Carlos Tortolero


Carlos Tortolero is President Emeritus and Founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) in Chicago, the first accredited Latino museum in the U.S. and the largest cultural organization based on the Mexican culture outside of Mexico. The Museum has a collection of over 21,000 pieces. He founded the museum in 1982 and the museum opened its doors in 1987. The Museum has been free since Day One. He retired as President at the end of 2023. From 1975-1987, Tortolero worked as a teacher, counselor, and administrator in the Chicago Public School System.

He is a recipient of Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Columbia College (Chicago), The University of Illinois (Chicago) and Dominican University (River Forest, Illinois).

He has served on numerous boards including the University of Illinois, the American Alliance of Museums, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Smithsonian Latino Center, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, the Illinois Humanities Council, and Choose Chicago. He has won numerous awards for his work including the Ohtli Award which is the highest honor given by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department. He was awarded the City of Chicago’s highest honor in the arts – The Fifth Star Award. Tortolero was honored with the Chicago History Museum’s History Makers Award. He was named one of the Chicago Sun-Times, “200 for 200”: The Most Prominent Illinoisans in 200 Years of History. He has also won the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honored by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies with a Distinguished Service for Mexicans Living in The Exterior Award. He has received the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance’s National Cuatro Festival Award.

Tortolero is a Co-Founder of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance. He is one of the original members and a catalyst of Enrich Chicago, which strives to eliminate racism in the arts. He created the national organization – Mexican Cultural Arts Alliance. He also created the Yollocalli Youth program, the only youth program in the nation to have won two White House Awards. He is the Co-Founder of the Sor Juana Festival. Tortolero has served on several national search committees.

Tortolero has written for several books as well as numerous articles for national and international publications. He has made presentations across the U.S. and Mexico, also in France, Spain, Sweden, Puerto Rico, and in Argentina.

In 2020, the Ford Foundation named the NMMA as one of America’s Cultural Treasures and in 2021, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott awarded the NMMA $8 million for their excellent work.