At a time when Angelenos are significantly confined to our homes, LA City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources has created a series of blogs called #OurLA to keep us connected to one another and to the places and neighborhoods that make Los Angeles special. This series highlights lesser-known historic buildings and historic places across the city – including places that help build community and connection. We’ll also be offering links to where you can learn more about related historic places and themes that have helped to define Los Angeles.
As we celebrate the history and culture of US Latinx and Hispanic communities during National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15), we recognize Candelas Guitars, located at 2724 Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights, for its sustained presence, musical influence, and contributions to the Boyle Heights Mexican-American community.
Throughout the City, Latinx communities foster and sustain cultural traditions with roots in various Latin American countries by passing them down from one generation to the next. Longtime Latinx businesses specializing in various crafts and trades are often the most emblematic of these important traditions. Los Angeles’s citywide historic context statement—created as part of SurveyLA, the citywide historic resources survey—identifies several longtime Latinx businesses across the city as potentially eligible for historic designation.
For several generations, Candelas Guitars has been a family-owned business dedicated to handcrafting guitars of exceptional quality for classical, flamenco, and mariachi music. Their craft has roots in Mexico that predate the store’s Boyle Heights opening in 1947. The family business was established by brothers Porfirio Delgado-Flores and Candelario Delgado-Flores who opened shops in the cities of Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico and Los Angeles. While both brothers were luthiers (a craftsperson who makes and repairs string instruments), Candelario’s primary contribution was business management. From its early days, word of mouth grew Candelas’ fame for crafting high-quality guitars and led to collaborations with well-known Latin American musicians such as Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno, Germán "Tin-Tan" Valdés, Pepe Gamboa, and Desi Arnaz’s lead guitarist, Eduardo Ruiz, among others.
By 1967, when the brothers were managing two successful shops in Mexico and two in Los Angeles, Porfirio’s son Candelario had joined the family business. He contributed dedication to craftsmanship and business management skills to build on the family’s legacy. Before long the family opened a fifth shop, this time in Hollywood. Over the years, Candelas’ outstanding reputation continued to attract well-known musicians. Jose Feliciano, Arlo Guthrie, Hoyt Axton, and world-renowned Mariachi ensembles have numbered among Candelas Guitars’ clients.
During the 1980s, a decade of great change for Candelas Guitars, the aging founders faced health problems. Candelario lost the battle against cancer, and managing several shops was no longer feasible for the family. Forced to slow down, they consolidated all their business in the Boyle Heights shop on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, where Porfirio and his son, Candelario, continued building. Candelario’s sons, Tomás and Manuel, kept up the family tradition, becoming the third generation of Candelas Guitars luthiers under the guidance of their father and grandfather. Today, three Candelas guitars form part of the Smithsonian collection, and both Tomás and Manuel Delgado are luthiers, continuing their family’s cultural tradition. Manuel heads Delgado Guitars out of Nashville, Tennessee, and Tomás Delgado heads Candelas Guitars on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Los Angeles.
This long-standing Latinx business and Los Angeles cultural institution continues to contribute to Boyle Heights’ Mexican-American community through its prized products and services. From maintenance services for Mariachi musical instruments and Zoom guitar lessons to an affordable line of guitars designed by Tomás himself, Candelas merits celebration for sustaining cultural traditions and Boyle Heights’ Mexican-American history.
For more detail on other significant places associated with Los Angeles’ Latino History, see the Latino Los Angeles Historic Context Statement released by the Office of Historic Resources in 2015.