El Centro Cultural de Mexico Faces Eviction

[Mental Notes] Plus: Introducing the softer side of Rob Zombie, and NYC inmate says he shot Tupac

El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a long-standing nonprofit in Santa Ana, faces eviction by mid-July. The award-winning organization has been housed for the past five years at the Knights of Pythias building on the corner of West Fifth Street and Broadway. Even as multiyear leases with the building's landlords transitioned to month-to-month contracts, El Centro has hosted numerous free programs there, including its notable son jarocho jarana classes. But on June 9, it unexpectedly received a 30-day notice—the minimum allowable—to vacate the premises.

"For five years, we've made rent every month," says El Centro board member Carolina Sarmiento. "This eviction is not about our ability to pay rent." Sarmiento and volunteer Yenni Diaz don't know the reason behind getting the boot beyond property managers claiming to have a new partner who has a new vision for the second floor of the building, above El Curtido restaurant. Calls placed by the Weekly to Diane E. Dixon of Broadway Improvement Co. Inc. for further elaboration have not yet been returned. Meanwhile, tenants of the other side of the building, opposite El Centro, have not received similar notices.

El Centro Cultural de Mexico is one-half of the organizing wing behind the city's annual "Noche de Altares" Día de los Muertos celebration, one of Santa Ana's premier community events. It was recently awarded a sizable grant from the California Endowment to fund its programs and had expansion, not eviction, on the minds of board members. It was even able to offer two part-time-employment opportunities for youth organizers. The notice saying that everything had to be cleared out by July 14 caught board members and volunteers off-guard.

Carolina Sarmiento
OC Weekly file photo
Carolina Sarmiento
Woolite really, really dark
Woolite really, really dark

"It's ridiculous, given the 23 classes we host and the number of people we provide services for, to notify our community, have us pack and plan for the summer within that time frame," Sarmiento adds. The coming eviction has complicated additional projects, including its youth summer program, Barrio Writers, and Encuentro de Jaraneros.

This April, Voice of OC reported that Mayor Miguel Pulido and the Santa Ana City Council voted to divert a portion of six-figure federal Community Development Block Grant funds away from the construction of two new clay tennis courts in order build a downtown cultural center/plaza. Councilman Vince Sarmiento (no relation to Carolina) was quoted as saying the cultural plaza would reinforce the area's Latino identity as charges of gentrification have been mounting. Without knowing many details about the plans, members of El Centro Cultural de Mexico see the eviction of their already-existing cultural center in downtown as interconnected to gentrification occurring elsewhere in the city.

"This is representative of the changes happening on Fourth Street," Diaz says. "Business owners there are at the mercy of their landlords, as we now find ourselves to be."

As for El Centro's immediate situation, the way forward is still being formulated. "We don't know exactly where we are all going to go," Diaz says. "On Tuesday, we had our volunteer meeting. Later, we had a meeting with our community partners to come together and collectively respond to this emergency." Part of that response is to host a volunteer forum open to the community on June 28. In the meantime, El Centro Cultural de Mexico is soliciting donations to its "new building fund." Interested parties can send checks to P.O. Box 11345, Santa Ana, 92711, with "new building fund" written on the memo line.

"We leave sad but prideful because El Centro is not simply a space and walls, but . . . the heartbeat of our culture, with an intense necessity to express itself," volunteer Elesbaan Castro declares at the end of the press release regarding the eviction. "El Centro is our ideas, our feelings and the base of our dreams. For this reason, El Centro will go wherever we, the community, go." From a June 17 Heard Mentality blog post by Gabriel San Roman.

 

ROB ZOMBIE'S NOT-SO-GENTLE CYCLE
Zombies! Is wrinkly, stiff clothing keeping you up at night? Well, fear no more! Announcing Woolite as the official fabric softener for the sensitive-skinned zombie! No, but seriously, horror-movie and metal mastermind Rob Zombie recently directed the latest commercial for Woolite, and it is freaking awesome.

"It's a very bizarre TV commercial for a product like this," Zombie said. "Honestly, I was shocked when they called me to do it."

Shocked or not, he came through with bloody colors as always. It's a 30-seconder, but it's so intense it feels like the build-up to a gruesome torture scene from his classic House of 1,000 Corpses is about to unravel. The new video works brilliantly as a spearhead for his upcoming tour, for which Zombie is hitting the road beginning July 14 with new drummer Ginger Fish, as well as guitarist John 5 and bassist Piggy D.

The North America summer dates include the "Hell on Earth" co-headline trek with Slayer. Immediately following the tour dates (no SoCal date, unfortunately), Zombie will begin production on his sixth feature film, The Lords of Salem, which he wrote and will direct. From a June 17 post by Javier Cabral.

 

NEW YORK INMATE SAYS HE SHOT TUPAC SHAKUR IN 1994
Nearly 15 years after the murder of rapper Tupac Shakur, Brooklyn prisoner Dexter Isaac reportedly claims he shot Shakur two years earlier, during a robbery in New York City.

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