The national Hispanic Heritage Month ends this week. Annenberg Media students went to El Pueblo, the historic heart of Los Angeles, located in downtown LA and profiled on a small artisan shop.
Owner Armando Murillo is a second generation leather artisan on Olvera Street. At Murillo Leather Goods we found him swinging his hammer, focused on the bag he’s making.
MURILLO: What we’d sell here at Murillo Leather is I would want to see a kind of like a throwback to the 70s, the hippie era. We sell belts, leather hippie bags, bracelets with names, huaraches, of course. But we don’t make those. Everything that we essentially that we sell here is handcrafted. And what I’m doing right now, for example, is a leather tote bag, but it’s all done right here in front of the public.
Olvera Street has a diverse community and a neighborhood rich in culture. The historic brick street is lined with all kinds of authentic Mexican vendors and artisan shops.
MURILLO: All of the material that we get here comes from Mexico and we take it from there and we cut, slice, paint stamp and tool everything ...it takes me approximately from start to finish seven to 10 days to finish one particular bag, but I don’t do it all at the same time.
Armando’s boutique has remained a staple of the street even as other shops have come and gone. He believes that stores like his offer a wholesome alternative to other stores and online shopping.
MURILLO: When I was a kid and my dad was running the show here, there were more artisans and not just in leather. There were glass blowers, there was actually a blacksmith down the street and several leather artisans who now I guess they just as they got older, they sold their businesses or the kids didn’t continue the actual process of manufacturing...But when you can walk into a place like you just did and you can see somebody actually manufacturing in front of you, it says a lot and it really means more to the person, especially if it’s a custom made product like with a name or whatnot, stuff like that.
Armando upholds the tradition of his leather shop because it is part of his inheritance, passed to him by his father. Now, he’s the one putting in time to keep the business running smoothly.
MURILLLO: I’m just representing Olvera Street and having the privilege to manufacture product here on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. But above that is is representing a legacy that my dad left and continuing, you know, a business that he left me. It’s something that I cherish with my heart. And I’m here every day, guys. You know, I’m here every day doing the very best that I can to do that and to continue the business.
Hispanic Heritage Month ends this October 15.