Margo Albert, founder of Plaza de la Raza c.1935

Margo Albert, founder of Plaza de la Raza c.1935

"The song,
The poem,
The picture, 
Is only water from the well of people.
It should be given back to them in a cup of beauty
That they may drink
and in drinking understand themselves..."

--Federico Garcia Lorca

Our History

Erma Gross

Erma Gross

With little more than a decayed boathouse and a purpose in their lives, Margo Albert, an actress, and Frank Lopez, a trade union activist, sought the core concept in Margo's favorite poem: to give back to the people the song, the poem, the picture, all in a cup of beauty. Since 1970, that cup, named Plaza de la Raza (Place of the People), has been a cultural oasis for the Eastside neighborhoods of Los Angeles, providing year-round programs in arts education and a space for cultural enrichment. 

Our Mission


Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center for the Arts & Education is the only multidisciplinary community arts venue dedicated to serving the Eastside neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Founded in 1970 by prominent labor, business and civic leaders as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it offers affordable after-school, intergenerational arts education programs to nearly 3,800 children, teens and adults each year. Its mission is to foster enrichment of all cultures bridging the geographic, social, artistic, and cultural boundaries of Los Angeles, and beyond.

Throughout the year, Plaza presents more than 450+ classes (beginning to advanced) that are taught quarterly by local artists and performers in theater, dance, music, and the visual arts. In addition, the center attracts more than 25,000 visitors each year with its free cultural programs, and manages almost 300 community volunteers. To learn more, email info@plazadelaraza.org or visit www.plazadelaraza.org.

Our Timeline

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Note: Lincoln Park was initially named "Eastlake Park"

  • 1870s - The City of Los Angeles donates the land in which Lincoln Park now resides to the Southern Pacific Railroad to build shops. The Railroad company eventually returns the land.

  • 1912 – The Lincoln Park Boathouse is constructed.

  • 1917 – Eastlake park is renamed Lincoln Park.

  • October 1969 –  Due to years of neglect and abuse, the city orders Lincoln Park closed and schedules the boathouse for demolition.

  • May 21, 1970 – The Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners endorse “in principle” the plan to construct Plaza de la Raza.

  • 1970 – Plaza de la Raza is incorporated as a non-profit for a fee of $36.00. The fee is raised by Ann Lopez, wife of union activist Frank Lopez. Ann raised the funds by knitting a poncho and selling it for $36.00.

  • 1970 – The City of Los Angeles grants Plaza de la Raza a 25-year ground lease. 

  • Summer 1970 -  Frequent Anti-war protests break out in East Los Angeles by residents who are upset and angry that over 20% of the lives lost in Vietnam were from Latinos. 

  • August 29, 1970 – While seated at the Silver Dollar Cafe, journalist Ruben Salazar is killed instantly when a tear gas round fired by a sheriff’s deputy hits the back of his head. 

  • 1971 – David Alfaro Siqueiros sketches Ruben Salazar, in a piece titled, “Heroic Voice” and donates it to Plaza de la Raza.

  • 1971 – Still without buildings, Plaza classes begin underneath the trees of Lincoln Park. Children learn folk songs, dances, and art. 

  • 1971 – Plaza de la Raza hosts its first fundraising party – an art walk on La Cienega and Melrose (near what is now West Hollywood). Attended by thousands, the festival showed children’s arts and crafts, as well as works by Mexican-American artists. Columnist Jack Smith of the Los Angeles Times, remembering the riots of the year before, wrote “I like walks better than marches.”

  • June 1974 -  Plaza de la Raza is featured on the cover of Los Angeles County’s White Pages directory

  • June 2, 1974 – Plaza de la Raza hosts “Xochimilco at Lincoln Park” in which passenger “Chalupa” boats were decorated and sailed in the Lincoln Park lake to resemble the experience and look of Xochimilco in Mexico. 

  • 1980 – Plaza de la Raza creates a “right to read” program for people over 16 who had not yet reached 8th grade level basic reading skills in English .

  • October 9, 1982 – Plaza hosts an opening of the theatre and dance studio. The complex is given the name Ruben Salazar Bicentennial Buildings. The entire park is decorated and a giant 175-foot long carpet, created in Mexico especially for the event, is rolled out for guests. Approximately 10,000 people attend.  

  • April 18, 1984 – Prince Andrew of England eats handmade tortillas on a tour of Plaza de la Raza. 

  • July 1984 – Plaza de la Raza hosts a “Folklife Festival” that celebrates and highlights different types of local Folk Artists, from herbalists to dancers, toy makers, woodcarvers, mask makers, guitar makers, and makers of altars. 

  • September 1985 – David Alfaros Siqueiros exhibition opens at Plaza de la Raza.

  • October 1985 – Plaza’s newly completed theatre opens. It is dedicated and named after Margo Albert. 

  • January 1987 – Frida Kahlo exhibition opens at Plaza de la Raza. It is the first solo exhibition of her work in Los Angeles. More than 30,000 visitors attend during the duration of the exhibit. Maria Jimenez-Torres, Plaza’s current executive director, volunteers for the first time at Plaza de la Raza for the exhibition. 

  • 1990 – Plaza de la Raza joins the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) program with the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in order to provide more rigorous theatre programs to students. 

  • Jan 17, 1994 – The Northridge earthquake damages Plaza’s boathouse gallery.

  • September 9, 2005 – Plaza de la Raza is congratulated by the city of Los Angeles for 35 years of “dedication to the people of Los Angeles.”

  • Summer 2010 - Plaza de la Raza holds the first of five Target Feria de la Familia. 

  • May 2012 - Plaza's Youth Mariachi Ensemble wins 1st Place at Mission San Juan Capistrano’s “Battle of the Mariachis!”

  • 2015 - Plaza de la Raza celebrates their 25th anniversary of the Community Arts Partnership with CalArts. 

  • 2015 - Plaza de la Raza celebrates their 45-year anniversary 

This timeline was constructed through careful research. References of dates, events, times, and places come from Plaza de la Raza archives, oral history interviews, and articles from The Los Angeles Times. The timeline, while lengthy, is not meant to be exhaustive. In its 45+ year history, Plaza de la Raza has reached several important milestones in community building, arts education, and artistic exhibitions – far too many to include in one list.