Cultural Centers In Los Cabos Are Floundering

Private citizens try to take up the slack
BY: KARINA URQUIZO

When hurricane Odile slammed into us last year, two of our performing arts venues were seriously wiped out. The Cultural Pavilion, as it’s called in a direct translation from Spanish, is in Cabo San Lucas right on the marina front. It now has several fast gushing rivers flowing into it, due to poor construction and risky design concepts.

The building suffered heavy criticism before it was even finished for its unattractive design. At one of the first events in the main theater, (there are several theaters, of various sizes and with various equipment), the architect presented a talk to the local architect association. They booed him. When the GG asked him what he was smoking when he came up with this design that looks like a soccer ball with a leak, and does not seem to fit the surroundings, we were told we would get used to it. He also said the tiles that cover it would eventually fade and become the color of the hill behind it and we’re going to like that. Hasn’t happened yet, and it probably won’t because the tiles, which never fit correctly, soon started falling off, crashing into whatever or whoever was below.

music copy.jpgThe building was the pet project of former governor Nabisco Agundez, who wanted to plunk this Mexican performing arts building down in prime tourist land, even though nearly all performances are presented only in Spanish, and Mexicans do not live at the marina, they live up the hill in the barrios. One can say he was serving his constituency and not the tourists by using this land for locals,, but at the ground breaking when we asked where the marina workers were going to park now that their lot was taken from them, Governor Agundez said, “Let them take the bus.”

For the first several years it looked like this performing arts center would never be used. The political appointee who was in charge of bookings didn’t hustle up any programs and in fact turned down virtually every proposal. It was also difficult to use the building because they ran about $4 million short and didn’t have the money to buy the light and sound equipment, nor even the seats.

When all that got sorted out, and when a new director of culture was appointed, and when locals got used to their new facility, it became somewhat popular, with many programs presented there, but the modest crowds could not help but notice the shoddy workmanship in the building. Luis Cano, who’s father developed La Jolla in San Jose, won the bid, which was a slam dunk since he was buddies with the Governor. Cano’s Gravi construction company also developed Parisio del Mar in La Paz, and that construction is fine. The project did go broke and is bank owned now, but the construction of the towers and the individual homes is up to any American standards, and the Americans and Canadians who live there are happy with the quality.  So Cano can build well when he chooses to. Apparently, on a public project, where he’s just a hired gun and with no ownership, and where there is no supervision by the government,  he  doesn’t choose to put his A team on it.

From the get go there were obvious problems with the fit and finish. Corners didn’t fit, wall plugs were all kitty wampas, at different heights and angles, and even the floor was roly poly. They nailed a red carpet down on top of the undulations, but that didn’t fix it. If you jumped up and down on it, it sounded hollow under the rug. You felt like you were walking on a rolling ship.

The thin tiles that cover the entire building were hammered on to flimsy aluminum frames which were not strong enough to hold the heavy granite tiles. And on the inside of these frames, inside the building, are tiles of styrofoam layered with other tiles made of natural fibers, like compressed insulation material. These give the walls a pretty look but are structurally useless. Between the outside granite tiles and the inside tiles there is no waterproofing, no seal against the water, no Tyvek to hold back moisture. Of course that creates a health hazard of rampant mold growth, and in the worst places, where the tiles have fallen off completely, water is gushing through the Swiss cheese of the building and into the interior, falling on upholstered seats and carpeting, further adding to the mold problem.

The false ceiling made of sheet rock in the Pavilion’s main theater is falling down, so now we’ve got wet sheet rock laying on top of the upholstered seats. In some places the holes are so big, rain is falling on the seats. Rain also comes in through the ventilation system. None of the usual and customary precautions against the elements were observed and nothing in that building is up to code. Yes, there are actual codes to be observed, just not by construction companies owned by friends of the Governor.

City officials assured us they wanted to fix the building right after Odile ripped through it, and asked for the community’s help with the most urgent repairs. Some artists organized, held a few events, and raised funds to repair the elevators, both for passengers and cargo, and a robotic spotlight, while a couple of local organizations donated materials to build a temporary railing on the second floor.

But in the end the city government did very little and nearly abandoned the building to its fate. The wiring of the lightning rod up on top was stolen for its recycle value, and rains from this year’s storms caused the main theater and the building’s exterior to deteriorate so badly that the Civil Protection agency shut the pavilion down, deeming it unsafe to walk into.

Some of the electronic and lighting equipment is missing, and this is bad, as the Pavilion is a venue for the Los Cabos International Film Festival taking place next month. To make that happen, Fiturca, the Los Cabos Tourism Fund, has pitched in more than $22,000 for repairs, while the festival organizers are looking into their budget to see if they can pony up a few thousand more. But if you have children, it’s best to keep them out of that building until someone who knows something about mold says it’s safe. Children are especially susceptible to mold as a health hazard. So far that problem has not even been looked into.

In San Jose, the City Theater is in no better shape. Alan Castro, our cultural affairs director, deemed it “in ruins” when he took a tour to inventory the building. There is also missing equipment. Some of it was looted as hurricane Odile broke the glass front door and it was not immediately secured.

It is now up to Castro to bring both venues back to life, and to do that he is seeking funding from the federal, state and city government. Castro has been the cultural director before and knows what has to be done and how, but the city coffers were looted by the mayor who just left office, so there won’t be much help from there. Castro is working with the artist community on a plan to raise funds, and he has been very open to suggestions – and help.

 Moving right along, the big beautiful convention center built in San Jose to host the international G20, is in ruins three years later. The wonderful living walls are no longer living, there is broken glass scattered in the interior, parts of which is fully exposed because some of the roof has caved in. It was left to rot after suffering damage from hurricane Odile.

The new city authorities have recently started talking about leasing it out to a professional company that knows how to market facilities of this nature. Currently, they are kicking around the structure of deals and looking for interest from various companies.

The convention center in La Paz has suffered a similar fate. Work began on it in 2012, and it looks finished, but we are told it was not really ready, ready, and it stands empty, unused.

The problem with these wonderful facilities is none of our local people are sophisticated enough to run them. And, they have a bad habit of installing political appointees who are their cronies to administer them, compounding the management problems.

These venues are under contract by the big conventions 4,5,6 or even more years out. There should have been boots on the ground over on the mainland, and in Canada and the United States, selling time in the buildings even before they were completed. But our city officials don’t know that, don’t know there are professional companies that just do that, or worse, could it be they don’t care to do anything productive with these wonderful facilities? As much as we would like to blame hurricane Odile for the damage to our most important cultural venues, there is more blame to be laid at the feet of the past administration that turned a blind eye to the destruction, allowing the facility to fester and degrade further, and to the original substandard construction and the corruption that allowed it.