The Centro Cultural de la Raza (Spanish: Cultural Center of the People) is a non-profit organization whose aim is to develop, conserve, promote, and teach about Chicano, Mexicano, Native American, and Latino art and culture and located in the heart of Los Angeles. The Centro can be seen in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. The cultural center promotes and encourages the expression of “original cultures of the Americas” through their artistic endeavors. In addition, it is a current member of the American Alliance of Museums.
In addition to drama, music, dance, and arts and crafts classes, the Centro also offer presentations on a variety of topics, which have origins in Mexico and “Aztlán,” a term used by Chicanos to denote a return to one’s spiritual homeland as well as indigenous traditions and knowledge systems. Danza Azteca, Teatro Chicano, film screenings, exhibits, musical performances, installation art, readings, receptions, and other events are among the highlights of the Centro. It is also home to Ballet Folklorico de Aztlan, the Centro’s resident Ballet Folklorico Company, which maintains a dance academy on the grounds of the Centro. Apart from that, the Centro is open for use by community groups and organizations to gather.
The circular building that houses the Centro has offices, workrooms, studios, and a theater. The performance area can accommodate 150 people, and there is a 2,000 square foot art gallery on the second floor. The Centro is one of the first community-based Chicano cultural centers in the United States and one of the largest in the Southwest and was founded in 1982. It may distinguish it from other buildings by paintings painted around the main door.
The Centro’s beginnings can be traced back to the mid-1960s. Social protests, such as anti-Vietnam War rallies, and the work of activists such as Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, who led the United Farm Workers, had sparked grass-roots community movements in San Diego. Participants in social protest recognized that there would be a need for a community center that was administered by and for Chicanos. As a result, the Mexican American Youth Association (MAYA) was established at San Diego State University to recruit Chicano students and complete their studies.