By Benjamin Levine
The MSLCE program recently paid a visit to one of Chicago’s most unique cultural destinations, the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Opened to the public in 1987, the museum was the vision of Pilsen local Carlos Tortolero, a public school teacher at the time, who organized a group of fellow educators to create a space for exhibiting fine art from Mexican culture while also serving the community through a commitment to accessibility and education.
Tortolero sat down with students from the MSLCE cohort and explained the difficulties of starting an organization like this and the joys of overcoming challenges.
“Everybody in the arts world said that we were just teachers,” he said, “and the word ‘just’ was like a dirty word.”
He said the arts world was difficult to break into, especially when trying to create a space for minority artists. Despite the obstacles, The National Museum of Mexican Art thrived and is now home to some of the premiere examples of historical and modern Mexican art work.
Tortolero travels travel to Mexico often, combining business and pleasure as he gets to spend time in the place he feels most at home.
“My Holy Land is Mexico,” he said. “I just feel so good when I’m in Mexico.”
He has found work that allows him to celebrate and display his native culture in way that’s fulfilling for him on multiple levels.