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"The Cuervo Center:" A Commentary

By Stephen Whitley

Dallas, TX – It seems like a no-brainer to me, yet the Dallas City Council has to table for three weeks a proposal to name the new Latino Cultural Center after the popular tequila, Jose Cuervo. The Council says it needs the time to discuss ways to make the proposal more palatable, which really means the spin-meisters will get to work; and, after three weeks, we'll have all forgotten about it or have gotten used to the idea.

What have we come to here? When did we stop naming public buildings after leaders who have devoted their lives to public service and start naming them after large multi-national corporations who simply look at naming rights as a way to improve market share and forge strategic alliances? Is everything in America for sale? One man wants to sell ad space on his bald head. Another placed the naming rights to his yet unborn baby on e-Bay so he and his wife could buy a larger house. Our country has become one big marketing gimmick, its citizens the patsies. We're polled, focus-grouped, and bombarded with so many advertisements, it's amazing we ever get any work done.

Changing the name of the Starplex Ampitheatre to the Smirnoff Center was a bit more understandable, because the majority of events there are rock concerts where alcohol is typically served. But naming a cultural center where children's plays and other family centered activities will be held is reprehensible. What's next, "The Marlboro Pre-School?" Or, as Councilperson Laura Miller quipped at the council meeting, "Changing the name of the city to Disney-Dallas for $30 million?" No, but $100 million and we might talk.

Mayor Kirk said the city has few options but to accept the $1 million from Cuervo, and if the people of Dallas don't like it, they can, "Put up or shut up." Well Mayor Kirk, here are another couple of options for you. Take a million or two from a project that has yet to be started - say the Trinity River project or the Olympic bid - and invest it in finishing a project that has been started. Or, here's another option: use some of your famous muscle and persuade Jose Cuervo to give the money to the center without expecting anything in return - a purely altruistic act. Perhaps they could name it The Anita Martinez Cultural Center after the first Hispanic female city council member.

Of course, I'm a realist and don't believe either of these things will happen. No, three weeks will pass, and we'll all get used to the fact that everything is for sale; no viable options for funding will be discussed; we'll be spinned and worn down; and the city will accept the money, business as usual. And we'll continue to wonder why our nation is starting to look like one big flea market.

Stephen Whitley is a writer and photographer from Dallas.