Wednesday, July 6

For the right to culture: essential asset and strategic sector of our country

The Spanish cultural model is in crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of culture in our lives, but it has also revealed the structural fragility hidden by a professional cultural sector that —with few honorable exceptions— is still trying to recover from extremely serious injuries.

Behind many of the problems that the culture sector conveys to us on a daily basis lies an underlying issue: the scant relevance that culture has for most of Spanish society, and —as a natural consequence— the scant scope that many times it has the culture for public powers not strictly linked to this matter. The stigma of culture as mere entertainment survives, as well as the stereotype of creators as “bohemians and dreamers”, but not as hard-working professionals.

Among the causes —and perhaps also the effects— of this lack of social relevance, there is no doubt the absence of specific transversal legislation in relation to culture. We have a Health Law, an Education Law, an Ecological Transition Law, an Equality Law, a Sports Law, an Animal Protection and Welfare Law, along with many others… We also enjoy laws that affect the field but partially: the Historical Heritage Law, the Cinema Law, the Book Law, the Intellectual Property Law… But there is not, nor has there ever been in Spain, a Culture Law that regulates such basic issues for its proper functioning as the participation of citizens in cultural life, freedom of creation, cultural diversity, public and private financing of culture, cross-cultural competence, etc. This is not the case in other countries in our cultural environment such as France, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Brazil or Panama, which have endowed themselves with a general culture law.

At the same time, our Constitution is one of the most advanced in our environment in terms of culture. Already in its preamble, two commitments of great importance are established: one with cultural diversity and the other with culture as the foundation for a decent quality of life.

On the other hand, article 3 speaks of the linguistic richness of Spain as a cultural heritage of special respect and protection, and article 9.2 speaks of the promotion of citizen participation in cultural life so that freedom and equality are real and effective.

Further on, article 20 expresses the guarantee of freedom of artistic and literary production and creation, and article 44 declares access to culture as a universal right that public authorities must promote.

Articles 148 and 149, for their part, establish the decentralized conception of culture, but grant the State powers to preserve general treatments and promote common cultural values ​​and expressions. There, the need to promote cultural communication channels between the State and the Autonomous Communities (in agreement with them) is also formulated.

In addition to all this, on October 12, 2021, the Official State Gazette published a law with the following article: “Culture is considered, for all purposes, a basic and essential good.”

In other words, culture is an essential good: it improves coexistence, freedom of thought, the feeling of belonging to a community or training in democratic values ​​of diversity, pluralism, equality, recognition, dialogue… It is also a source of emotional richness, which is what the works of artists produce for us, as well as our historical heritage, something that we can hardly find in other areas.

Let’s recap for a moment. Culture is an economically strategic sector for our country. Because of the enormous wealth it generates, but also because Picasso, Almodóvar, Almudena Grandes, flamenco, the Prado Museum or music festivals are engines of other basic economic sectors for our country, such as tourism or hospitality. But culture is also a fundamental right, included as such in the Spanish Constitution, and a basic and essential good, as recognized by the Congress of Deputies and the Government of Spain in the year 2021.

All this makes culture a strategic and essential sector. I insist, culture is an essential sector —because of its exceptionality— and strategic for our country. And as such we must protect and promote it through legislation in accordance with this nature.

We need general culture legislation that is currently not developed. There is legislation by sectors or by themes, and general legislation on culture or cultural rights is being prepared in autonomous communities such as Navarra, the Canary Islands or Aragón. But there’s still too much to do.

We believe that developing cultural rights will have the natural consequence of increasing the value that Spanish society places on culture. Working from the perspective of cultural rights can be substantiated in key developments for this area, such as: 1. The development of metrics that record the economic —direct and indirect— and social impact that culture has for our country. 2. The elaboration of a financing law, both public and private, that provides culture with a global framework for its economic sustainability. 3. The articulation of communication on cultural matters between the central State, the autonomous communities and the municipalities, improving the legal certainty of cultural agents who have to go through the seventeen different regulations that apply, for example, to the holding of shows live. 4. The protection of cultural diversity in the face of an increasingly digitized world, in which the large platforms impose their point of view in negotiations with public authorities.

We find ourselves in an uncertain and accelerated world, with a multitude of drastic changes that are coming and that also affect culture, such as the energy crisis, the rapid development of new digital environments, the rise of the extreme right or the construction of opposing geostrategic blocs . In this unstable context, we must be able to provide the State with the necessary tools to protect culture and guarantee the rights of people to participate in the cultural life of their community. All this can be achieved through cross-cutting normative development in matters of culture, and if possible with the agreement of the majority of the political parties. This is the line we continue to work on.