The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and its adjacent parque on the corner of El Paso and South Brazos Streets hosted a collision of art, food, music, and culture for WestFest 2016 on Saturday.
More than 200 nearby Westside residents and visitors from other parts of the city trickled into the area throughout the afternoon for the free, day-long event that featured a Chicano art exhibit, local artisan mercado, and a musical performance by “Texas border rock” singer Patricia Vonne.
The goal of WestFest is to bring awareness and appreciation to the city’s Westside and its residents, and to provide them with free access to art and cultural offerings.
“This barrio has produced some of the greatest artists and people in the country, and nobody knows about that so we’re trying to put a spotlight on it,” local artist Adan Hernandez told the Rivard Report at the festival. “This is just the beginning.”
Hernandez, a Westside native, has completed a variety of notable artwork during his career, but is perhaps most well-known for his iconic mural Carnalismo that was featured in the film Blood In Blood Out. The mural was the key piece featured in the WestFest Chicano art exhibit held inside the Guadalupe theater on Saturday.
Local actor Jesse Borrego, who had a lead role in Blood In Blood Out, was also there to show his support of the neighborhood where he has spent much of his life.
“This is all about reviving an old tradition,” he said. “My grandmother used to come watch movies here (at the Guadalupe), a lot of my family performed in the carpas around this area, my father grew up as a young man playing the accordion in this area, so I have this whole history here.”
As the afternoon progressed, WestFest attendees took to the parque to browse the surrounding artisan mercado, enjoy a meal from the nearby neighborhood food trucks, escape the sun in the newly-renovated Guadalupanita Café, and of course watch the various dance and musical performances by students of the Guadalupe.
Several children who performed ballet folklorico drew loud applause and cheers from the afternoon’s crowd that sat under the large tree in the center of the park.
WestFest is something that, according to Guadalupe Executive Director Jerry Ruiz, will hopefully be occurring “more frequently” from now on throughout the year. Especially with the ongoing reactivation of the Guadalupe’s Progreso Building – which will potentially act as an additional gallery space and center for the Guadalupe’s literary arts program – its newly-acquired Guadalupanita Café, and the adjacent park space, the potential is there to expand the Guadalupe’s community offerings.
“We’re really thinking about how to make art and culture accessible to everyone who’s interested or who wants to participate,” he said. The Guadalupe’s current efforts to do so include free and discounted programming, and scholarships for some of its featured classes. “We’re really trying to reach out and form stronger relationships in the immediate community, so we’re hoping that free programming like this is a good way to welcome (neighbors).”
Marisol Perez came to WestFest to watch her daughter perform with her ballet folklorico class. Having the Westside community come together to see “exactly what the Guadalupe has to offer them” is important, she said.
“I just really appreciate the Guadalupe’s efforts to host these kinds of events and say, ‘This is your community center and we want you to enjoy it.’”
*Top image: Young ballet folklorico dancers approach the performance space. Photo by Camille Garcia.