Just a few blocks up from the buzzing main street of La Punta is a cultural center that is steadily growing as a focal point for the arts and culture in Puerto Escondido.
The Casa de Cultura Fernando Luján aims to offer locals and visitors an opportunity to engage in enriching experiences that focus on art, culture, and diversity.
Those experiences include workshops and art exhibitions such as the one currently on display.
Called Art and Freedom, it has brought together three different artists to create an artistically diverse exhibition for the public. The works of photographer William Alfredo Nava Duran, airbrush artist Adán Joel Jiménez Ruiz and multidisciplinary artist Hersain Contreras will be on display in the center until October 30.
This exhibition is the latest of many that the Casa de Cultura has hosted in its past four years of direction under Jorge Moroni Jarquín Tinajero. The late actor Fernando Luján and his wife Martha Mariana Castroflores first obtained the space 30 years ago.
The center as it is known today wasn’t fully functioning when Jarquín stepped into the picture, but Castroflores had the project idea in the works. Jarquín says, “The space was always meant to be a cultural center.”
Although not necessarily experienced in running such a facility, with a professional background in tech, Jarquín did have some contacts in the arts. A friend put on the first exhibition in which six of her pieces sold.
“I didn’t know what it meant to sell artwork. I thought you had to sell everything. She sold six pieces. I was sad because I thought everything had to be sold. Then Marta told me, ‘No, that’s incredible.’ That helped me in the beginning of the project.”
Since then the center has grown organically. Jarquín says, “In reality, everything has come gradually and naturally. In the beginning, it was more difficult to find people to come, because they didn’t know the place yet. But now, with all the social networks, people are always contacting me to exhibit or teach classes.”
Currently they offer a variety of workshops and activities. In fact, there are now 17 workshop instructors that offer classes varying from Intro to Reiki to Ballet for Kids. Because of the increased interest, the center has even started to plan out its workshops and activities months in advance.
Jarquín says the goal has always been to offer a wide range of cultural activities for those interested in taking advantage of them. “It’s amazing the amount of knowledge that exists in an active cultural center. It’s a place you can visit to read, exercise, make art, watch movies, have reiki: it’s unlimited. We try to offer a plate of food with variety, and full of vitamins.”
That well-balanced meal has Jarquín and the team preparing to bring on a wave of holistic activities as well. And, as the team has expanded over the years, the Casa de Cultura Fernando Luján has been officially named a civil association.
While things are going well now, Jarquín can’t help but think about the opportunity for improvement, especially in terms of reaching the local community. He mentions “the Puerto effect” that many experience: “One of our limiting factors is the idea of [the center] being far away . . . Many locals will not want to come all the way to La Punta, and it’s also an extra cost of about 50 pesos — just to get here. This is a factor that affects the participants that we have . . . I’m looking at having another location in the Centro. It would be easier for those in San Pedro Mixtepec to participate.”
Jarquín hopes that hosting activities in other locations will encourage more locals to participate. The team is now implementing emotional intelligence workshops in schools and has hosted open-air events on the other side of town. Additionally, all instructors must give a local and foreign price for their workshops. “With respect to the costs, we made them this way because we noticed the workshop instructors were putting prices for foreigners. And obviously, if you’re bringing money from the U.S. or Europe, the money you’re bringing has a higher value. But the locals don’t have that. That’s why we ask instructors to offer a lower cost for locals. And sometimes we even have scholarship students.”
While many people think that Puerto has only just recently become such a culturally rich location, with its growing international population, Jarquín has always seen it as such. “There’s not a longhistory because the place has only existed a little more than 100 years. But many cultures have come through here: Mixtec, Zapotec . . . Close by there’s a prehispanic capital, Pinotepa . . . So I feel like it’s always been a place of many diverse cultures. This has been the nature of Puerto Escondido. Now it’s bigger. So from that perspective, I think it’s a big responsibility of the locals to inject sensitivity into society through culture.”
Through this lens, Jarquín sees the promotion of art and culture as an imperative tool to create a culturally sensitive and aware society. Casa de Cultura Fernando Luján hopes to provide the local community with opportunities that they haven’t previously had access to here. “I would have loved to have a space like this as a kid. It would have been so cool. So that’s what I want to give to other people.”
• Casa de Cultura Fernando Luján lists its events and activities on its Instagram page: @casadeculturafernandolujan.
El Sol de Puerto