West Virginia, West Virginia
July 5, 2004
The NHCC strives to provide a core of resources for preserving, sharing, and developing Hispanic culture through the visual arts (including the widest possible spectrum of fine and folk arts), performing arts (including theater, dance, music, film), scholarly activity, literature, and genealogy. Inherently, its mission includes fostering education and self-discovery within the larger Hispanic community, as well as providing a base for cross-cultural appreciation and acceptance. Given the multicultural bases of Hispanic culture in the Americas, these goals are virtually inseparable.
The complex itself might be described as Southwestern Monumental—“Southwestern” in its use of adobe-style architecture with muted tones natural to the Southwestern landscapes, and “monumental” in its inclusion of a round tower, suggestions of Mesoamerican pyramids, and a grand paved plaza. On the whole, the approach succeeds—aesthetically and politically. It is a natural focus for the expression of pride in the Hispanic community, and it is both reflective and respectful of its physical environment.
NHCC includes handsome public meeting rooms in which the ongoing activities of a vibrant community can be conducted; a library, including a research center for genealogy and family/community history; galleries for the steadily growing permanent art collection and for special exhibits; a performing arts center that includes an auditorium, a film theater, and a stage for live performances (the stage is scheduled for completion this year); and a restaurant. Plans for the near future include a multimedia production and learning center and a “teaching kitchen” in which visitors will be have the opportunity to learn about the culinary mysteries of the far-flung Hispanic community.
My first visit to the NHCC was planned to view a special art exhibit, Cuentos y Encuentros: Paintings by Ray Martín Abeyta. The artist draws heavily on the iconography of Latin American art from the 16th through the 19th centuries, but he has infused his traditional techniques with themes that are thoroughly contemporary—a style that he calls “Mestizo-Baroque.” The result is a body of work that is both provocative and controversial. (When I visited this exhibit, my Hispanic sister-in-law declined to accompany me, stating that she’d seen those “dirty pictures” once, which was enough.)
Another visit led to an unexpected encounter with then-presidential hopeful Howard Dean and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. Dean was holding a get-acquainted campaign session with leaders of New Mexico’s Hispanic community and afterwards conducted a press conference, with Governor Richardson at his side, in the NHCC Plaza.
On any visit to the NHCC, don’t fail to drop in at the onsite restaurant, La Fonda del Bosque. The food is excellent and authentically New Mexican. What better praises can be offered?
From journal Albuquerque - Cultural Crossroads of the Southwest