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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 26th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 48

Corazón del Pueblo museum vandalized, staff verbally assaulted

By Taylor O'Connor

An individual who works in the same building as the Corazón del Pueblo Cultural and Creative Arts Center destroyed an art panel, damaged the center’s floors, and physically threatened employees while shouting racial stereotypes about Latino communities on Jan. 18, Executive Director Alex Espinoza-Kulick said. 

“It was really upsetting to go through the vandalism. I felt scared; I was there when it happened. Part of the attack was just an individual yelling at me and attacking me personally. It was very scary to see that level of animosity,” Espinoza-Kulick said. “It was really upsetting to see it not only damaged, but it was a very intentional attack of violence and aggression to our message of inclusion and belonging.”

Corazón del Pueblo is a nonprofit organization that connects artistic expression and cultural celebration to community development work. The Santa Maria Valley organization has been around since 2015, and Espinoza-Kulick said this isn’t the first incident connected with racism. 

“Unfortunately, there is a pattern that [we’ve] seen of this hostility, but we’ve always engaged with that in a place of dialogue. This is the first time it’s gone beyond a conversation to a level of violence,” Espinoza-Kulick said. 


DAMAGE DONE
The Latinx Little Library (pictured), which was recently uprooted and dumped onto the plaza, will be converted into a mobile library unit to take throughout Santa Maria’s communities.
COURTESY PHOTO BY ALEX ESPINOZA-KULICK

The center’s Latinx Little Library—which showcases Spanish language books, Latino and Indigenous authors, and community resources—was also dug out and dumped in the building’s plaza next to Heritage Square, he added. 

“We immediately contacted our building owner and the police to try and find a quick solution to move forward. Our building owner was initially very supportive, and ensured that it wouldn’t happen again. After we tried to update him on how the situation escalated [with] the library being taken out, he stopped responding to our messages and wanting to try and find a resolution,” he said. 

Espinoza-Kulick said he faced difficulties with filing a police report. 

“They didn’t get back to us until late that evening with a phone call. They never sent an officer out to talk to us in person and [were] resistant to reporting it,” Espinoza-Kulick said. 

Espinoza-Kulick wanted to press charges and have the crime investigated, but he said police told him that the District Attorney’s Office likely wouldn’t pursue the case because of significant court backlogs. 

“The police are supposed to pass on reports and if the DA isn’t going to take it, that is their discretion, not the officer who’s filing the report,” Espinoza-Kulick said. 

Santa Maria Police Department Sgt. II Jesus Valle told the Sun via email that the incident was referred to the detective bureau and is being investigated. 

“At this point, this appears to be more of a civil issue rather than a criminal one. There does not appear to be a clear and direct link to racist motives,” Valle said in an email. 

Through these challenges, Corazón del Pueblo turned to other organizations for support. Several businesses, groups, and nonprofits came together by writing a group letter to local newspapers about the attack and vandalism. 

“The undersigned arts and cultural organizations from around the tri-county area are appalled by the recent vandalism and racist stereotypes against Corazón del Pueblo in Santa Maria,” the letter stated. “The vandalism and racism directed towards Corazón del Pueblo is an act of hate that we condemn, and one we hope the entire community rejects.”

Santa Barbara County has recognized racism is a public health crisis, but Espinoza-Kulick said that a recognition only goes so far. 

“That declaration is an important recognition, but the declaration itself is just a starting point; there’s more to be done,” Espinoza-Kulick said. We can do what we can as a community, but it needs to come across the board so we do see an investment in service and so the community has access to safe spaces. All they are doing is responding to violence and not preventing it.” 

People wanting to show support can donate at tinyurl.com/DonateCDP, or contact Espinoza-Kulick at alex@corazondelpueblo.org to get involved. 










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