Day Trip to the Latino Cultural Center

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I’ve always been fascinated by the Hispanic culture. It all started when at age 14 I got a job working at Market Basket, a grocery store in Framingham, Mass., that attracts predominantly Spanish-speaking customers and employees. My fascination grew in college when I majored in Spanish and then went on to study in Sevilla for seven weeks the summer before my junior year.

So when my editor asked where I wanted to go for a day trip as part of an “On the Town” feature for The Dallas Morning News, I told her I’d been wanting to check out the Latino Cultural Center here in Dallas. Now that I’ve been once, I want to go back again to admire the artwork, watch Spanish films that the center regularly shows, and practice speaking Spanish. You can find out more about my adventures at the center and at Monica’s Aca y Alla restaurant in this light feature I wrote for today’s paper:

Some places I visit beckon me to come back. The Latino Cultural Center is one of them. After visiting the center for the first time last week, I can’t help but want to return to the oasis of Hispanic culture, where art lives on the walls, on the ceilings and in the shadows.

The center, which was designed by architect Ricardo Legorreta and is approaching its fifth anniversary, features a tower, fountain, portico and plaza. Orange and purple hues dominate the building’s exterior. Inside, the people who work there seem just as personable as the building is colorful. The center’s office assistant, Nellie Ortez, sat by the entrance and greeted visitors with a smile and a cheerful hello. Even before finding out we were reporters, she handed my colleague and me packets about the center and offered to take us on a personal tour of the building.

Ms. Ortez showed us the various pieces of art in the center, including a fiberglass eagle crafted by Luis Jiménez. Behind the eagle, shadows fall. Every shadow has a story, Ms. Ortez says, pointing out that the architect intended for each of the center’s shadows to form a different shape depending on the time of day.

Just beyond the eagle lies a trove of artwork in the fifth annual “Hecho en Dallas/Made in Dallas” exhibit, which runs through Aug. 30.

[READ MORE …]

Writing reviews has been a good lesson in learning how to experiment with different types of writing. Normally, I like writing news stories about people, not about restaurants or shops. I found in writing this piece, though, that there are lots of ways to work people into reviews. I knew, for instance, that I couldn’t portray an accurate picture of the Latino Cultural Center without including a few lines about the center’s office assistant, Nellie Ortez. She told the story behind the place and therefore became part of the place’s story.

I’ve been working on a few other stories this week, so stay tuned for more links and for tips I learned during the reporting process.

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