Resource Center of the Americas closes after 24 years

From its beginning years in church basements, the Resource Center moved to a building in the heart of the Latino community in Minneapolis, where Mexican and Minnesotan muralists and volunteers created a two-story "Mosaic of the Americas."

On August 16, the Resource Center of the Americas announced that it was closing its doors "due to continuing and insurmountable financial challenges." The Resource Center, the Bookstore of the Americas and the cafe (operated by La Loma) all closed. The decision was reached at an emergency board meeting in the morning, and staff was notified at a special meeting immediately following the board meeting.

Financial troubles had dogged the Resource Center for several years, with previous rounds of lay-offs and budget cuts taking place several times since 2004.

The Resource Center was founded in 1983, focusing initially on Central America, where the U.S. was funding a contra war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and where right-wing governments in Guatemala and El Salvador were engaged in genocidal civil wars. Over the years, the focus expanded to all of Latin America and issues of globalization. In recent years, much of the Resource Center's work focused on Latin American immigrants in the United States.

Many Minnesota organizations focus on Latin America: sister city and sister state relationships such as Project Minnesota-León; organizations providing direct aid such as Friends of the Orphans or Mano a Mano; church-related sister parish or solidarity groups; and human rights activists such as Witness for Peace or School of the Americas Watch. The Resource Center's focus was political rather than charitable, but it worked with a broad spectrum of organizations and individuals.

Emphasizing outreach to schools and teachers, the Resource Center published nine original curricula over the years, including Child Labor Is Not Cheap, Many Faces of Mexico; and Latino Voices: Stories of Immigrants and Their Impact on a Community. Educational programming included political speakers at Saturday morning gatherings, English classes for new immigrants, Spanish classes taught by native speakers, and workshops for students and educators. The closing announcement said that tuition already paid for fall quarter Spanish classes will be refunded.

Labor solidarity and opposition to free trade agreements were prominent areas of work for the Resource Center. Its Centro de Derechos Laborales (Workers Rights Center), directed by Teresa Ortiz, offered advocacy and organizing assistance to immigrant workers. Organizing efforts also focused on opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and to proposals for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

"It's a really sad day to see an important community institution not make it financially," said Pam Costain, Resource Center director from 1988-2002. "This organization played a really important role in linking people in our community with people across the hemisphere. We were on the cutting edge of many things which are now commonplace-- from globalization to the new face of immigration in Minnesota to a redefinition of human rights to include economic and social rights ... It's very hard to see it go."

The Resource Center board of directors said that they would "work with the Resource Center membership, our past partners and other affiliated organizations to explore ways to continue its mission and key Center programs."

"In the near term," the board of directors' announcement said, "the Center will return to its volunteer roots." A membership meeting in January will make further decisions on the future of the organization.

Mary Turck is the editor of the TC Daily Planet. She volunteered at the Resource Center of the Americas for 22 years and was on staff as editor of its newsletter and website from 2003-2006.

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Mary Turck's picture
Mary Turck

Mary Turck (maryturck [at] gmail [dot] com) is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist, and former editor of the TC Daily Planet.

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The deeping darkness

Last night I read with great sadness that the Resource Center of the Americas had closed. Begun during the dark years of America's bloody intervention in Central America, the Resource Center has been a fount of information and a center of positive immigrant contact for nearly a generation. It seems that we are still living in a time of shrinking dreams and dwindling hope, a time when a smirking scion of privilege might still take us to war with the world, a time when people of conscience are afraid to act, a time when most people shut off the warnings of coming disaster and prefer to watch celebrities do naughty things on television. The Resource Center: closed. The Pulse: closed. The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press: gelded and trivialized. The Republican Party: captive to superstition and greed. The Green Party: marginalized. The Democratic Party: impotent and fearful. Civil liberties: eroding. Our schools: commercialized, militarized, starved for resources and overwhelmed. Our health care system: on life support and fading fast. Our infrastructure: crumbling. Our national values of freedom and justice have been sold rather cheaply for a barrel of oil. Jesus has left the church to the moneychangers and the Bible is now a talisman raised to the skies to attract more money and stuff. The world is not ending, of course. As Martin Luther Kings once said, “The arc of history is long, but bends toward justice.” It is only that the darkness continues to deepen and we have still seen no sign of tomorrow's rising sun. Think of the embers that survive the exhausted flames. As our best institutions die and the light recedes, we must bank our fires, looking to see what quiet corner might preserve the hopes and goodness that we will need in the coming difficult days. This comment is cross-posted at http://www.mnblue.com/node/628

