Caracas, Venezuela, August 23, 2006—A city-wide assembly on culture was held this past weekend in Caracas, in an attempt to begin to organize musicians, poets, dancers, and actors from some of the poorest communities into cooperatives, in order to form a network of grassroots artists.
The Caracas Metropolitan Assembly for Culture and Popular Power, was organized by the Metropolitan Mayor’s office and the Cultural Mission (Misión Cultura), and was held all day long last Saturday and Sunday at the Bolivarian University. Hundreds of artists from Caracas participated in the activities, which on Saturday afternoon split into two dozen smaller working groups, in order for neighbors to be able to discuss how best to organize their own local community.
The larger goal of the assembly was to organize the individuals into cultural cooperatives, in order for them to be able to play a legal and cultural role in the community councils (consejos comunales), and eventually form a network of grassroots artists. It is hoped that through the consolidation into cooperatives, various cultural groups will be able to receive resources from the Venezuelan state in order to carry their cultural projects.
The closing event to the cultural assembly was held Monday night at the Teresa Carreño Theater. Various bands performed, and the theater group, Calle Roja, kicked off the evening with a comedy performance highlighting the importance of organizing around music and dance in order to defeat the “imperialistic giant.”
Héctor Soto, Venezuelan Vice-minister of Culture and Human Development, and director of the Cultural Mission spoke to the relatively full house and called on the cultural groups to organize. “I have bad news, Chavez isn’t going to help you any more,” said Soto. ”Make your revolution, yourselves! Chavez is the first political prisoner of this revolution.”
He announced that Venezuela has put nearly $1.4 million at the disposition of the community councils, of which less than 10% has been passed in on to the councils, because they are not organized. “This money is so that you organize in the community councils, and that you prioritize the culture projects in the citizen’s assemblies, and attain these resources,” he said.
Following cheers of “the culture united will never be defeated” from the jovial crowd- dressed largely in red- the assembly’s Cultural Manifesto was read, which they declared had been prepared with the participation of those present.
The manifesto announced, “undisputedly, we have arrived to a change” and declared that they “would not permit transculturalization.” It also called to strengthen the “socialist cooperative movement” by organizing these cooperatives in to a network; “activating sub-utilized spaces in the community” for cultural use; and calling for a Cultural Constitutional Assembly “in accordance with the needs of the different collectives.”
David Kika, a Peruvian who has been in Venezuela since last January, participated in the Pastora neighborhood working group over the weekend. Kika said that the experience was excellent, but believes that there were definite problems. For instance, he said, the Manifesto was given to assembly participants to read and sign on to, but was not written with the input of the community. He was also disappointed that many Caracas artists did not attend because they either didn’t know it was taking place, or they were busy. As a result, the working groups from some of Caracas’ 33 city districts (parroquias) had to join other groups, because not enough people showed up from their neighborhood.
According to Kika, there was a debate in the La Pastora group over whether or not to form into cooperatives. Some members feared that culture should be free, and that forming cooperatives only to receive funds for certain projects, is putting a price on the art-form, and morally wrong. In the end, the group from La Pastora decided to form one large cooperative for the region, while other districts decided to form various cooperatives according to cultural group or art-form.
Assembly members filled out the necessary forms in order to officially constitute the cooperatives, which members of the organizing committee will be bringing to the Cooperative Superintendent (SUNACOOP) in the following days to officially register the cooperatives.
Meanwhile, El Mundo reported last week that the second meeting of the Metropolitan Cultural Constitutional Assembly will be a reality. It is currently set to take place the last weekend in October. Over three thousand artists attended the first meeting of the assembly in 2005. This year, they will be building on discussions and decisions from last year’s assembly, and organizers hope the October assembly will have legal constitutional standing before the Venezuelan National Assembly.
“That’s why the second meeting will have the character of a Constitutional Assembly, in the sense that at its doors is the discussion and approval of a law within the National Assembly,” said Robert Galbán, Secretary of Metropolitan culture, according to el Mundo.
See also: The official Website of the Metropolitan Cultural Assembly: www.redculturapp.org.ve