Friday, June 29, 2007

Truce in the Culture Wars

I hadn't been in San Diego too long in the early eighties when I found the Centro Cultural de la Raza. This former water tank in Balboa Park was the dynamic nexus of cultural expression in the border town. The Border Arts Workshop was just beginning. There was always a buzz of activity: poetry readings, art exhibitions, performances, fiestas and lively discussions. Victor Ochoa was the presiding spirit: his murals graced the exterior and his gentle humor was a benediction to all the activities of the place. It was the only place in San Diego where farm workers, pipe fitters and college professors mixed. As a weekend approached, friends would ask, so what's going on at the Centro this weekend? And like as not there would be something happening there: perhaps a poetry reading by Jesus Papoleto Melendez, an opening of an exhibition of envelopes drawn by Latino prisoners in California prisons, a performance by a folkloric group from Mexico, a film about Nicaragua that Tania Winter had dug up.
As the new millenium approached, the Centro became a victim of a custody battle between those who would define art with a capital "A" (corporately sponsored by the likes of Target and Farmers Insurance) and those for whom art meant a broader participation by the community (and art without corporate logos except as critical commentary). For years the Centro languished under a boycott by community activists who felt unwelcome and alienated. A group "Save Our Centro"formed which for many long years has been able to keep the spirit of community art alive, waiting for some sort of reconciliation. That moment has come and the various Latino communities of San Diego have something to celebrate. On this weekend of the United States Social Forum in Atlanta, there is truly a social forum alive and well in San Diego once more. Venceremos!An article with the history of the Centro is at

The First Post-Boycott Exhibit and Community Celebration
6:30PM TO 11PM
Featuring multidisciplinary art from the past, present and future of the much revered cultural institution.
RE:UNION C/S will bring together a mix of original founders to artists who have never shown their art inside the circular walls of the Centro, including Guillermo Acevedo, Guillermo Aranda, Berenice Badillo, Carlos Beltran, Selina Calvo, Carmela Castrejon, Memo Cavada, Carlos C. de Baca, Mario Chacon, Patricio Chavez, Chikle, Maria Dyybro Aguirre, endy, Nuvia Crisol Guerra, Ricardo Islas, Mario Lara, Eloissa Leonna, Teresa Yolanda Lopez, Richard A. Lou, Magu, Bob Rob Medina, Victor Ochoa, Jose Olague, Victor Payan, Sandra "Pocha" Peña, Elaine Ruiz, Robert J. Sanchez, Miguel-Angel Soria, Mario Torero, Perry Vasquez and other community artists. Plus, videos by the Media Arts Center San Diego!

With the end of the seven year long boycott the reintegration of the Centro has begun. Join the Centro Cultural de la Raza, the Save Our Centro Coalition, and the greater community as we pay homage to the past and sing praises for a better future.
Opening reception Saturday, June 30, 2007 from 6:30-10pm.
With music by Chunky y Los Alacranes and Quinteto Caballero.
Emcees Victor Payan and Sandra Peña Sarmiento

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Blogger Fabiolous said...

This is excellent news. Thank You DeeDee for this article. I remember when I first was introduced to the Centro and that was from my Chicano Art Class @ UCSD. It was the meeting place for one of our classes. It was so difficult to get there the first time, I thought. Then later, It was quite abandoned. I do remember that Victor Ochoa gave us the Tour. It was quite the experience. Today, Victor Ochoa is one of my myspace friends. woo hoo!

11:11 PM  

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