Ay, Guadalupe. I heart you (again).

Damn, CAM. I love you, too, but: Hey Baby, Quê Pasó?

The Guadalupe Cultural Art Center made the right decision to pull out of the 2016 CAM Perennial. In taking this stand, the Guadalupe has opened the dialogue about the BIG issue in the San Antonio arts scene: the lack of diversity in our cultural spaces –a dialogue that has been brewing in San Antonio for chingos of years. (Ask the person next to you for a translation of chingos, if needed.) It is a necessary dialogue that has claimed space on the national cultural scene, too. (Gracias, Virgencita, for Hamilton: An American Musical.) I am a working Latina (theater) artist in this town and I know how hard it is to get a little esquina for my work.

I am relieved the issue of diversity in our cultural institutions has finally arrived to the forefront of arts dialogue in San Antonio. Let us continue the dialogue. We need it. Unfortunately, the downfall is that the current GCAC/CAM onda places an arts organization of color against a mainstream arts organization. No one wants that. Right?

There are good people on both sides.

GCAC gente rightfully claim authority to their gallery walls. I would not have even wanted to attend the proposed CAM Perennial with six female artists and no Latina representation at the Guadalupe. The Guadalupe’s job was not to change the curatorial scope of the show, but to direct it from the beginning. In this case, the objective of claiming space is having artistic oversight of that space. Had the show continued as scheduled, my gut reaction would have been: Chale. Why didn’t the Guadalupe demand Latina representation? Right or wrong, I would not have blamed the curator, I would have blamed the Guadalupe.

CAM folks have an established track record of inclusion. Yes? They offer diverse programming through both institutions and independents. Very cool. And their leadership is diverse. But they did not think carefully about the importance of diversity in their signature show. Diversity wasn’t an issue in their past Perennials, because it was there.

The issue here is about claiming space, and the Guadalupe’s leadership put some huevos behind a renewed commitment to the importance of their mission: It is not just a statement. It is action. The Guadalupe’s job is to “cultivate, promote and preserve traditional and contemporary Chicano, Latino and Native American arts and culture through multidisciplinary programming.” The question of diversity is relevant. If our arts organizations of color are not leading the way to diversify, who will?

Over the years, the Guadalupe has survived chingasos from the artists it strives to serve. But one thing is certain: if you are a Latinx artist based in San Antonio, you have a relationship with the Guadalupe.  You have been through its doors, taken a seat, the stage, or a place on the wall. Drank a Tecate in the lobby while debating how the Guadalupe is doing or not doing its job.

I have come back around to loving on the Guadalupe again. I hope the loving and the dialogue continues.

*Top Image: Various works of art by Latina artists located in San Antonio. 

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Marisela Barrera

Marisela Barrera

Marisela Barrera is a Chicana creating Tex-Mex stories on stage and in print. She has a BFA in acting from Southern Methodist University and MA/MFA degrees from in creative writing, literature, and social...