Pedro Rodriguez was director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in its early years, leading the nonprofit organization from 1983 to 1998 in its vision of providing multidisciplinary cultural and artistic programs focused on Chicano, Latino and Native American arts and culture in San Antonio.
“He [was] a key arts administrator and arts advocate for the Chicano Latino arts in the city and became a very well respected arts administrator and advocate nationally, as well,” said musician and educator Juan Tejeda, who previously served as Chicano music program director for the Guadalupe Center and was a longtime friend of Rodriguez’s.
Rodriguez died Thursday in San Antonio after complications from a long-term illness. He was 86 years old.
Rodriguez was an Army veteran, college professor, and painter, but his work as an arts administrator was perhaps his biggest legacy in San Antonio. Tejeda said Rodriguez was a “staunch advocate and defender” of Chicano culture and the Mexican American arts scene of San Antonio.
He was essential in the staffing of the Guadalupe Center, hiring directors for its visual arts, film and video programs, Tejeda said, as well as securing multi-year funding from the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Texas Commission of the Arts.
Under his leadership, Rodriguez saw the rollout of major programs, like CineFestival, San Antonio’s Latino film festival.
“It was Pedro that really pulled the organization from just a little grassroots organization in the city to becoming nationally and internationally renowned by the time he left,” Tejeda said.
Even after leaving his position as director of the Guadalupe Center, Rodriguez was tapped twice to return and lead the organization through transitions. He last led the organization as interim director in 2014.
When new board members or executive directors were appointed, Tejeda said Rodriguez came in to lead them through transitions. Eventually, leadership achieved steady growth and the organization became an institution recognized as one of the leading community-based arts institutions in the United States.
Rodriguez was also a founding member of the National Association for Latino Arts and Culture and organized and wrote grants for the Westside Arts Coalition.
“He played a major role in the development of not only the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center … but in the development and the funding of the Chicano arts in San Antonio, and even in terms of setting arts policy for the city,” Tejeda said. “He was very influential.”
Rodriguez is survived by his wife, Cynthia Cortez; his children Eva Garcia, Adon Rodriguez, Nicole Rodriguez and Bianca Puleo; and his siblings, Andres G. Cano, Juanita Sylvia R. Ehlers, Jose Enrique Rodriguez and Elías G. Rodriguez.
Tejeda said the Guadalupe Center is in talks with Rodriguez’s family to create a memorial tribute at the center and different cultural arts centers around the state and nation.
This story has been updated to clarify Rodriguez’s involvement in the acquisition of the Guadalupe Theater and the time he served as the Guadalupe Center’s director.