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David Owens
  • Fresno, CA
  • United States
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Azteca Theater Blog

Azteca Theater placed on National Register of Historic Places

Back in December of 2015 the Fresno City Council passed a  resolution  designating the Azteca Theater a Heritage Property to be placed on the Local Register of Historic Resources. That was the first step of the process for the Azteca to be placed on California's list and be submitted to the National Register of Historic Places.   On March 27, 2017 the Azteca, as it is commonly known,  was put on the Nation Register program for Latinos in the 20th Century.

National Register of Historic Places
The Azteca played a significant role in the develop of Hispanic culture in Central California since it's opening in 1948 by Gustavo Acosta as the main Spanish language theater in the San Joaquin Valley, screening both new releases from Mexican Cinema and musical concerts.

In 1956 the theater blossomed under the leadership of Arturo Tirado, who also hosted tours for famous celebrities and musical groups. 

 In 1961 Tirado held a meeting in San Francisco that resulted in the formation of  the Spanish Pictures Exhibitors Association. Elected President, Tirado represented almost 300 Spanish language movie houses nationwide in negotiations with distributors. 

 In 1965, Cesar Chavez, of United Farm Workers (UFW),  led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farm workers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento. Fresno was the largest city on the route as well as the agricultural center of the San Joaquin Valley and proved pivotal to the momentum of the march.

Over 1,000 people gathered at the Azteca Theater in support of the farm workers.  Politicians, middle-class Mexican-Americans and enlightened general population were joining the line.

Tirado retired in the 1980s and the theater suffered lower attendance and eventually closed until 1999 when David Owens acquired it. He opened the iPacific Gallery in the lobby while efforts were being made to get the big hall open. 

On September 26, 2014, the theater re-opened for events in the main hall under the management of Laura Barboza, who continues to make improvements and host a variety of events. The possibilities are just beginning.

Locally, Karana Hattersley-Drayton, of Fresno's Historic Preservation helped prepare the local Historic Fresno designation and worked with National Park Service staff for submission to the National Register.

Considerable research was done over several years  to document significant  historical and cultural events related to Latinos in Twentieth Century California.

Building on it's heritage, the Azteca Theater continues to seek ways to serve the Spanish language, as well as multi-cultural, communities of Central California.

--- David Owens, May 18, 2017

Azteca mural project 2016
Azteca Theater on Facebook

Teatro Azteca on Facebook

More Azteca Theater as photographic model

Here is another image that caught the lens of a photographer. This time, Luis  Sinco collection of outtakes from his photo shoots.

The exterior of the Azteca Theater in the historic Chinatown district of downtown Fresno.
The Los Angeles Times called it the "defunct" Azteca Theater, which was not really accurate.  At this time the lobby of Azteca Theater was home to the iPacific Gallery  while preparations were being made to open the main auditorium.

In this view of the ticket booth has several interesting features.  I replaced the ticket booth glass with plexiglass and made a communication opening with the grill form a computer fan.  The American flag covers an ugly grill that made the door window secure.  The closed sign indicates the gallery was closed. It was open weekends and on Art Hops.  The original round windows in the theater doors were enhanced with auspicious Chinese symbols etched into the glass. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

"Outtakes | Luis Sinco
A photographer may take dozens of shots for an assignment, and they’re usually edited down to just a few images for use in the newspaper and online. Details and moments significant to the photographer often don’t make the cut. Outtakes presents a selection of those images."
See more of Sinco's images at

See more artistic takes on the Azteca Theater here:

Cesar Chavez, the Delano-to-Sacramento marchers at the Azteca Theater

A major rallying point for the Delano-to-Sacramento march was Fresno and the Azteca Theater. With Eight days and 100 miles behind them, the marchers from Delano made it to Fresno.
Delano-to-Sacramento marchers. Photo Jon Lewis, March 1966
For six months they had discussed the Plan of Delano and fought to gain collective bargaining rights.
Cesar Chavez spoke to over 1,000 people at the Azteca Theater March 24, 1966.
A small ad in the The Fresno Bee March 23, 1966  invited people to come to see Chavez speak.
Fresno Bee, March 23, 1966

Over 1,000 people showed up to listen and show support, at the rally with Cesar Chavez at the Azteca Theater, many spilling out on to F Street. The headline in the Bee highlights a meeting of Mayor Hyde with marchers. 
Fresno Bee, March 25, 1966

Fresno Bee, March 14, 1966
A photo taken March 24 on F street shows the crowd at the Azteca Theater.
Photo from "The Movement" taken outside the Azteca Theater March 24, 1966

Council names Azteca Theater an Historic Property

The Fresno City Council passed a  resolution Thursday, December 3, 2015 designating the Azteca Theater a Heritage Property to be placed on the Local Register of Historic Resources. 
First stop on the Biking Through History event, October, 2015
This culminates several months of process that started with the Historic Preservation Commission for the Azteca Theater, as well as six other Fresno properties designated by the council.

Other properties designated were the Dudley and Elsie Bates Home 718 E. Carmen Ave, the Judy Tobacco Building 155 Van Ness Ave., the Squirt Bottling Company Building 152 M Street, the Alice and John Williams Home 1525 N. Wishon Ave., United Grocers Inc. Wholesale Grocery Building 414 P Street, and the White Truck Company/Electric Motor Shop at 253 Fulton Street.

These properties will be added to the existing Fresno Register of Historic Resources

The report to the Historic Preservation Commission:


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Virtually anywhere trying to do something
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Imagery, music and writing
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David Owens's Blog

Chinatown website?

Chinatown CRI website disappeared,
so i put together something last night ...
hope to make it better when I find out what happened to Chinatown revitalization!


Posted on August 5, 2010 at 8:14am

Comment Wall (3 comments)

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At 3:23pm on July 22, 2010, Vanessa Vasquez said…
Thanks David!
At 6:21pm on July 21, 2010, Aileen R. Imperatrice said…
Hi David! Glad to hear from you. I hope all is going well.
Love your photo slide show.

Tony says hi too!
At 2:39pm on July 21, 2010, David Owens said…
It is so amazing to see how many and varied people are in the Arts in Fresno. And humbling to see how few I know.

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