Reading: Fundamental Axis of Venezuelan Cultural Policy

Spaces to read, discuss, reflect, exchange ideas, and develop knowledge have been multiplied in Venezuela in the last 10 years. The Venezuelan population is growing up in the cultural field.

Decades ago, speaking of culture was limited to the elites. Visiting a museum, and buying books at affordable prices were activities that were aimed at wealthy individuals, and the people did not have access to these spaces.

With the advent of the Bolivarian Revolution, this situation turned right around. Today, it is common to observe the use of cultural venues for meetings, discussion of ideas, the enjoyment of art, theatre, the promotion of folklore, and so on.

The rescue of sites for the creation and the promotion of production and distribution of cultural patrimony has been fundamental. Since 1999, the Bolivarian Government has organized important events in the cultural field in the country, such as the International Book Fair of Venezuela, the Caracas Book Fair, and the World Meeting of Poetry, as well as dance and theatre festivals, among others.

Venezuela: a country of readers

According to data collected by the National Book Center (Cenal), Venezuela has distributed in the last five years over 37 million books on different topics: universal and Venezuelan literature, social issues and other disciplines.

A very important event in the literature field is the International Book Fair of Venezuela (Filven), which this year celebrated its seventh edition and distributes and markets hundreds of publications.

During its early years, this meeting took place in a single point in the country with the participation of international public and private publishing houses.

The last Filven, however, took place in all the Venezuelan states, and each region took part in the organization of this cultural event, thus ensuring the people’s participation.

Now, the Filven is conceived as an activity where different artistic disciplines gather in a number of integrated exhibitions that also offer music, dance, theater, poetry, storytelling, presentation of books, book buses, workshops, movies and body art, among others.

The Cenal president, Christian Valles, says that Venezuela has created a cultural infrastructure that can cover all the links in the chain of literary production.

“So that we comply with our role of state, that is to say, to guarantee the fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people because cultural rights are a fundamental human right and it is enshrined in our Constitution.”

Likewise, Valles highlights that the Bolivarian government has created institutions, publishing houses and social spaces so that the people can enjoy reading and reach a new level of awareness and interpretation of reality.

Book and Reading Platform

The Ministry of People’s Power for Culture currently has 33 affiliated institutions that promote the democratization of cultural patrimony, publish books and foster reading. These institutions include:

• Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana: state-run publishing house whose goal is to promote the work of Venezuelan authors in the country and abroad. It also spreads the most representative works of Latin America and the Caribbean.

• Fundación Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello: this institution contributes to the circulation of literary works, the promotion of Venezuelan writers and the promotion of literature and reading.

• Fundación Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos (CELARG): its goal is to contribute to the integration of the peoples through literature, research, and their culture.

• Fundación Biblioteca Ayacucho: this publishing house aims to promote the most important works of Latin American authors and thinkers.

• Fundación Librerías del Sur: is in charge of promoting the work published by the different state-run publishing houses such as: El Perro y la Rana, Monte Ávila Editores, Biblioteca Ayacucho, Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos, Casa Nacional de las Letras Andrés Bello and el Fondo Editorial del Alba.

• Distribuidora Venezolana del Libro: it promotes, distributes and trades books and any other publication of the different state-run publishing houses.

• Fundación Editorial El Perro y la Rana: publishes books for massive distribution at low prices and promotes reading. It aims to encourage literary creation and the rescue of the cultural values of communities and regions. It published the Biblioteca Temática (Theme Library) and the Biblioteca Básica (Basic Library) of Venezuelan authors. The latter features 40 titles aimed at young people between 12 and 18 years old and it has been distributed in  the country’s public and private schools.

School books as a right

With the activation of the National Printing Office, a paper mill recovered by workers, and all the tools, programs and techniques designed by the government in the school field, today the  Venezuelan state has the capability of producing millions of school books and to guarantee children’s and adolescents’ access to knowledge.

Thus, the Ministry of People’s Power for Education is in charge of providing schools with 12 million books for elementary students in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Venezuelan state guarantees the democratization of the education process at all levels and a social policy seeking to support artistic creation and ensure the access to different cultural expressions.