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Guest Op-ed: Cultural work is hard, but the payoff is worth it
Adelante performs during Día de Muertos at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts on Nov. 2, 2017. Photo: Ekevara Kitpowsong/Calle 24

This new year comes with great challenges and opportunities for the Latinx community in the United States. Here in the Bay Area, and specifically in the Mission District, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to lead the conversation about our communities’ access to opportunity in this country. Cultural institutions play a significant role in building the Latinx identity, a key component of said conversation.

In this farewell letter to the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA), I want to express my gratitude for the ineffable honor and responsibility that has been serving the artistic and cultural community of the Mission for the past two years.

It is really important for me to honor the fascinating work of all the collaborators, interns, volunteers, and the community in general that helped me during my tenure, but above all I’d like to celebrate the tireless labor of my coworkers at MCCLA. Through our collaborative efforts, we managed to achieve our programming and communication goals for our 40th anniversary celebration, as well as developing successful partnerships with the Mexican-American Festival, and the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, the Chicano Film Festival with Centro Legal de la Raza, and a great number of community events with Calle 24, such as Festival de las Americas, Day of the Dead, Paseo Artístico to name a few.

Dance group Fogo Na Roupa continues to rehearse for Carnaval at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts on March 9, 2013. Photo: Shane Menez

However, this text is a call to action as well as a goodbye message. This is an invitation for everyone reading this to keep building our community up with the daily exercise of sharing, teaching and learning from one another, together. My request is for our readers to walk into the building, and ask about what’s going on and how they can collaborate. The survival of the MCCLA rests purely upon the continued backing of community members who selflessly invest their time, their efforts, and talent in the organization. The people who work there—some who are family to me—are truly some of the most committed and passionate individuals I’ve met.

As of now, we have some awe-inspiring community projects such as the Carnival Contingent, Cine con Cultura, that need the participation of people as well as an open call to teachers for the regular cycle and the summer program.

We also look forward to the upcoming opening reception for the exhibitions “Crossing Paths” and “Stenciled visions of Love” on Jan. 26th at 6:30 p.m. at the gallery, and the ongoing fundraising campaign “Keep el Corazón del Barrio Beating,” for which we are trying to reach $40K to support the arts and education program for the children of the Mission.

I hope everyone who reads this knows that cultural work is the most rewarding labor, but it is an uphill battle, especially in a community that is affected by the displacement of our artists and the families we serve, combined with the challenges that gentrification poses to the few venues and safe spaces dedicated to serving those locals. If we want to preserve this legacy, we can’t stare safely from the sidelines. We need to embrace the challenge of having the Mission reflect all of our music, flavors, language and our culture as whole. Sigamos construyendo comunidad juntos!

Arturo Mendez served as the MCCLA events and media coordinator, and is now a development officer at MEDA.

Story by: Arturo Mendez