MISSION, RGV – The resurrected Centro Cultural Mexicano en el Valle de Texas has been given a huge boost by the City of Mission – five years use of the brand-new Mission Event Center for free.

Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas held a news conference at the Event Center on Wednesday with Mexico’s Consulate in McAllen, Eduardo Bernal Martinez, and former Mexico diplomat Maria Austin, who is spearheading the Centro Cultural Mexicano project.

“We do not want to charge them (Centro Cultural Mexicano) anything because we want them to be part of our community. We have a lot of people from Mexico living here and they have been asking for a home for Mexico’s art and culture,” Salinas told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Maybe in five years, McAllen can have them for five years. But, McAllen has to be nice to them and not charge them, so they can display the work of their artists at no cost.”

Consul Bernal Martinez said he was most grateful.

“Beto is a great friend to Mexico. He has brothers in so many cities in Mexico. He always helps with whatever events we hold. So, I want to thank him. Today is very special because we are promoting culture and art,” Bernal Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Nobody was taking care of our culture and art. The Centro Cultural Mexicano used to be in McAllen but it closed about 15 years. Anybody that wanted to put on an exhibition, they were on their own. Now, we will have a beautiful home for our culture.”

Painter and car dealership owner Kirk Clark chairs the Centro Cultural Mexicano’s arts committee. He said the non-profit could not have a better home than the new Event Center.

“I think it is just marvelous, I think it is just great. I live in Mission, so it is fine for me. I think it is ideally located. Beto is a unique character and a dear friend. He is very, very, gracious and I am glad he has been so gracious,” Clark said.

Asked if the Centro Cultural Mexicano can be resurrected, after so many years laying dormant, Clark said: “I think so because our new Consul, Eduardo Bernal Martinez, is so pro-active, a can-do guy. I told him, my Spanish is so marginal that maybe you should have a different chairman and that I would work with the chairman. But he said, no, you are my guy. So, I will work with through it.”

Bernal Martinez said that by law, it is the responsibility of the State of Mexico to promote its culture, to fund the arts, culture and traditions of Mexico. He said that with his contacts throughout Mexico, he can spread the word that the Rio Grande Valley now has a home for the Centro Cultural Mexicano.

“We can bring the artisans from all the states, from Campeche, from Yucatan, from Oaxaca. Now we have the space to do it. We have the events center in Mission, we have the convention center in McAllen, we have the events center in Pharr where we can make big events, big concerts. We can build great relationships in Mexico, providing great experiences for the people here in the Rio Grande,” Bernal Martinez said.

“We will have support in Mexico and in the Valley. The most important people are those that support this endeavor, they are doing everything to make sure this project does well.”

Bernal Martinez said he wanted to give a shout-out to all the local mayors for participating with the Mexican Consulate.

“The mayors of McAllen, Mission, Pharr, Hidalgo, we have a very good relationship with them. It is the only way we can have cross-border cooperation, by building relationships. Remember, most of the people here are Spanish-speaking people. We need to take care of them and provide for them. This Cultural Center will help do this.”

Like Bernal Martinez, Clark has a network of friends and contacts in the art world in Mexico.

“I have had 20 art shows in Mexico, since 2000. I love Oaxacan art in particular. Most of the time, my artwork is donated. Generally, one of the Governors or a Governor’s wife will sponsor a show at a venue in Mexico and I donate the artwork to their charity, the one they are really pushing. It is very gratifying to know that artwork is going to so many good causes.”

One of Clark’s good friends in the arts world in Mexico is the painter Sebastian.

“His actual name is Enrique Carvajal. A year or two ago he was presented by president Peña Nieto with the Mexican government’s highest civilian award for his contribution to the arts in Mexico,” Clark said.

A recent show in Juarez featured Sebastian and nine other artists, including Clark, at the Rododarte Museum. 

“The museum is remarkable, well run and brilliantly executed and administered,” Clark said.

The Centro Cultural Mexicano’s presence at the Mission Event Center kicks off with a gala on the evening of April 27.

Mission Event Center

Currently, the Centro Cultural Mexicano’s office is in the McAllen Creative Incubator. At the news conference, Mayor Salinas said if the group’s organizing committee would prefer to be closer to the Mission Event Center he would happily allow them use of the Mission CEED (Center for Education and Economic Development) building. He received a round of applause for this offer.

Salinas said providing free space for Centro Cultural Mexicano at the Mission Event Center is part of a larger plan to make the new facility affordable for all the citizens of Mission.

“McAllen is having a hard time because they charge so much money for their convention center. I think it is $45,000 for one night. We charge $3,500 for the whole thing. I told Martin and I told Aida, I do not want to make any money (with this Event Center), that I want to charge as little as I can, so our people in the neighborhoods can use it. If I was to charge them $20,000 or $15,000, they would not be able to use it, yet they are the ones who are paying for it through their taxes.”

The “Martin” Salinas referred to is Martin Garza, Jr., the Mission city manager. The “Aida” Salinas referred to is Aida Lerma, Mission’s deputy city manager.

The 40,000 square foot Mission Event Center cost about $17 million to build. It was funded through certificate of obligation bonds. In time it will be surrounded by 19 acres of hotels, restaurants and retail stores.

The center provides a 18,000 square-foot ballroom that can be divided into seven different salons equipped with projectors, screens and LED ambiance lighting. The facility also includes a full service kitchen, bar/lounge areas both indoors and outdoors, stunning outdoor patio, relaxing gardens and walking trails. The perfect venue to host corporate and social events.

“Remember, we are not going to paying for this out of our general fund, it is going to be paid by our EDC people. We already have that budgeted so it is not costing us very much. At the same time, I want our community to use it. If they want to have something here, they can have it for about $1,500. They can have one-fourth of the building. Tomorrow I have an event here, it is costing me $2,300, for one-fourth of the building, for about 300 people. We can get a lot of people in here. I think that is very reasonable. If I go anywhere else, it is going to cost me $10,000.”

Asked what it means for the Rio Grande Valley to have the Centro Cultural Mexicano housed in the Mission Event Center, Salinas said:

“It makes us more friendly to Mexico and the Mexican people that live here. The people that came from Mexico and moved over here, they have been asking for this. We have been getting more and more of them living here, because of the (Anzalduas) bridge. Now they are here, they need to bring their culture, to display it probably in the front lobby,” Salinas said.

“Now they can relax. I know they are very happy. I get calls every day saying how pleased they are with what we are doing.”