Doña Mage still recalls the days when she used to go to the neighborhood theater around the La Buena Vida housing project.
"It was the community gathering place each Saturday," she recalled. "I saw Padro Infante there one time when he was in Brownsville giving an interview to Jose Cantu at KBOR."
Such are the memories that local residents have about the building on 1244 East 14th Street at the corner of Harrison Street.
Dr. Lino Garcia remembered attending the the theater in his younger days and wrote in the Herald that:
"Also in 1946, the Teatro Victoria opened at 14th and East Harrison streets. Owned by the Ruenes family, which had established similar Mexican movie theaters in other parts of the Rio Grande Valley, it soon attracted its own loyal followers with attractions like weekly amateur nights, where local talent could entertain audiences with music and comedy.
The Victoria could accommodate 1,000 people on plushly cushioned seats. It had a large concession stand for patrons, and during its opening night, the Mayor of Brownsville and the Mexican Consul attended.
Often, the public could see live variety shows there, with their favorite Mexican actors, singers and comedians live on the Victoria’s stage."
Today, as the University of Texas at Brownsville and the City of Brownsville engage in a binge of real estate speculation in downtown properties, we wonder why they haven't looked at this city treasure as a potential site for restoration and cultural events for outreach to the barrios.
The building is easily more than 13,000 square feet of space including a pristine three-bedroom, fully equipped living section on the second floor. The bottom story could easily be put to use for any number of outreach social and educational events.
If the city (read Martinez) could pay $250,000 over three years for three lots of empty space 1335 East Madison owned by Oscar Muñoz that had a dilapidated trailer and two duplexes that had seen better days, surely it can buy the theater and put it to good public use.
We have a Realtor friend (who isn't the one listing the property on the MLS) who says the Ruenes family is asking $185,000 for the building and an adjoining parking area in the rear. If Martinez took that $185,000 from the $3.2 million Martinez paid his buddy Abraham Golonsky for the Casa Del Nylon, he'd have a bargain compared to the empty hulk of the Golonsky property.
So how about it Mayor? You would have a historical theater in the middle of the Brownsville barrio that could easily become a magnet for cultural and educational development there. Or does it have to be one of your buddies who owns real estate before you plunk down the city's nickel?