A few weeks ago the Guadalajara Reporter published an article describing a 17-million-peso project that the Jalisco Culture Secretariat has allotted for the conversion of Lakeside’s Auditorio de la Ribera into a mammoth cultural center, which will include, in addition to the auditorium, conference centers, classrooms, dance studios, lecture halls and possibly even a hotel.
The plan, which showed architectural slides of the finished center, was announced at a visit to Ajijic by Culture Secretariat officials, to which only a Spanish-speaking audience was invited. A few foreign residents (who make up the majority of the audience at events at the Auditorio) learned of the meeting at the last moment and also attended, but could not really participate because the meeting was conducted entirely in Spanish.
Great you might say. But have you thought of the short-term consequences of this very large long-term plan? As of March 15 the Auditorio will be closed – probably for several years. No more performances which large groups of locals can attend. The dance studio will be closed and, word has it, that it will be relocated to the other side of the building. CREM will have to find a new venue. What will happen to yearly cultural activities such as the February Music Festival and Lip Sync? There is no place in the area to house large audiences.
Not only will our major cultural activities be suspended for a number of years, but what will happen to the generous contributions made, primarily by the foreign community, for the improvement of the Auditorio seating and the sound system? What about the money raised by the benefit performance given in November to raise money for a new floor for the dance studio?
Local cultural life is only one sad consequence of the Secretariat’s plans. Although we no longer have the convenience of transportation and tickets to major cultural events in Guadalajara that Viva La Musica afforded, a few of us diehards struggle into the city via taxi or bus to join the thousands of Mexicans who enjoy the diverse cultural life offered in the second largest city in Mexico.
But this, too, is in danger of disappearing. The excellent live opera has been cancelled and the number of ballet performances have been decreased. Attendance at the ballet, which were previously sold out (earning a great deal of money for the state) has decreased by almost half because of lack of publicity. In fact, the schedule for the current season has not yet been announced. Will there even be a season? Even the dancers do not know!
Members of the orchestra and the ballet are discouraged by poor wages, lack of contracts, health insurance and reduced opportunity to perform. Many of Jalisco’s top quality performers are seeking positions in other states or abroad. Will residents of the second largest city in Mexico have to fly to Mexico City or Monterrey to attend cultural events in the future?
While we foreigners are only guests in this wonderful country, we have for many years tried to pay back the hospitality that has been given us by supporting not only cultural venues and performing groups – both local and international – but also orphanages, charity organizations, schools and cultural and food projects for Mexican children and families. We wonder why we have been totally left out of contributing our voices to the important decisions which will affect both our local community and the wider cultural life of the city of Guadalajara, which many of us chose to be close to so that we could participate in the very rich and diverse cultural life it has always afforded.