Thursday, May 18, 2017

Azteca Theater placed on National Register of Historic Places

Back in December of 2015 the Fresno City Council passed a  resolution  designating the Azteca Theater a Heritage Property to be placed on the Local Register of Historic Resources. That was the first step of the process for the Azteca to be placed on California's list and be submitted to the National Register of Historic Places.   On March 27, 2017 the Azteca, as it is commonly known,  was put on the Nation Register program for Latinos in the 20th Century.

National Register of Historic Places
The Azteca played a significant role in the develop of Hispanic culture in Central California since it's opening in 1948 by Gustavo Acosta as the main Spanish language theater in the San Joaquin Valley, screening both new releases from Mexican Cinema and musical concerts.

In 1956 the theater blossomed under the leadership of Arturo Tirado, who also hosted tours for famous celebrities and musical groups. 

 In 1961 Tirado held a meeting in San Francisco that resulted in the formation of  the Spanish Pictures Exhibitors Association. Elected President, Tirado represented almost 300 Spanish language movie houses nationwide in negotiations with distributors. 

 In 1965, Cesar Chavez, of United Farm Workers (UFW),  led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farm workers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento. Fresno was the largest city on the route as well as the agricultural center of the San Joaquin Valley and proved pivotal to the momentum of the march.

Over 1,000 people gathered at the Azteca Theater in support of the farm workers.  Politicians, middle-class Mexican-Americans and enlightened general population were joining the line.

Tirado retired in the 1980s and the theater suffered lower attendance and eventually closed until 1999 when David Owens acquired it. He opened the iPacific Gallery in the lobby while efforts were being made to get the big hall open. 

On September 26, 2014, the theater re-opened for events in the main hall under the management of Laura Barboza, who continues to make improvements and host a variety of events. The possibilities are just beginning.

Locally, Karana Hattersley-Drayton, of Fresno's Historic Preservation helped prepare the local Historic Fresno designation and worked with National Park Service staff for submission to the National Register.

Considerable research was done over several years  to document significant  historical and cultural events related to Latinos in Twentieth Century California.

Building on it's heritage, the Azteca Theater continues to seek ways to serve the Spanish language, as well as multi-cultural, communities of Central California.

--- David Owens, May 18, 2017

Azteca mural project 2016
Azteca Theater on Facebook

Teatro Azteca on Facebook