Answers to Go
San Marcos Public Library
625 E. Hopkins St.
Q. I’m new to San Marcos and while looking for places to see and things to do. I came across El Centro, on the visit San Marcos website. Can you tell me more about it?
Absolutely! Centro is a wonderful A. place to visit for programs, activities, and is made up of four components: an art gallery, a library, a museum, and the programs that make Centro such a fundamental part of the San Marcos Community.
Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos is a cultural center in San Marcos that celebrates, promotes, and collects information about the Hispanic experience in San Marcos. As their website states, their mission is to “serve as a community beacon for the preservation, development, promotion, and celebration of the Hispanic arts, culture, heritage, and values.” (Centro) Centro opened on Sept. 18, 2010, but it started as a wish and dream long before that. Ofelia Vasquez Philo was the president of the organization at the time and was instrumental with its establishment. Her decades long dream to establish Centro started in earnest in 2007 when a planning group that included Gloria Salazar, Rosina Valle, Margie Villapando and Lupe Castillo, secured, through donations by the Texas Educational Foundation and San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, nonprofit status from the IRS. That started the funding drive. The founders had applied for grants from various foundations but had no success. However, by coincidence, the Minority Arts Commission, a city of San Marcos group that was about to disband, voted to give their remaining funds to Centro — $11,336.
Having secured nonprofit status and seed money to get started, finding a building was the next step. The building that now stands was originally the Mexican School during a time when education was a segregated institution in San Marcos. For many years, Hispanic children and children with Spanish-sounding surnames attended the Mexican School. It was later renamed the Southside School to remove racial divisions before being renamed, again, to Bohnam Elementary. (Centro) Bonham Elementary (not to be confused with today’s Bonham Prekindergarten school) had been built in 1948 and was vacant at the time, so Ms. Vasquez met with San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) Superintendent Patty Shafer and asked for its use. SMCISD came back with an offer that could not be refused — $500 per year including utilities and garbage pickup. (Miller) Ms. Vasquez was elated and immediately accepted the offer. The San Marcos Community came together to help launch the site. The Gentleman’s Club at Mendez Intermediate School helped repair the building, and during Bobcat Build, Texas State students helped clean and work on the landscaping.
While the COVID crisis has prevented Centro from doing programs in person for the last two years, they are now back to in-person services and programs. The 2022 Summer Camps are back and begin on June 14, including Youth Mariachi, Piano, ArtSpace classes, and Scratch Maker camp. On Oct. 29, Centro will have Noche de Gala. The 1st Annual Hispanic Heritage Exhibition Walk will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17 to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month. This event will bring attention to the vibrant Latin American countries and celebrate the cultures and contributions of each one. The event proceeds will be used to award local high school students’ scholarships to attend leadership programs and continue their education. Local organizations and businesses will sponsor countries and carry the country flag in the Exhibition Walk. This event is open to the public.
Other services and highlights are Centro’s Little Free Library, the Marcos & Fidela Garza Library, and the Ofelia T. Vasquez Mexican American Cultural Museum. Centro is open Tuesday – Fridays, 2-6 p.m. and is located at 211 Lee Street. For questions about their programs, please call 512-878-0640.
Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos - Culture, museum, art. CENTRO CULTURAL HISPANO DE SAN MARCOS. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://www.sanmarcoscentro.org/home.html
Miller, A. (2010, April 30). Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos. San Marcos Daily Record, pp. 1A–5A. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from sanmarcosrecord.com.
Suzanne Sanders is the columnist for the library. She is the Community Services Manager for the San Marcos Public Library and came from the Austin Public Library in 2015 after having served there as a librarian for over 20 years. She gratefully accepts your questions for this column.