Milena González Hernández became the Community Engagement Manager at the Instituto Cultural de México (Mexican Cultural Institute) at Hemisfair in February 2018. She admits that she had reservations about moving to San Antonio.
Her background is in arts festivals and initiatives in Mexico City. Her enthrallment with artistic expression came after a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. From then on, topics from Industrial Design to Architecture influenced her. She managed many cultural initiatives in Mexico before coming here.
Her career had always been in the arts, and she didn’t associate San Antonio with an arts scene. But even though she’s only a few months in, she has already uncovered so much of the city’s artistic heritage. “I have been proven quite wrong. The cultural scene is immense,” she explains, “It’s very different art than what I was used to seeing in Mexico City.”
The Instituto Cultural de México Community Engagement Manager Milena González Hernández poses for a portrait inside the gallery. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
From the Chicano to German influences and everything in between, the city definitely has a characteristic flavor. Milena enjoys seeing what local artists are doing, not influenced by the major trends. “I feel like it’s a very true reflection of the people here,” she says.
For example, Alberto Mijangos- the Institute’s first director- was an accomplished Mexican-American artist who inspired an entire generation with his works expounding on the Latino experience. Every day, Milena finds wonder in the deep artistic traditions that were born in the unique cultural mix of San Antonio.
Community Engagement Manager Milena González Hernández with her follow comrades: Javier Rodriguez, Miguel Fonseca , German Montoya, and Estela Gutierrez at the Instituto Cultural de México inside the Tradición Hecha a Mano Exhibition. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Works by featured Artist Franco Aceves Humana at the Instituto Cultural de México. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The Institute is an arm of the Mexican Consulate and a free resource. Milena explains that it plays an important role in strengthening the relationship between San Antonio and Mexico. The Institute regularly partners with local organizations for events and programming in addition to exhibiting works by Mexico-based artists.
These cultural partnerships can take many forms. A little known fact about the Institute is that Ballet San Antonio not only rehearses there, but performs “Encore” there, a show created by the dancers themselves.
Featured work by Damián Ortega at the Instituto Cultural de México. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Culture is a great way to bridge the gap between our two countries, explains Milena. Art allows opportunities to engage with difficult subjects, such as immigration, in an environment where people are primed to be open and looking to understand.
Her favorite pieces are those that have clear and complete meanings. Her advice on approaching a new work is to research the artist. By familiarizing oneself with the context of the artist’s work, the message becomes clearer. In a similar way, she has explored the context of the city itself.
Her position here has provided her the opportunity to become a local and live the downtown lifestyle. Milena lives in Southtown and regularly bikes to work, something she says was impossible in Mexico City. She enjoys being able to walk to get a coffee, work on her laptop, and return home on her own time. Milena jokes that on the weekends, she feels like she’s really on a vacation.
She hopes to spread the message and mission of the Institute to as many San Antonians as possible so they too can discover not only Mexican culture, but the unique culture and heritage within their own city. As Milena puts it: “I feel that they should re-live their sense of wonder.”
Top image: Featured works by Isaac Maxwell and Gregorio Rebollar at the Tradición Hecha a Mano Exhibition. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
The Tradición Hecha a Mano Exhibition opens Thursday, September 6th, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Featured works to be exhibited below.