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How the Guadalupe Board Betrayed the Community: Part 2 of an Investigative Report

Part 2: The Deception of R. Bret Ruiz, President of the Guadalupe Center

I’ve been scrutinizing R. Bret Ruiz for the last three weeks. In that time, I’ve discovered that he inflated his resume, lying about the date of graduation to presume curatorial experience he doesn’t have.

I’ve also learned that he couldn’t get his own American Express card for Guadalupe Center business because of his bad credit.

And a former Board President of the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico in Dallas, his former boss - warned the Guadalupe Board Chairman, Juan Aguilera, that R. Bret Ruiz was the “worst executive director we’ve ever had.”

Wait. While Ruiz was Executive Director of the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico, he worked evenings at a Mexican restaurant.

And yes, I have the papers and sources to prove all this.

Mauricio Navarro, former Board President of the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico in Dallas, picked up the phone last summer as soon as he heard that R. Bret Ruiz was running the Guadalupe Cultural Center.

I found Navarro from confidential sources I tracked down in Dallas – I used to live there and served on the Commission for Cultural Affairs in the mid-nineties.

Navarro called the Guadalupe Center last summer, he says, and asked to speak to the Chairman of the Board. After some days went by, he finally reached Juan Aguilera, the Guadalupe Center’s Board Chairman.

Navarro is the president of his own public relations firm, RAIZ PR, and he sits on many community boards throughout DFW. He became Board President of the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Inc. (Anita Martinez for short) in 2001, when R. Bret Ruiz was being considered for the Executive Director position.

And he resigned from the Anita Martinez board in disgust some time later because of what he saw R. Bret Ruiz accomplish.

Absolutely nothing.

“It’s exaggerated.” The first thing he remembers about Ruiz’s resume is the way that the Anita Martinez Board was wowed by the stunning credentials Ruiz brought to the table. Ruiz has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a M.A. in Art History from the same school, and a B.A. in American Studies from Yale.

And while Ruiz does in fact have those degrees, his resume is inflated and deceptive. I’ve verified that Ruiz actually graduated with a M.A. in Art History – his thesis is in architectural history – campus planning - in 1986-87 instead of the 1982 date indicated on his resume. Based on what I understand that’s important for cultural leadership, I suspect that Ruiz attempted to bolster a history of museum curatorial experience that he does not have. And there is a disturbing discrepancy in the dates of employment.

On his resume, he states that he was at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1983-85. And he also records that he was at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. from 1982-84 – overlapping dates of employment that call to question his curatorial record, once again. Bear in mind that he actually didn’t have an M.A. in Art History at this time, either.

Artists/curators know that it is unlikely for a person without advanced credentials to do curatorial work, especially in prestigious institutions.

Calls made to the Chicago Institute of Art revealed that Ruiz was a research assistant in the Museum’s library. Punto.

Dolores Zapata Murff (Dee), the Public Relations Manager when Ruiz came on board, remembers that he told her “don’t send it out,” meaning for her not to send his resume to the media.

On his employment application that I obtained from confidential sources, Ruiz lists five references – none of whom are Anita Martinez boardmembers, museum curators, or even the founder herself, Anita Martinez. And, as I’ve mentioned, his references are also Anglo, a curious homogeneity when applying to the nation’s oldest and most prominent latino cultural center.

In today’s nonprofit climate, it is Ruiz’s combination of business schooling and artistic training – however false - that help him stand out. Yet the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico and the Guadalupe vary widely in their complexity and mission: The ANM’s $200,000 budget is not even one-fourth of the Guadalupe’s annual 1.5 million dollar budget. The Anita Martinez mission is a mainstream one. It exists to supply DFW with folklorico dance, and fee-based dance instruction.

The Guadalupe’s mission is inherently socio-political. Its mission is “preserve, develop, present and promote the arts and culture of the Chicano/Latino/Indigenous peoples.”

I reviewed the two resumes, submitted a year apart by Ruiz to the Guadalupe Center. They reveal a confusing and contradictory employment trail. Ruiz actually graduated with a M.A. in 1986-87, instead of the 1982 he lists in his resumes - raising questions about his full-time employment track record.

On one resume that he presented to the Guadalupe, Ruiz stated that he raised $500,000 in two years while at Anita N. Martinez, eliminating an $80,000 deficit.

Navarro laughed at this description when he saw the resume. Ruiz took credit for the yearly grants that the City of Dallas historically awards Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico. While Ruiz was Executive Director, he said, “[we] had human resources problems, parents of dancers had problems with him.” And, he says, “he didn’t produce anything in the three years that he was there.”

Since the arrival of Ruiz last August, at least seven staffmembers have left because of contract terminations, firings, or resignations. They include: Irma Mayorga, Ph.D, who was the Art Gallery and Literature Director; Leroy Martinez, the Director of Operations; José Garza, a Development Officer; Mary Jessie Garza, the Interim Executive Director and Arts Education Director; Nicole Enriquez, Education staff; Irma Carolina Rubio, Education staff; and Terry Soliz, Receptionist. Dolores Zapata Murff, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing is currently on administrative leave and has filed a grievance complaint against the Guadalupe Center alleging racial and sexual discrimination.

These departures leave the Guadalupe with only two artistic directors: Belinda Menchaca, Dance; and Marisela Barrera, Theatre Arts. There are no directors to manage the visual arts, cinema, literature, and most critically - the nationally-recognized Conjunto Festival.

But then, the Conjunto Festival is attended by many rasquaches like me, and Ruiz doesn't like those people.


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