Friday, January 21

Iberoamerica is Culture

After almost two years of the pandemic, I had the feeling of having passed this test, passing the screen and returning to activity with an eye toward recovery. It is indisputable that this period of recollection has been an impasse to rethink certain things and assume the acceleration of some processes. With my sights set on the ecological and digital transition, I had to travel to Uruguay for the commemoration of the XV anniversary of the Ibero-American Cultural Charter. A great opportunity, I understood, to resume personal contact with colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic and work on the common agenda. However, as soon as I started the trip I realized that my conception of the scenario was wrong. The endless list of documents required to board the plane put me on the clue that the situation was not as expected. Uruguay, like many other countries in the region, had strong restrictions on the entry of foreign citizens.

This situation improved significantly on November 1, although there are still some requirements that we may have to live with for a long period of time. When I finally managed to land in Montevideo, I was surprised by the situation I encountered. Cultural spaces were beginning to awaken from a long slumber and shyly received the first visitors. For any Spaniard who was in my situation it would have been a hard blow, the same as traveling almost a year ago to the time of closed theaters and cinemas, silenced concerts and life confined within four walls. I immediately realized that I had to change my approach to sharing with my Latin American colleagues.

The reality of cultural cooperation in Ibero-America is that we cannot move forward together if we ignore this circumstance. The pandemic continues to dominate life on the continent, with uneven effects depending on the countries. If one of the basic issues on the Ibero-American cultural agenda is the digital transition, we have to speak of a multi-speed approach. Connectivity problems are a risk, and the digital divide goes hand in hand with inequality that in recent years has advanced with giant steps. However, there are still enriching experiences that progress successfully in such adverse contexts.

The issues on which we have advanced focus on the necessary strengthening of the Ibero-American digital space. A common place to find content that reflects the enormous diversity of one of the largest cultural communities on the planet. We continue to nurture that space with audiovisual, musical and literary creations. Other sectors such as videogames are also advancing, which raises a wide universe of development. We find enriching spaces for reflection such as Itaú Cultural in Sao Paulo, which continues to be a meeting point for cultural growth within the framework of diversity. Latin America is developing exciting initiatives that break old patterns, but are nourished by tradition.

From the bases created by our theoretical referents, Canclini, Achugar, Mejía, Prieto, new voices emerge with an air of the future. It is surprising to find initiatives that break the barriers of traditional knowledge to explore new frontiers in which technology is an ally and there is no brake on innovation. Ibero-America continues to be the space for explorers, innovators, those who overcome old schemes and seek the new world. The creative effervescence has not stopped, and when the restrictions on capacity and hours fall, we will see a myriad of surprising proposals emerge that will help us continue moving forward. Despite the endemic problems of the region, among which inequality is the main stumbling block, and in many cases navigating against the current, the Ibero-American creative sector is still present. It is essential at this time to protect it with adequate public policies, among which the promotion of the Ibero-American status of the artist should be a priority. Precariousness threatens the basic fabrics of culture, without fair working conditions we will not be able to consolidate the sector.

The Ibero-American summits have been the meeting space in the region. In them, the common agenda is discussed and agreed, and ties between the countries are strengthened. However, in recent years the profile of the peaks has decreased considerably. There is less and less presence of the heads of state and government and the discussion of matters is delegated to subordinates. The summits are the place of consensus, and they are key to setting the Ibero-American agenda of the future. The great issues that we face in this disruptive moment, a historical hinge as the Uruguayan Hugo Achugar calls it, should be the opportunity to resume efforts and promote the issues that have always united us. Culture is one of them, and without a doubt the main unifier of relations between so many countries that share much more than a common language.

This is a key moment because things are changing. The G20 has incorporated issues such as the effect of climate change on cultural heritage, cultural and creative industries in the digital space, and the relationships between culture, training and education on its agenda. This means that 70% of world GDP cares about a sector that it used to look askance at, and assumes it as a benchmark for post-pandemic recovery. We are facing a radical change, and the arrival of investment in the sector ensures growth at all levels in the coming years. However, we must be vigilant so that the foundations of this growth are firm. There are several tasks to be tackled, although the main issue must be to ensure fair working conditions. In addition, it is necessary to guarantee the protection of the intellectual property of creators, a key concern in the digital environment.

Also strengthen the presence of culture in education and raise the knowledge of the arts and sciences as a whole. Address diversity as the true wealth of society, and consolidate the rights approach in cultural policies. Move towards a cultural citizenship in which the protection of the individual in the most essential of his existence is guaranteed, as well as the principles and values ​​through which we live in the world. Faced with the threat of unifying currents that create artificial, segregating ideologies and outside of any reality, we can only defend individual rights, of choice, participation and creation, to continue building the common imaginary, of open borders.