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Are we ashamed of La Lupe? The Guadalupe Cultural Center gets sued for Sexual Discrimination by a Brown Woman

Well, it's official. Tragic. And necessary.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once a history-making cultural fuerza and fountain of all things Chican@, is getting sued by one brown woman - and is about to make history again. On Tuesday, November 27th, 2007, at 10 am, Amy Kastely, lawyer with de la Riva & Associates who is representing the plaintiff, Dee (Dolores) Zapata Murff, will file a lawsuit in Federal District Court in San Antonio, Texas, alleging sexual discrimination.

Specifically, the charges include: Sexual Harrassment; Harrassment based on race, color and national origin (the plaintiff called herself a Chicana); Retaliation; Constructive Discharge, and Negligent Supervision.

In the lawsuit, Dee Zapata Murff, the GCAC's former Public Relations and Marketing Manager, alleges that R. Bret Ruiz, who was hired by Juan F. Aguilera, the Center's Board Chairman in the summer of 2006, discriminated against her as the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board failed to take action when she brought it to their attention. The following is an excerpt from the formal complaint that will be filed on Tuesday morning: (The web-links are mine)

In July 2005, Defendant R. Bret Ruiz was hired as Executive Director of the Guadalupe Center. At some point in the next several months, Mr. Ruiz requested, and the Board of Directors of the Guadalupe approved, a change in his title to “President” of the Guadalupe Center.

1. Within a month of beginning work, Defendant Ruiz began to direct sexually offensive remarks towards Plaintiff Murff. These included:

a) Describing a young intern’s breasts as “voluptuous” and her clothing as “provocative” and then comparing the young woman’s appearance to Ms. Murff’s, remarking that Ms. Murff was also “voluptuous” and “provocative,” as he looked up and down her body;

b) Daily comments on Ms. Murff’s clothing made in front of other Guadalupe Center staff members, ranging from “very sexy today” to “here comes Dee in her fake Channel;”

c) Calling Ms. Murff while she was on her lunch break to comment on the co-worker with whom she was having lunch: “You’re not having an inappropriate relationship with him are you?”

d) Remarking that Ms. Murff must have “compromised herself” to get the editor of La Prensa newspaper to donate a half-page advertisement to the Guadalupe Center; and

e) Remarking that Ms. Murff “must have given a blow job” to another staff member who had complemented Ms. Murff’s work on a particular project.

2. Defendant Ruiz also repeatedly made racially offensive comments directed at Ms. Murff and other Mexican-Americans:

a) “You need to wear more sunscreen – you are getting too dark” [said to a dark-complexioned Mexican-American woman];

b) “You need to work on your accent because it sounds too Chicano” [said to a Mexican-American man]; and

c) Commenting that people living in the Westside of San Antonio (where the Guadalupe is located) are “very rasquache y feos.”

d) Telling Ms. Murff: “you look like la india Maria!!”

3. In September 2005, Ms. Murff told Mr. Ruiz that his sexual and racial remarks were “offensive” and “abusive.” Soon thereafter, Mr. Ruiz called Ms. Murff to his office and told her that he could not “mentor” her and that he had certain expectations of her as the Public Relations Director. Later, Ms. Murff discovered that Mr. Ruiz had put a letter in her personnel file discussing this “counseling” session. Although this letter is addressed to Ms. Murff, it was never delivered to her.

I've heard latinas complain about sexual harrassment
at the Guadalupe Cultural Center for a long time. Unfortunately, there are still too many men at non-profits who don't understand that justice and equality includes respect for las mujeres. I attended several boardmeetings at the Guadalupe Cultural Center last year, and personally witnessed the contempt the boardmembers showered on the latinas of the Guadalupe, me included. What I noticed was that the boardmembers showed a definite disdain for the working-class, ethnic-apparalled, un-corporate couture of the women who came before them.

A jury could be seated and ready for trial in 9-10 months, Fall 2008.

artistic credit: Guadalupe (Cultural Center) Dancer


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