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A lesson for the Guadalupe Cultural Center: Apologize for Bret Ruiz's harrassment

Juan Aguilera, the former Board Chair of the Guadalupe Cultural Center, should apologize to Dee Murff and all the women of the Guadalupe who were summarily fired because of Bret Ruiz, the former and very-flawed director of the Guadalupe.

Murff, the most outspoken of the group and surely the one with the most red-haired attitude - filed a lawsuit against the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) charging sexual discrimination during Ruiz's tenure. The rumors are that the Guadalupe wants to settle the case before the arrival of the new executive director, Patty Ortiz.

Let's be clear: This lawsuit was a last-resort attempt to get the community to pay attention to the problems at the GCAC. Sometimes an organization, like an individual, like a nation, has to face its errors. Confronting guilt can be healing for everyone concerned. We all make mistakes, and Aguilera needs to man-up.

Bret Ruiz was the man hired to be Executive Director in July of 2005, despite a phone call from Mauricio Navarro, who told me he told Aguilera that Ruiz was the worst director the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico (Ruiz's former employer in Dallas) had ever seen.

Well, surprise, surprise. According to my sources, Bret Ruiz has continued his negative path, recently departing his position as Managing Director (he was there August-November 08) at the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago. A staff member there, Ruben D. Feliciano, a housing policy analyst and outreach coordinator, has written me, stating: (edited for this blog -- if you want to see the whole email, please contact me at

"I felt in my spirit that Mr. Ruiz looked down at me on on several occasions also made very sarcastic references about me and my persona..

I see so many parallels in your stories and his conniving ways...I felt deep in my spirit that I represented everything that he despised. I am a strong and openly gay Puerto Rican/Latino man that wore my cultura with pride and honor in my frente, came from the community and is successful at it without having to compromise my values. But I guess I was too "ghetto" for his liking."

A new director has now been hired for La Lupe, Patty Ortiz. I met her last week, and she seems very nice, and is an accomplished visual artist and curator, besides. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Ortiz is going to continue to advise her old center, and she's planning on curating an exhibit in the fall of 2009.

The new Guadalupe Cultural Center Board has stellar members, including civil rights attorney Al Kauffman, labor historian Antonia Castaneda, and Trinity University's Arturo Madrid. Aguilera is still on the GCAC Board.

I trust that the GCAC Board will recognize what the women of La Lupe suffered under Bret Ruiz. A cultural center that doesn't respect the rights of women, la gente del barrio, the artists who are the soul of this city, has lost its mission.

One conjunto festival isn't enough.

photo credits: Joan Frederick, "The Accordion Player"


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