It has been a five year ordeal between the “Centro Cultural de La Raza” (Centro) and a dedicated group of local artists and activist the “Save Our Centro Coalition” (SOCC), with Victor Payan at the helm. For five years they have maintained a boycott against the Centro, which has been effective with shows canceling and many artists refusing to break the boycott. Neither side appeared willing to give in, until now.
Now, after all these years, there was a sliver of hope, a community meeting had been agreed to, after eleven months of negotiations. The two sides had finally decided to begin the trek down the long, laborious path toward reconciliation and building toward a better future.
The time was right. A relatively new board was in place, there was a new director at the Centro. There was support from within and out of the SOCC to move this process forward. The boycott had gone on long enough and there were many within the Chicano community who had grown weary and were looking forward to the day that the Centro would once again become a central focus for the community. There was hope, until the new President of the Centro Board, Aurelia Flores, informed the SOCC that there would be armed guards at the meeting!
We have now come full circle. In the 60s and 70s this was a tactic used by White Power Structure, to use Uniform Police Force to control the Chicano, Hispanic community and make the community aware of who was in control. This was and is a tactic to scare the community and stifle the free exchange of ideas. These are the type of tactics that the Chicano community had to face in dealing with the injustices and atrocities that were facing the community. And it was in the face of these same tactics that the Centro Cultural de la Raza came to being.
Now, instead of the Anglo power structure calling out the police, it is our own people, so called Hispanics, who are now calling out the dogs to intimidate their own people. The Centro Board stated that this is now a common practice, hiring private police to monitor public gatherings, and that “they feared for their safety.” In one fell swoop the Centro Board reminded, those who had grown weary of the boycott, of all the reasons they committed themselves to the boycott and for the SOCC this was a slap in the face.
This was to be a meeting between respected, educated members of the community with, ultimately, the same goal at heart, the future of the Centro. Arranging this meeting alone was a long process that spanned several months of negotiations on both sides. For this meeting to have succeeded there was a need for our own people to respect each other. But the Centro Board, acting like elitist Hispanics, destroyed the ability for our community to resolve their own issues!
The Centro Board has shamed the community! They ignored the reasons of the founding of El Centro Cultural and the significance the Centro represented to all La Raza and our City! They have lost their soul.
The Centro Board does not merit the support of the Hispanos, Mexican Americans, and Chicanos or of any other community who uses the Arts to bring history alive and place on display it’s historical significance.
The Centro Cultural of La Raza is provided the use of the Centro in Balboa Park by authority of the City of San Diego. The question we raise is: Is the San Diego City Council going to allow this Gestapo behavior that is being carried out against the Mexican American, Latino, and Hispanic community?