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Guadalupe in Crisis: Machismo and the Ten Women of Lady Lupe

Since the Guadalupe Cultural Center's new presidente arrived, R. Bret Ruiz, last summer in San Antonio, ten women have resigned, been fired, or terminated in some way. The Guadalupe Center, once the proud and mighty cultural leader of Mexican-American and Chicana/o art in the country, has no artistic directors left - except for dance.

The Center is in serious debt - the rumors are that it could be as much as 1.2 million dollars in the hole, and from my records, this figure seems plausible.

Ruiz has inflated his resume; he has hired Anglo staff to replace the browns, and he has no track record for raising funds, based on the 990s I reviewed from his past employer, the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico in Dallas, and from an interview I did with Mauricio Navarro, who was the ANM Board Chairman when Ruiz was hired.

A number of the women who left the Guadalupe have stated publicly and privately that Ruiz made disparaging remarks to them, and about the neighborhood, calling the people of the barrio "rasquache," and he didn't mean it to be cute. My sources at the Westside Coalition here in San Antonio don't respect him, my high-level sources at the Mexican Museum of Art in Chicago, who knew Ruiz when he worked in Chicago say "he wants to be White."

The gay men I know have told me that Ruiz is an "old-school misogynist". Certainly the Guadalupe Boardmeetings I attended, and led by Chairman Juan F. Aguilera, have shown disdain if not outright contempt for brown women of the community. These are not women in high-powered suits or expensive clothes like the boardmembers, but activist, artistic, highly talented and educated women who are dedicated to arte and cultura. One of them, Irma Mayorga, Ph.D, is a Stanford graduate who was the first Chicana ever to receive a prestigious Eugene O'Neill invitation to workshop her play,
Cascarones. Another, Mary Jessie Garza, served as Interim Director until Ruiz was hired, raising about a million dollars for arts education during her four years at the Guadalupe. Ruiz fired her despite her fundraising record, and, according to former staffmembers, stated that he "didn't care if she died." Mary Jessie has cancer, and needs the health benefits to survive.

Unfortunately, the women of the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board: Gwendolyn Diaz, Ph.D, Mary Ponce, Ph.D, Patricia Celis, and attorney Laura Hernandez, are either intimidated by the Chairman's illusory power, or are like so many of us, conflicted about what it means to be brown, Chicana, and beautiful. Who knows, but they have been servile from where I stand, to the macho posturing of Chairman Aguilera and R. Bret Ruiz.

Now what? It may be too late to save the Guadalupe. The predictions from cultural leaders are that the Guadalupe Cultural Center
may see its city funding shaved to $100,000 for 2007, one quarter of the 2006 budget, more or less. Lawsuits are another option for the women of the Guadalupe, and if that happens, and there is speculation that the women have a substantial case, then the Guadalupe Cultural Center will make history in federal court.

All this leaves the city of San Antonio without a season of Latin American cinema, an Inter-American Bookfair, Teatrofest, a crippled Conjunto Festival and you get the picture...

Some say this is the result of our inherent
machismo. Others say this is the natural order of non-profit organizations succumbing to corporate boards and ambitions in a post-Reagan era. Still otros point to the inevitable mirroring of a conquered people wanting to be just like the conqueror, and losing their soul along the way.

Quien sabe. I will miss Lady Lupe. I hope her hijas will take over this city - soon.

photo credit: Laura Lopez, "Semblances," Say Si, part of SA FotoFestival, Spring 2006 Exhibition Series


Juana Gallo said…
We can speculate all we want about the future of the GCAC but the fact remains that there has been wrongdoing. Ten women are unemployed. Ten women without health insurance. Ten women sweating it out over the mortgage or rent, and the car, and day care, and groceries. Ten talented, educated women who will probably leave San Anto.It is called a brain drain. Yet, we have yet to hear a word raised against the board of directors supposedly because we don't speak against our own. As Chicanos/as we have the same obligation to speak against wrongdoing as those we judge (anglos). If brown people are behaving unethically against brown people, we have an obligation to correct it. I really don't understand, nor do I want to, why or where this idea that we "don't speak against our own" came from. Didn't the revolucionarios speak up against the authority in Mejico? Should we advocate what the Germans did...maintain silence? because we are brown? is that what we want to teach our children? I want to know how those females on the board are going to justify their lack of moral judgement.This situation at the GCAC goes far beyond ineptitude and bad choices. What we are experiencing in San Anto is a very bad case of "falta de huevos".It is sad to consider that our ancestors fought the "hacendados" with nothing but rocks and hoes in their calloused hands and yet here we are a hundred years later, educated and able but spineless.

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