Part 3: What the Guadalupe's new President, R. Bret Ruiz says about women, and la gente from San Antonio
Irma R. Mayorga is from San Antonio. She has travelled and lived throughout the country, amassing awards and fellowships. This past December, she became the first Latina to graduate with a joint Ph.D in Drama and the Humanities from Stanford University.
In 2003, Mayorga was the first Chicana to receive an invitation to the Eugene O’Neill Center's Playwright's Conference for her play, Cascarones. She is also the co-creator of The Panza Monologues, along with Vicki Grise, which has toured to positive reviews.
The word mostly linked with Irma Mayorga is brilliant. She considers herself a Chicana with all the progressive connotations that come with it. She is currently an adjunct professor at UTSA/Downtown Campus. Mayorga is too reserved to tell you, but she has been courted by prestigious universities outside the state, choosing instead to stay at home, in San Antonio. She thinks of herself as an artist first, and as a community scholar second.
Until her contract was terminated last fall, Mayorga was the Galería Guadalupe Director (the Arts Gallery) and Literary Arts Program Manager. She is single with no children.
Dolores Zapata Murff (Dee), has been a married woman for over twenty years. She has children, grandchildren , and a home in the suburbs with a pool. She is currently a student on academic scholarship at Our Lady of the Lake University, and was making straight As until Ruiz arrived at the Guadalupe. Dee grew up on the Westside, in the hueso of San Antonio, as we say. She was discovered by the Esperanza Center where she made cerámica in the MujerArtes program, eventually becoming a boardmember. In that position, she defended the Esperanza’s right to sue the City of San Antonio in federal court when the Esperanza was defunded in 1996. Her Republican circle of friends was not impressed.
Some time later, Dee was hired by the Guadalupe Center to run its Giftshop (which she madeover, and became under her tenure known as the Bookstore). She was then promoted to Public Relations and Marketing Director. The word to describe Dee is activista.
Both of these women are multi-talented and multi-dimensional, artists and women of conciencia. They are the women of the Guadalupe Center. This past December, Mayorga’s contract was terminated. She believes this happened because she had applied for Ruiz’ position, though she wasn’t interviewed by the Board. She has many concerns about Ruiz' dedication to the Guadalupe, his artistic background, and his lack of professionalism. Throughout our talk, she spoke to me on-the-record.
But Dee Murph is still at the Center, and has filed a complaint against R. Bret Ruiz.
In this posting, I've included Dee Murph's official complaint because it is most urgent and encompasses much of what other women, formerly of the Guadalupe, are telling me on and off-the-record, in words, gestures, and whispers.
As of February 27, 06 The Guadalupe Board of Directors has yet to respond to Dee Murph's complaint.
To: Guadalupe Board of Directors
Fr: Dolores Zapata Murff
Re: Discrimination Complaint
Date: December 9, 2005
This Complaint is submitted pursuant to Section V.2 of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Personnel Policies. As that Section provides, I am submitting this directly to the Board of Directors for resolution because my Complaint involves discriminatory behavior on the basis of sex and race by the President, Mr. Bret Ruiz.
Through his behavior, Mr. Ruiz has created a hostile work environment for me as a woman and a Chicana. Incidents of inappropriate behavior by Mr. Ruiz include the following:
1) Shortly after he began working at the Guadalupe, Mr. Ruiz commented to me on the way that Ms Marisela Barrera was dressed and in particular the fact the she was wearing a red bra under a white tee shirt. I was extremely uncomfortable with that conversation because I felt it was not appropriate since I had just met him, Ms Barrera is my colleague and I have a lot of respect for her. Mr. Ruiz made this comment after Ms. Barrera had sent him an e-mail explaining to him that she could not work the 8:30 to 5:30 schedule that he demanded of all employees because when she is in production she is at the center until very late at night. She said that the production schedule required evening hours and that she had to spend some time at home because she has a baby and needs to spend time with her infant.
2) Another time, Mr. Ruiz talked to me about our young intern Nicole (age 21) and he said that she wore very provocative clothes. He said her figure was very voluptuous and that her cleavage was always exposed and that made him nervous and uncomfortable. Then he made reference to my breasts and joked that I was dressed in a provocative manner as well that same day. I felt extremely uncomfortable as he looked at me up and down. Not knowing how to respond I said, "Bret she is just a child, and as far as I go, this is the way I am shaped and there is not too much I can do about it."
3) From that day on he started making fun of me and the way I dressed. For example one day I walked in and in front of other staff members he said "Well here comes Dee in her fake Channel jacket" I did not appreciate being the butt of his joke. When I answered back he told me "watch it young lady, I am the President and I, have boundaries."
4) On November 8, 2005 I showed Mr. Ruiz a half page ad for Cine Festival which was printed in La Prensa and he casually turned up his nose and said " that's nice" and I said to him "that is about $1,200.00 worth of advertising that Mr. Duran from La Prensa has graciously, donated to us." He looked at me and said "well my dear, I hope that you did not compromise yourself to get that advertisement" I felt that remark was sexist and insulting to my professionalism.
