In a nation where prior governments divested in national arts and culture, importing foreign values and traditions, the government of Hugo Chavez has taken a bold and necessary step to rescue and dignify Venezuelan identity through the arts.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez unveiled plans last Monday to spend three hundred million bolivars ($69.8 million) on a new social program designed to promote the nation’s cultural heritage and encourage the training of artists and cultural producers at the national and local levels.
The announcement came during the graduation ceremony of university students enrolled in the government’s Mission Culture initiative in the capital city of Caracas.
“Our culture must be subversive, liberating and revolutionary because the revolution is either cultural or it’s nothing”, Chavez told the graduates of the educational program Monday evening.
“Politics is a cultural thing, especially when it comes to a process of cultural liberation”, he affirmed.
The graduation ceremony was held in the Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas and was part of similar ceremonies occurring across the country where 3,215 students in total received their Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a focus on Cultural Development.
The Venezuelan head of state encouraged the new cultural workers to engage with their communities to further the nation’s collectivist goal of constructing Socialism of the 21st Century.
“You all can work perfectly in the socialist economic units and in the recovered businesses. You can work in the construction of the new model that is being born”, he said, admonishing the graduates not to “become bureaucrats”.
As part of Venezuela’s new socialist model, Chavez announced on Monday the creation of a National System of Popular Culture, which will work to foster collective values and richen the country’s popular traditions.
The System, the President informed, will be headed up by the Culture Ministry and will be comprised of five principal objectives.
The first objective will be to facilitate greater cultural education especially for youth, while the second will include the growth of the country’s popular culture registry and increased visibility for artists involved in the production of such materials.
Other areas of focus include a greater diffusion of cultural works through exhibits and events, and the creation of a cultural economy that provides better employment opportunities and a livable income for artists and intellectuals.
According to the Culture Minister, Francisco Sesto, the new system will provide recognition and incentives for those working in the arts who have been traditionally relegated to the fringes of the informal economy.
“Sometimes cultural producers have difficulties. They create artwork and devote their lives to it and are never able to gather enough money to fix their humble housing. With their work, there needs to be an economy generated in the communities. We can support with resources and supplies as well as the distribution of cultural goods”, Sesto said.
A key part of the new initiative will be the integration of public institutions with private individuals, community groups and artists’ collectives that worked together to provide the impetus for the newly announced System.
“If it wasn’t for these collectives, none of this would have any meaning. This [cultural program] is not the product of a laboratory”, Sesto said.