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Jorge Baldor On Building Bridges In The Dallas Latino Community

Jessica Diaz-Hurtado
KERA News special contributor
A woman at the Dallas Museum of Art's exhibition, "Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jose Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde" in April 2017.

Cuban-born entrepreneur and philanthropist Jorge Baldor is behind some well-known cultural and political efforts in the Dallas Latino community.

He's the co-founder of the Latino Center for Leadership Development, which boasts alum like Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis and State Rep. Victoria Neave. Baldor played a big role in bringing México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde exhibit to the Dallas Museum of Art. He’s also behind Mercado 369 in Oak Cliff, and is now focusing his efforts on homeless students in Dallas.

In our Friday Conversation, he told KERA's Rick Holter Latino communities aren't a block — they're diverse — but he hopes his efforts can help build bridges.

Interview Highlights: Jorge Baldor

On merging political and artistic participation:

“The reality is that there are a lot of people in the community that have been here 20 years that don't feel a part of the community, so it’s hard to be engaged in the political system if it’s something you don't think 

Credit Stella M Chávez / KERA News
Jorge Baldor at the opening of Mercado 369 in November 2017.

affects you or you can affect.

"More than half [of the people who attended the Mexico exhibit] were first-time museum visitors. I think that's really essential to getting people into the museum. They're taxpayers. This is a building that belongs to them as well, but people feel intimidated.

"A lot of people have never been to Klyde Warren Park. [When you get] people into the community where they can see there are things that are happening — maybe not in their own community — but maybe that [can be] the advantage as well. You go back home and say, 'My park doesn't look like that, I don't have the lights, I don't have the sidewalks,' and they start contacting their elected officials or even further, say 'Maybe I need to run for office.'”

On Ted Cruz being the most high-profile Latino politician:

“It really touches on the diversity of the Latino population. Not only is it economically diverse, it's politically and socially diverse. It's a broad brush to say, 'Latino has a view,' or 'Latino has a voting pattern.' It's a very diverse community.”

On After8ToEducate:

"As a result of several years of seeing the same statistics of Dallas ISD reporting 3,500 students that are homeless attending schools, we have a former elementary school [that'll have] 35 beds dedicated for a living area for students living under a bridge or in a car. Another part is a drop-in center that's 24/7 for youth 14-21. Dallas is too successful to have 3,500 students self-identified as being homeless and not address it."

On the toughest part of bringing communities together:

"There's always been a history of factionalism within the Latino community. One of the things that is encouraging is people coming in saying this is the first time that they've seen the culture represented in this way."

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.