El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a long standing non-profit in the city
of 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. The location had
been one of stability for El Centro's numerous free programs, including their notable son jarocho jarana classes, even as
multi-year leases with the building's landlords transitioned to a
month-to-month contract. Then, on June 9, unexpectedly, the non-profit received a 30-day notice–the minimum allowable–to vacate the
“For five years, we've made rent every month” says Centro board member Carolina Sarmiento.
“This eviction is not about our ability to pay rent.” Sarmiento and
Yenni Diaz, a volunteer with the non-profit, don't know the reason for 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 the 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 Knights of
Pythias building opposite el Centro have not received similar notices,
thirty-day or otherwise.
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–Santa Ana's premier community event. They recently were
awarded a sizable grant from the California Endowment to fund their
programs, and thus had expansion on their minds, not eviction. The non-profit was
even able to offer two part-time employment opportunities for youth
organizers. The notice saying that everything has to be cleared out by
July 14th has caught board members and volunteers off-guard.
“It's ridiculous, given the twenty-three 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 coming out
of the Centro that were set to soon take place including their 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 noted 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 nevertheless 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,”
says longtime Centro volunteer Yenni Diaz. “Business owners there are
at the mercy of their landlords, as we now find ourselves to be.”
As for their immediate situation, the way forward
is still being formulated. “We don't know exactly where we are all going
to go,” says Diaz. “On Tuesday we had our volunteer meeting,” she adds.
“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 Tuesday,
June 28. In the meantime, El Centro Cultural de Mexico is soliciting
donations to their “new building fund.” Interested parties can send
checks to P.O. Box 11345, Santa Ana, 92711, writing “new building fund”
on the memo line.
“We leave sad but prideful because el Centro is not simply a space
and walls but el Centro is the heartbeat of our culture with a intense
necessity to express itself,” Centro volunteer Elesbaan Castro declares at the end of the press release regarding the impending
“El Centro is our ideas, our feelings, and the base of our
dreams. For this reason, el Centro will go wherever we, the community,