Top stories of 2018: San Benito Cultural Heritage Center

SAN BENITO — For more than 10 years, many residents waited for the three museums telling the city’s history to showcase their exhibits in grand style.

Throughout that time, the three museums worked together to help the city launch the project to build the $1.7 million San Benito Cultural Heritage Center.

More than a year after its completion, the center opened without the three museums, making it one of the year’s top stories of 2018.

In November, the city opened the doors without the San Benito History Museum, the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum and the Freddy Fender Museum.

Instead, the center is spotlighting a series of exhibits featuring themes tied to the area’s rich history.

“Nobody’s happy about it,” Wayne Powell, president of the history museum, said late last month. “We’d like to get our stuff into the new museum.”

Meanwhile, newly-appointed City Attorney Mark Sossi has drafted revised documents including proposed lease agreements, Powell said.

“It’s been over a year,” Powell said. “Nothing’s happened.”

Outside, the 7,000-square-foot building is designed in the shape of a guitar.

But inside, the building’s interior lacked the showcases to display exhibits.

So for more months, the history and conjunto museums have worked with city to raise as much as $200,000 to develop the building’s interior.

Powell said the history and conjunto museums are planning to move into the new building — in the future.

However, the fate of Fender’s museum remains unclear.

Last year, Vangie Huerta, Fender’s widow, said she had requested the city enter into an agreement in which it would prominently display her husband’s name outside the new museum while compensating her for the use of his artifacts.

While the three museums continue to operate at the city’s Community Center, the city is apparently working to display their artifacts.

“Efforts are under way to establish an agreement that will allow the three nonprofit entities to establish exhibits with the new city-owed Cultural Heritage Center,” city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated.

Since it’s opening in November, the center has displayed rotating, culturally-themed exhibits such as La Frontera a Traves del Ojo de las Mujeres, or the Border Through the Eyes of Women.

On Dec. 20, the spotlight turned to accordionist Cande Aguilar’s exhibit titled barrioPOP.

Last month, the city also launched Community Nights, a program held the second Thursdays of each month, featuring new exhibits and programs such as Gallery Talks, which spotlights artists.