Let’s Make a Community Center in Mazatlán

January 6, 2012

If you read my previous post, you read about my dream for a community center in Mazatlán.  But it isn’t just my dream, it is one shared by many of us. I hope you’ll read the piece Ken Albanese wrote below.

I had a dream the other night. It wasn’t like world peace or anything, but it was a good one nonetheless. I dreamed there was a space here in Mazatlan where expat individuals and groups were creating all kinds of cultural and educational activities for themselves in English. Someone was giving a short course on photography; another was giving an acting workshop. Someone else was doing a multimedia presentation about a famous artist.  There were regular quality films in English. There were some amateur musicians jamming. Someone was hosting a panel presentation about nutrition and health. There was a small play being performed. The place was overflowing with people sharing their experiences, interests and creativity.

But where did it come from? Then my dream went into a movie flashback. Someone had this space that was not really being used. It was about 800 square feet and he thought ‘maybe the expat community would like to use this somehow’.

So I went to look at this space in my dream. Sure, it needed some work but it was a nice empty space that fit the bill – it was inside, which is important because you need a place to be dark and quiet (not a courtyard) and it wasn’t next to a noisy restaurant. There was room to put a little platform stage at one end and enough room for 75 people (once suitable chairs were found). We’ll have to fix the place up a bit, put in AC, but hmm, I thought, I see how this could work.

‘Hold your horses’, says my benefactor ‘I’m all for community blah blah blah, but this space has got to generate some income.’   “OK, OK, says I (thinking fast). Here’s how it works – revenue sharing. A third goes to you, a third to the board so they can pay the bills and a third to the group or person sponsoring the event. You won’t have guaranteed Income every month (especially in the summer) but here is the other advantage:  with fundraising, we can improve your space. We can fix up that wall over there and put in some air conditioning and generally take care of maintenance and pay the bills. So you generate a little income and at the same time the space gets some upgrades.  My benefactor smiled.  ‘The space is yours’, he says.

I woke up.

Mazatlan is rich in cultural activity for the expat community. We are among the best places to reside for music and dance. Our bar and restaurant scene is bristling with musical activity of every type. Cultura offers us a remarkable level of classical music and we excel in dance of all types from Ballet to Modern. In addition, our various clubs (FOM, Lions, Rotary, Church groups, bridge and poker players) have found good locations to carry on their activities. Artists are opening galleries and offering workshops in their studios. And of course, our wonderful library is well established and a valuable asset to the community.

Whew!  That is a lot.But there is one thing that we don’t have: a consistent gathering place where expats can create entertainment and educational events for themselves in English, cost-effectively. Examples: Theater, film, lectures, multi-media presentations, panel presentations, mini-courses or workshops. It is impossible to predict the range of events that expats might develop for themselves if they knew there was a reliable space where they could be hosted. Recrea in Centro is a good example. The space there is limited and primarily for visual artists but they generate a lot of interesting workshops and presentations (primarily in Spanish) for the local community.

The experience of other large expat communities has been that such a location spurs on the sharing of talent and experience in a wide range of areas. Some people will say: well there is always a space you can rent for an activity or you can use someone’s home.  And this is true when there is an event that is chasing a space. However, it is the consistent, reliable, availability of the space that often facilitates the creation of events. Without the space seeking an activity, there tends to be a reluctance to create the activity.

So when the space was available – there was suddenly an unleashing of people’s ideas and creativity. There was a lot of talent, knowledge and experience in the community waiting for a space to hold it.
In my dreams.

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More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

1 Comment
    1. It’s a great idea, Ken and Nancy. “If you build it, they will come.” There seems to be so much happening in Mazatlan lately, maybe now is the time that something like this could actually get off the ground. Helpful, too, that the local immigration office has recently seen a significant number of foreigners applying to live here (40 visa applications processed per day last month).

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