“Perhaps one of the hardest realizations you can have in terms of what we may feel about California and education in California is that most school districts — not just in California but in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona — discriminated, and they had parallel systems. There was a system for white people and a system for brown people,” Hoyos said.
“Sadly the school where this occurred doesn’t exist,” Hoyos said. “The courthouse exists, it is intact, you can go to the building and you can go to the courtroom.”
Luis Hoyos is a licensed architect, urban designer, preservationist and founder of Luis Hoyos Architects, Inc.. His designs for adapted historic structures such as the El Pueblo de Los Angeles buildings and plaza, Point Fermin Lighthouse and the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse, all which have won professional recognition.
He is a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that advises Congress and the president on preservation of national historical resources. Hoyos is a State Historical Resources commissioner, a board member of the Los Angeles Conservancy and an Advisor and member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Board of Trustees.
Hoyos regularly collaborates on National Park Service preservation projects, including the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) about The Forty Acres in Delano, California. He is national co-chair for the NPS American Latino Scholars Experts Panel and co-editor of “American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study,” on which he worked with many Cal Poly Pomona students in 2013.