A gala dinner Saturday night will launch La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a new center devoted to the history of the Mexicans and Mexican Americans who founded the city and helped define its culture.
"We collect stories, not objects," says La Plaza CEO Miguel Angel Corzo.
But something equally historic was collected during construction of the center's courtyard and garden. The skeletal remains of 118 of the city's early inhabitants were pulled out of the ground in an area just south of La Placita Church downtown. It was the site of a historic Catholic cemetery, where Native Americans, Mexicans, Europeans and others were buried until their remains were supposedly relocated in the mid-1800s.
Corzo and Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the driving force behind the cultural center, say the finds were unexpected. They contend that all proper authorities were contacted and the fragile bones were removed meticulously.
But they didn't immediately stop the excavation work. That decision got the project finished on time, but it prompted so much controversy and anger that it was as if the spirits of the dead themselves unleashed enough bad juju to keep Molina and La Plaza officials scrambling to do damage control for months if not years.