National Museum of Mexican Art founder and director retires after 40 years

Leah Hope Image
Saturday, December 23, 2023
Founder, president of National Museum of Mexican Art retiring
Carlos Tortolero. founder and president of the National Museum of Mexican Art, is retiring after 40 years.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Carlos Tortolero, the founder and president of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, is retiring after 40 years.

The museum opened in 1987, but the idea started years before with Tortolero, a high school history teacher frustrated with the lack of Mexican history and arts included in the curriculum.

"It's important to teach this history and it's not that we are rewriting history but we are telling history correctly for the first time," he said.

Now, 40 years after he watched his dream come to life, he is ready to step back and retire.

"The museum is in its best shape financially, best shape with programming; it's the perfect time to leave," he said. "It's not about Carlos Tortolero, it's about the culture of Mexico always, always to me. So that's what my dream is, for this to continue."

The museum has seen 3 million visitors and remains free while other institutions now charge fees. The museum is also acquiring an old fire house that will be dedicated to their youth program, doubling the number of young people who can participate.

"The Yollocalli program, if all goes well, a year from now it should be up and running so instead of 300 kids we will be serving 600 kids in the Little Village community," Tortolero said. "That's important to us."

As the museum begins a new chapter, so does Tortolero. He is looking forward to spending more time with his grandson and following the White Sox, but don't be surprised if you see him stop for chat in the galleries.