I’m staring at a cerulean blue wall covered in masks when Linda Crockett barges in, walkie-talkie in hand. She leads me to the conference room, where the light creeps in through the window of this beautiful, white building nestled by Lady Bird Lake, known as the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
Crockett left someone downstairs waiting for a signature, and she needs some copies, but oh, the copy machine is being annoying today, and she’s getting things ready for Cine de Oro and she’s got the Dia de Muertos event and, oh man, she’s a busy woman. But Crockett sits me down because she’s ready to talk. The MACC, after all, just turned five years old, and Crockett has been there for all five of them.
If you live in Austin, you might not know about the MACC—although you should. But if you work for Austin Vida, there are some things you’re just expected to know about the city, and the MACC is definitely at the top of the list.
“We’re not striving to be nationally recognized,” says Crockett, quickly adding, “Although we are. We’re just trying to serve Austin’s Latino culture. To promote and expose not only Mexican Americans, but to be inclusive with all the cultures that fall under ‘Latino.’ Originally, the community wanted a center where they could express themselves, express their art, and we’ve been trying to do that ever since.”
“The community wanted a center where they could express themselves, express their art, and we’ve been trying to do that ever since.”
Linda Crockett, Media Marketing & Events Coordinator at the MACC
Crockett was hired in June 2007 when there wasn’t even a pencil or a desk chair, without any real instruction or guidance. She was originally hired as “education specialist” in charge of education programming, like the children’s camps the center offers, but soon transitioned into planning, marketing and media for events.
Today, the MACC collaborates with other organizations for events like Diez y Seis, to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, and an annual Tejano music event during South by Southwest, as well as the Trail of Tejano legends in June (with ALMA) and the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance in May. The center is also used to show films during the annual film festival, Cine Las Américas, and has a new gallery opening about every 12 weeks as well as the community gallery on the first floor of the center, which features up-and-coming Austin artists. Currently the MACC has also been doing Flor de Nopal, a literary workshop every last Saturday of the month, and will have a reading Dec. 7 in collaboration with Irene Silva and Resistencia Books.
Crockett tells me her favorite is a monthly event called Cine de Oro. “I do it the last Tuesday of the month and show classic films,” she says. “We get the seniors to come in here. They’re not so well versed in the visual arts or the gallery, but it’s still very important that we serve them and find a way to say, ‘This is your place, too.’ I remember seeing movies from the ‘40s and ‘50s, and I remember Pedro Infante and Angelitos Negros, María Félix, it’s like revisiting my childhood. It’s one of my favorite events, and the seniors enjoy it so much, too.”
“We try to constantly pull from the past and project it here in the present, and show the kids and the people that we’ve been writing and doing art and dancing and singing forever.”
Crockett says a major part of the MACC is coming up with activities that bring different generations together. “We try to constantly pull from the past and project it here in the present, and show the kids and the people that we’ve been writing and doing art and dancing and singing forever,” she says. “We show them things that go beyond what they learn in class, what they learn in school.”
It’s obvious in the way Crockett talks that she loves her job and is passionate about the events and activities the MACC helps put together. She’s looking forward to a theater being built in the center, maybe a 400- to 500-seater, and hopefully getting more professionals, expanding the staff. It’s already been five years, but it’s a short time in the scheme of things, she says. “We want these programs to become a tradition, every year, and every year after me and the current staff are gone.”
The MACC has been in the spotlight recently due to controversy as to what will happen to the empty lot next to the center. Last month, city council decided to use the land for Austin’s parks and recreation, and as a part of the center’s future expansion. The MACC’s Dia de Los Muertos event Nov. 3 will also serve as a way for the community to reach out and say what they want in the lot.
Crockett says that’s essentially what the MACC is all about. “I always love to find out what the community really wants, and we’re still trying to define that,” she says. “But I think we’ve been very successful in reaching out, and we’ve brought awareness to a lot of people that weren’t aware of the richness in their heritage. Our main goal is to continue to do that, and take things further every year.”
Note: Upcoming MACC Advisory Board meetings will facilitate any community input on the lot. Meetings are held at the center, at 600 River Street. Click here for more information.
- Nov. 7: MACC Advisory Board Meeting, 5:30 p.m.
- Nov. 13: Community Engagement Meeting, 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 19: Community Engagement Meeting, 6:30 p.m.