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Proposed Street Name Change Would Recognize Pastor who Stood Up for Change

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Via Google Street View


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Father Luis Olivares, who was the presiding pastor at La Placita across from Olvera Street in the 1980s, may be soon recognized with a street named after him for social contributions. Councilmember Jose Huizar, who is pushing for a short street north of the church to be renamed to "Paseo Luis Olivares," says the religious leader was an active participant with Cesar Chavez' United Farm Workers before going on to found two organizations. United Neighborhood Organization's goal was to empower Latino neighborhoods through grass-roots leadership so they could address neighborhood and social issues. The Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) aims to "advance the human and civil rights of immigrants and refugees in Los Angeles," among other goals.

Olivares also declared the church as a "Sanctuary for refugees who were fleeing from the political turmoil and bloodshed in EI Salvador," says Huizar, whose motion will be discussed at city council committee today. His full reasoning for the street name change is below, via the motion:

Our Lady Queen of the Angels Roman Catholic Church, also known as La Placita, was founded in 1781 within EI Pueblo de Los Angeles. La Placita has served the people of Los Angeles since that time, providing solace, physical assistance, and spiritual guidance. The facility has been operated under the auspices of the Claretian Missionary Fathers since 1910. The parish of La Placita has requested that the small street that lies just north of the church property, between New High Street to the west and North Main Street to the east
be named after Father Luis Olivares (1934-1993). This action is to recognize Father
Olivares' role in championing his principal mission in life, the service of the neediest
within the Latino communities of Los Angeles.

A member of the Claretian Order, Father Olivares began his pastoral work as Pastor of
La Soledad Parish in East Los Angeles and was very active with the United Farm
Workers. From 1981 to 1989, he served as Pastor of La Placita, which has the largest
congregation in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. It was from this site that he became
aware of the trials and struggles of the neediest in Los Angeles who were seeking. a
better life.

Father Olivares founded the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO). UNO's mission
was to build grass-roots leadership within Latino neighborhoods to empower and
address local issues such as street violence, Latino student drop-out rate, and
overcrowding/underperforming schools.

In 1986 he was the founder of Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
(CHIRLA). CHIRLA, a multi-ethnic collaborative of advocacy groups, social service
providers, policy makers, and legal services organizations, was dedicated to advancing
human and civil rights of immigrants and refugees in Los Angeles.

In 1988, Father Olivares and a few chosen followers declared the Old Plaza Church.a
Sanctuary for refugees who were fleeing from the political turmoil and bloodshed in EI
Salvador. As a Sanctuary for EI Salvadoran refugees, Father Olivares took the initiative
to raise these concerns to not only the federal immigration officials, but to the hierarchy
of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Father Olivares, a diabetic, was later infected with HIV through the use of an improperly
sterilized needle during one of his numerous trips to the refugee camps in EI Salvador.
He died on March 18, 1993 at the age of 59.