This will be a busy weekend for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Not only will its resident dance troupe, the Guadalupe Dance Company, celebrate its 30th anniversary with two performances Oct. 1-2 at 8 p.m. each evening, but the long-awaited Guadalupe Latino Bookstore will also hold its grand opening.

The Guadalupe Dance Company started in 1991 under the direction of Pedro Rodriguez to ensure that the tradition of folklórico would find regular expression in San Antonio.

Rodriguez “had a vision for a dance company … that would really speak to the community, and that would empower the community with telling their stories through dance,” said Belinda Menchaca, who succeeded Martinez the following year and added her expertise with flamenco dance to the mix.

The troupe first performed Sept. 15, 1991 at the Lila Cockrell Theater, and was housed at the Mexican Cultural Institute for its first years. That relationship produced the collaborative production of Rio Bravo by Mexican choreographer Rafael Zamarripa, who took inspiration in part from the “Ancient Texas” exhibit at the Witte Museum. The San Antonio Symphony provided music along with mariachi bands and other local musicians.

That collaborative spirit maintains today, Menchaca said, and includes dances produced with choreographers from Mexico and Spain.

Traditional dance

The upcoming weekend performances will largely hew to traditional dances, Menchaca said, and will include the music of Mariachi Azteca de América.

Members of the company include graduates of the Guadalupe Dance Academy, started by Menchaca to foster the folklórico and flamenco traditions. Menchaca herself has danced with the company for most of its existence, alongside longtime member Jeanette Chavez, who is now the dance program director.

Members from the Guadalupe Dance Company perform at Plaza De Armas following the announcement.
Members of the Guadalupe Dance Company perform at Plaza De Armas in 2017. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The company had initially planned to stage its performances outdoors in the Guadalupe Center plaza, but a forecast of rain over the weekend has necessitated a move indoors to the Guadalupe Theater. Capacity will be limited to 60% due to pandemic safety restrictions, but what had originally been planned as a one-night public performance will now repeat on Saturday.

The Friday evening event will be accessible via livestream, however, with a multi-camera setup to capture the grandiosity of the event, Menchaca said.

The Latino literary tradition

Friday will kick off in celebration of another tradition important to the Guadalupe community: Texas Latino literature. A 1 p.m. ribbon cutting will begin the festive grand opening of the Guadalupe Latino Bookstore in the Progreso building across from the Guadalupe Theater.

Five years in the making, according to Cristina Ballí, executive director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the bookstore will feature Texas Latino authors, including works of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be followed by a reception with music and refreshments, then readings from 6-8 p.m. honoring the bookstore’s “madrina and padrino,” author Carmen Tafolla and scholar Tomas Ybarra-Frausto.

Other guests in attendance will include Max Baca, a local musician who released an autobiography earlier this year, and Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodríguez, who will be present for the launch of his new book Writing 50 Years (mas o menos) Amongst the Gringos published by San Antonio’s Aztlan Libre Press.

Ballí said the bookstore will also serve as a gift shop, featuring crafts by Texas Latino artisans, and as the visitor center for the new Westside Cultural District, which received official designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts on Sept. 9.

While Ballí hopes the bookstore will become a community hub, she acknowledged that it will start out small, with a limited selection of books.

“I’m worried that our initial inventory might be disappointing,” she said, “but we are going to build it up” with the help of Tony Diaz, a Houston literary figure who annually hosts the Macondo Writers Workshop Open Mic event in San Antonio, among other affiliations.

The community gallery and gift shop fulfill the initial plan for the renovated Progreso building, Ballí said, while the bookstore extends the center’s cultural mission.

“It’s a service that not only the West Side needs, and that San Antonio needs,” she said, but “the entire state needs to have this concentration of Texas, Latino, and Latina authors,” and San Antonio is the right place for it.

The bookstore opening reception is free and open to the public. Tickets for the Guadalupe Dance Company performances, including the Friday livestream, are available through the Guadalupe Center website.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...