After spending the past few months continuing its classes and programs wherever it could while searching for a new space, El Centro Cultural de Mexico is now ready to re-open its doors to the community this weekend in downtown Santa Ana.
The award-winning nonprofit, as Weekly readers will recall, was controversially forced out of its previous home at the historic Knights of Pythias building on the corner of Fifth and Broadway this past September after having spent the past number of years there. El Centro will now call the nearby Santa Ana Veterans Hall on Third and Birch Street home.
“We were searching and finally found this space,” says Yenni Diaz of the Centro, “and according to what our volunteers wanted, it met our criteria.” The organization will occupy the first floor of the building where there is a large room for general meetings and cultural performances. There are also several smaller rooms where free classes ranging from ballet folklorico to son jarocho will take place.
The property owner of Veterans Hall is Mike Paxton and negotiating the move with management was a positive experience. “They knew about el Centro, they know about our programs and they
knew we were looking for a space,” Diaz says. The end result is a three-year lease at relatively the same level of rent that was had at Knights of Pythias. The organization's aspirations of one day owning their own space remain, but for now volunteers are eager to start the new year off with everything moved in and ready to go.
El Centro will open its doors on Saturday at 313 N. Birch Street starting at 5 p.m. with a showcase of just some of the organization's more than 20 classes. The musical entertainment scheduled for later in the evening features the talents of Marisoul, lead singer of the Latin Grammy-nominated band La Santa Cecilia, SanTana's own Son del Centro, Boricua hip-hoppers Taino Sunz, and members of Los Angeles-based band Domingo Siete.
“It's never a good thing to be disrupted and uprooted,” Diaz reflects on last year's experience. “It was
a challenge, but people opened their houses to host our cumbia and jarana classes. Now that we are all back together, we're ready to open our house to the community.”
In true Centro fashion, the celebration will continue with a fandango following the festivities until God knows when.