According to the mayor’s 2010 State-of-the-City speech, the defunct and derelict Grande Theatre will be getting a new life in the near future.
The Alliance for Hispanic Arts & Culture (AfHAC), whose “mission is to promote, and preserve the Arts and Culture of Hispanic America in Harlingen,” is attempting to gain public support for the restoration and rejuvenation of Harlingen’s historic Grande Theatre. The theater would serve as a hub for the cultural arts in Harlingen, as well as coffee socials and film screenings.
“We have seen the restoration of McAllen’s Cine El Rey and the current progress of the restoration of the Capitol Theater in Brownsville—both of these worthy examples for the value they bestow on the rich heritage of this area.”
-Nydia O. Tapia-Gonzales, President AfHAC
The Grande Theatre opened in 1942 and showed Spanish language films, while its contemporaries The Strand, Acadia and The Rialto showed first-run English language releases and/or newsreels. Over the decades, the popularity of television and video caused the majority of small theaters to close their doors. Of Harlingen’s numerous theaters, only the Rialto and the Grande still stand. The Rialto is currently an event center.
In 1995, the Grande Theatre building was purchased by Harlingen businessman Bill DeBrooke. And although he had it on the market, DeBrooke promised to respect the theater’s integrity by offering it only to a non-profit organization.
AfHAC plans to maintain that integrity by transforming the theater into a tourist attraction celebrating Hispanic heritage. Vice President and founding member Rogelio Agrasanchez is a scholar and collector of Golden Era Mexican Cinema. His vast archive of films will keep the Hispanic culture alive and on display at the theater. And with board members who actively celebrate the Latino culture, the group is sure to transform Harlingen’s La Placita into a thriving cultural arts center.
There’s a very good article written by AfHAC Interim President Nydia Tapia-Gonzales in the January 2010 issue of rgVision Magazine. The story is no longer archived on the site, but I did post a copy of it on the RGV Forum. Give it a read.