by Rick Hepting, 17 March, 2009
The Cuale Cultural Center on the upper Cuale Island is one of the most beautiful settings in Puerto Vallarta. It houses a performance center and many classrooms, each dedicated exclusively to the Fine Arts.
From the outside looking in, this setting is tranquil and relaxing. Inside it is a beehive of activity with 45 employees teaching, organizing and spreading various forms of culture throughout the population and venues of Vallarta.
At the head of all of this is C. Oswaldo Mtz. Lobatto (Wally), the Puerto Vallarta Subdirector de Cultura.
Ten years ago, Wally Lobatto had come to Puerto Vallarta from the National Autonomous University of México (it had shut down for a year because of a strike) and worked, as his first job in Vallarta, for 4 years at the Cultural Department. He left to organize the University Film Festival here and then he returned in 2007 and has been working at the Cultural Center since. This last year he was appointed Subdirector de Cultura.
In July of this year, 2009, there are general elections in Puerto Vallarta and he may or may not have this position after December 31, depending on who is elected. I asked him if this worried him and he said, “If I stay here, it’s great. If I don’t, it’s good, too.” Wally is used to changes, having been born in Mexico City and lived in France, England and Guadalajara. He said that he was appointed at a time of change and conflict in the Culture Department and he understands and appreciates change.
One of my ulterior motives for wanting to do this interview was to try to discover why it was so difficult for me, as an event calendar editor, to obtain event information in a timely and accurate manner.
He said, for example, that the events at the Los Arcos Amphitheater on the Malecón are under his control but that this is a public space with what are called “permisos” that enable access for many different individuals and groups. Coordination of the events under his control is possible, he said, but control of outside events is difficult, at best.
In my opinion, the quality and level of activity is worth the occasional superficial appearance of disorganization.
Wally said that most events at Los Arcos are on the weekends, but that the weekend here in Vallarta also includes Monday nights because many of the people who live and work here have Mondays off. Most who live here work weekends. Tourists don’t understand this schedule but, actually, much of the programming by the Cultural Center is not directed toward tourists.
Tourists are encouraged to attend any and all programs, but they are not the prime audience. For example, the Cuale Cultural Center auditorium shows each Wednesday night high quality free movies, but not necessarily those with the largest box office appeal. These movies have one thing in common: They are either in Spanish or have Spanish subtitles. Some are in English, some German, some French. …
“I’m trying to create programs that everyone can understand: More music, more dance, more programs that you don’t have to understand language to enjoy.”
“I love this job. A while back I was in a gallery and a person said to me, ‘You’re like the curator of the City,’ and I had to think about that and it’s true. I decide what shows are displayed here in Vallarta.”
I asked him, since he has lived in so many varied cultures, if he thinks that moving to Puerto Vallarta was like moving to the country in comparison, since Vallarta is not a “real” city by the standards of México City and Paris. He laughed. “Puerto Vallarta is a real city, and it’s different from the rest of México. The cultural atmosphere here is much greater than it should be for a city of this size. Vallarta is on a different time schedule than Guadalajara, for instance, where everything is on a schedule, 9 to 7 with 2 hours off in the afternoon. Vallarta has things going on all of the time, any time day or night.”
He laughed again when I asked him what his hours were. He said, “Hours?” “I’m a workaholic.”
As I had walked up the island to the Cuale Center for this interview, several art classes were just finishing up. I asked Wally about the classes offered by the Center.
“Many of the classes are bilingual,” he said, “Especially the painting and drawing classes.”
The next logical question for me was, “What is your art, Wally?” He hesitated and then, with a laugh, said, “I’m an actor, I love theater, but I’m too busy now, I don’t have the time. You have to make sacrifices to work for the administration.”
Before the interview began I had asked Wally if I should call him Oswaldo or Wally. He replied that only his mother called him Oswaldo and then only when she was mad at him.
Below is a recording of the actual 43 minute interview conducted by myself and Sarah Hepting. It is more than a graphic portrait of who Wally Lobatto, Subdirector de Cultura, is and what he is about. We were originally scheduled for a 30 minute interview but Wally Lobatto is a complicated man in a complicated job.
AUDIO INTERVIEW with WALLY LOBATTO (43 min.):