5) Another remark that upset me was in mid October, Mr. Ruiz called me on the cell phone as I was leaving for lunch and he asked me "Dee you're not having an inappropriate relationship with Jose are you? Because people are starting to talk since you are always having lunch with him." Mr. Jose Garza was with me and so was Mr. David Gonzales. I wasn't sure how to take that comment and it upset me.
6) During the weeks following the Katrina disaster, Mr. Ruiz commented that he hated to go shopping in San Antonio because "la raza was very razquache y feyous" (meaning lowlife, low class, and ugly) so he had to go to the Gucci HEB where he could shop more comfortably. He said to me "Ay esta Raza is so ghetto and I don't want to be around here (meaning the neighborhood we work at) after dark." I found this to be disturbing as well because this is the very community that we are saying in our grants that we are serving. Not to mention that I grew up in this barrio and found his comments to be racist and hurtful to me. I told him that I was a product of this community and he made fun of me and told me "ay yes you were born in this community and you will die in this community" to this day this statement has caused me great distress. I feel that it is a privilege to be able to work in the very neighborhood that I truly grew up in and I chose to come back to serve this community and this institution.
7) Another incident in his office I came downstairs to meet with him and I had my hair up in a braid across my head and as soon as I walked in he told me "ay Dee you look like la India Maria." After a long pause, I responded to him and I said "You know Bret you really don't like indios do you?" He responded to me in a very sarcastic tone "of course I do"
8) On September 25, 2005 Mr. Ruiz and I were both at an event at Nordstrom and I was beside Mr. Ruiz as he conversed with Mr. John Hinojosa Executive Director of Say Si. Mr. Ruiz said to Mr. Hinojosa that he had "inherited a big mess with the staff" and "the Board lied to me about the financial condition of the organization." Mr. Ruiz then said "I honestly don't know what to do there are so many problems with the staff and with the finances." I was offended by Mr. Ruiz’s lack of professionalism and his hostility to the staff, most of whom are Chicanos and many of whom are women.
The following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were pre-arranged vacation days for me, yet Mr. Ruiz had Ms. Loretta Zavallos call me to arrange an emergency meeting with Mr. Ruiz. At that meeting which was held on Wednesday November 23, 2005 in his office and attended by Ms Loretta Zavallos as well, Mr. Ruiz informed me that Colleen Frost had “filed a formal complaint” against me. I asked to see the complaint and Mr. Ruiz has not produced such a complaint for me to see, even though he was informed by Ms. Zavallos during that meeting that I had a right to see any such complaint.
After informing me about the “complaint,” Mr. Ruiz became very agitated and said: “I better not ever hear that you repeated that conversation because I will fire you on the spot.” I was again shocked by Mr. Ruiz’s statement and I said that I felt that he was harassing me and threatening me.
In addition to Mr. Ruiz’s inappropriate behavior in my presence, my work environment has been made more hostile by the way Mr. Ruiz has behaved towards other staff members who are women and Chicanas/os. This behavior includes the following:
1) For example I spoke to Ms. Carolina Rubio, who resigned after an incident involving Mr. Ruiz. She told me that he approached her while she was at the copy machine (she was wearing a short sleeve blouse that, she explained, exposed her arms) and he said to her "ay Carolina, you should put on some sunscreen because you are getting too brown and you are looking too dark, my dear" in a very condescending tone. She took great offense to his comment and wasn't sure how to respond. She told me that she was so upset that she brought this up to her immediate supervisor, but nothing was done.
2) Around the same time, Mr. Jose Garza told me that Mr. Ruiz had invited him to the Founders Luncheon and that Mr. Ruiz had made the following remark: "Jose I am going to invite you to join me at the Founder's luncheon, but can you work on losing your accent because it is too Chicano" Mr. Jose Garza told me that at that very moment he decided that he would not continue his work at the Guadalupe beyond his immediate obligation. Mr. Garza no longer works at the Guadalupe.
3) I also heard Mr. Ruiz say of Ms Lisa Bombin that he “wanted her to have his babies.” He made this comment as she was walking away.
I hope you will look closely at the effect Mr. Ruiz’s behavior has had on me and other staff members who must work in a racially and sexually hostile environment. I feel degraded in my body, my femininity, and my identity as a Chicana. I am heart-sick that this is happening at the Guadalupe, which exists to bring a sense of pride and dignity to our barrio. The stress I am experiencing is affecting my physical and spiritual well-being and is undermining my effectiveness and that of other staff members.
Please understand that I have tried every other way I know to resolve this problem. I recognize the seriousness of this complaint and the burden it places on the Board, and I do not undertake the process lightly.
I ask that the Board take immediate and decisive action to remedy this situation. Thank you for your leadership.
In addition there are several staff members that are willing make statements about their own maltreatment to the members of the Board of Directors of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
I have been advised and counseled by attorney Ms. Amy Kastely.
Dolores Zapata Murff
Marketing/Public Relations Manager
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center 867-6718