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The Ten Women and Machismo at the Guadalupe Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas

brenaudgonzalezs Icon Posted by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

June 19th, 2006

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. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once the proud and mighty leader of Mexican-American and Chicana/o art and culture in the country, has no artistic directors left - except for dance.The Mexican heritage of San Antonio's Riverwalk

These ten women who have left the Guadalupe have stated publicly and privately that Ruiz made disparaging remarks to them, and about the neighborhood, using words like “rasquache,” which means “low-life” in this barrio context. 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 in January of this year despite her stellar fundraising record. According to other staffmembers who have since left, Ruiz also stated that he “didn’t care if she died,” since Mary Jessie has cancer, and desperately needed the health benefits to survive.

Unfortunately, the women of the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board are either intimidated by the Chairman’s illusory power, or like so many of us, conflicted about what it means to be brown, Chicana, and beautiful. Who knows, they seem to be servile to the macho posturing of Chairman Aguilera and R. Bret Ruiz, who is now a voting member of the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board.

Now what? It may be too late to save the Guadalupe. The predictions from cultural leaders in town are that the Guadalupe Cultural Center - considered an “institution” in San Antonio, receiving in the past a budget totalling $2 million dollars in private and public funding, may see its city budget shaved to approximately $100,000 for 2007 - as foundations and corporations also cast a wary eye on the Guadalupe’s blazing descent from the planet Mars.

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 again - in federal court.

All this leaves the city of San Antonio, a city with a majority latina population, and where 80% of the births county-wide are brown, without Latin American cinema, an Inter-American Bookfair, Teatrofest, and a crippled Conjunto Festival - in the world capital of accordion music.

Some say the Guadalupe’s downfall is the result of my community’s 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. She has been the most influential woman in my life, and her hijas are just going to have to take over.

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