With a day to go before being ousted from its longtime location in downtown Santa Ana, El Centro Cultural de Mexico still has not found a new home.
The Latino organization was told in June it had one month to leave its location in the Knights of Pythius building on Fifth Street. It was then given a two-month extension after Santa Ana Councilman Vincent Sarmiento spoke with Irving Chase, son-in-law of the building’s owner and himself a major property owner.
That extension runs out Wednesday, said Ryan Chase, the building owner’s grandson.
El Centro’s members thought they had found a new home at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in the heavily Latino downtown area, but the organization was suddenly rejected last week.
El Centro, a mainstay in Santa Ana’s Latino community, has been at its present location for five years. The organization offers 23 classes and conducts workshops that explore Latino music, dance, art and culture. The space the organization rents is known as a hub for Latino youth.
“El Centro is actively looking for a home so that we can make sure our students and youth can continue not only the classes but the safe spaces we’ve created through our programs and activities,” said El Centro board member Carolina Sarmiento (no relation to Councilman Vincent Sarmiento). “In the meantime, our services will continue, and we are still doing the good work and organizing that we do.”
Many Latinos are angry about what they say are ongoing efforts by some large property owners and the city to purge the downtown of Latino culture and people, and some point to the ouster of El Centro as evidence of that.
El Centro in particular has been actively opposed to changes downtown. Most recently, members of El Centro were involved in an anti-gentrification protest, performing street theater and criticizing businesses like the Yost Theater, which recently reopened as a nighttime entertainment venue and is owned by the Chases.
When El Centro was first told it must move, Ryan Chase said he would try to find a new location in Fiesta Marketplace, a part of the Fourth Street district recently renamed East End. Most of the area is owned by the Chase family.
But when asked Tuesday whether he was still actively looking for a new home for El Centro, he declined to comment.
— ADAM ELMAHREK