Observations

To All Parties of Interest - I am so happy that this organization is closed. Similar to other "progressive" non-profit institutions, Resource Center of the Americas was disseminating inaccurate information on a plethora of topics---from NAFTA to human rights. Increasingly, liberal institutions in Minnesota such as RCA are led by individuals unqualified in basic economic and financial principles. Consequently, many of these so-called "self-proclaimed experts" cannot even discern between equality of economic status and equality of economic opportunity. Bon Voyage RAC, Ai Xiong

Resource Center of the Americas

This is awful news. The Resource Center is a genuinely good and useful organization.

:(

I love that place. I took my mom to the cafe every time she came to town, and we used to buy Christmas and birthday presents for my brother there. He now has some wonderful books that he never would've been able to get ahold of living in rural Wisconsin. Minneapolis won't be the same without the Resource Center. :'(

This organization failed

This organization failed because its message fails. They support oppressors such as Hugo Chavez, and the theft of liberty from socialist societies. Few people want to hear their extremist ranting, and the closing reflects that. But the mural is pretty.

Resource Center, Siempre Presente!

The staff and volunteers at the Resource Center of the Americas can justly be proud of their many accomplishments on behalf of the disenfranchised, the voiceless and the oppressed across Latin America and also here in Minnesota. It was pleasure for me to be able to meet and even collaborate with some of these wonderful individuals. While the closure of the Resource Center is undoubtedly a setback, we must all redouble our efforts against globalization based on greed, against exploitation of workers, against the rape of our environment and the oppression or workers, peasants, minority and Indigenous communities. The struggle continues, la lucha sigue…

Resource Center of the Americas

The Resource Center of the Americas has suspended operations but we have not ceased to exist. As a forever friend and supporter of this extraordinary organization, I plan to be part of the effort to re-organize and re-vitalize the on-going work the Resource Center has done for human rights in the Americas. I invite you to join this effort. You can send your ideas and comments to membership [at] americas [dot] org.

Resource Center of the Americas closing

I too was deeply saddened by the news of the Resource Center of the Americas closing. I agree that these are truly dark times. Between the endemic fear of speaking out/organizing, the calculated coopting of the media, the daily strain more and more people face in securing access to basic necessities and the persistent coarsening/infiltration of the dominant culture, things look bleak. It seems harder than ever to energize ourselves to come together to protect those values and institutions we hold dear. But this is no time for isolation, denial or futility. A headline in the current issue of the Onion reads "Pipe cleaners, Googly eyes cut from Elementary School Arts Budget". Unfortunately, the reality lies not very far beneath the satire. I was moved by your passionate post. I want to find a way to for those of us - and I sense there are many - who truly want to build community based on compassion, and a common vision for a sustainable, peaceful and equitable world to join together in articulating and promoting that vision.

A Fond Farewell

This was very difficult news to learn, if only because I personally have benefited from the Resource Center itself. The Saturday morning coffeehours, the Spanish classes taught by a multitude of talented and experienced teachers and the forum it provided for discussion of social issues provided me with an unparalleled source of knowledge about immigration and Latin America. I would like to thank all of the Center's staff and volunteers for their hard work to make the organization possible and hope that the Center's membership will do all in its power to assist them in reviving one of our community's greatest assets.

Too Bad

Wow, I just found out about the center closing and I must say that I think it is too bad. It was a place where I was made to feel very welcome, and as Latino (Colombiano), I was proud of the work they did and for the voice they gave to many who did not have one. I hope someone takes the mantle for the center and continues their work somehow.

Resource Center Closing

I am very sad to learn of the closing of the Resource Center of the Americas. The Center was a great place to connect with community members of the Twin Cities and the world. To the staff and board of the Resource Center of the Americas, please know that you will be greatly missed.