In the middle of the so many activities that are help for the celebration of the Cuban Culture Day every October 20, the Cuban minister of Culture, Julian Gonzalez had accepted to answer us some questions for Trabajadores newspaper.
We would like you to tell us how Culture is included in the current process of changes living the country today. Can the artistic activity be rentable? Can it do it without subsides?
In macro-economical terms Culture is absolutely rentable, because it is the support of the nation. But of course, when he go in detail with some of the manifestations, we can see it is evident that each artistic expression has its differences. Some of them can live with their incomes and others cannot. If the institutions are intelligent they can use the budget for a better art, so matter its “ratability”.
We have an extraordinary Cultural development in Cuba, based on the undisputable talent of the creators which is consolidated with the artistic teaching. It is the result of a well defined vocation of the revolutionary process: give the population an integral culture.
Now the question is if that cultural system can be self financed. I am convinced the way it is developed; it is impossible. For instance the ballet will never be rentable, it isn’t anywhere worldwide. There is always the need of support by the State or sponsors. Does that mean we should have developed our culture without ballet? No.
What we really should do is reducing expenses as much as possible, but is shouldn’t affect quality of the proposals. All the way around, we should search for more quality. That is what we call efficiency.
We should take advantage of the potential of some of the manifestations like, music, plastic arts… even the circus. The development of these arts is somehow guaranteed by their incomes.
We can establish ranks from the institutions; we have to, in fact. It is not the case to do more activities, but good ones. So we should manage to have the creators participate together with the institutions in the procedure of the programming.
How to establish these ranks? Who is going to say this is better than that?
You know it is a complex issue, mainly in art. So, we should make the best effort to have the greatest participation of people when designing a program. Not only the Ministry of culture, but also the National Association of Cuban Artists and Writers (UNEAC), Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS)… When we do it together there is less possibility to make mistakes.
Some people could think that establishing ranks means forbidding…
It is not the case, it is not the way. It is something we have discussed in many provinces of Cuba in the last weeks. Art is really diverse and there are lots of tendencies. It is clear; there is audience for everything, but we can advise that public. And it is not prohibiting, of course. It will be promoting the best and understanding the characteristics of every proposal.
About 5,000 people can attend a concert of Van Van. We cannot have that figure in a poetry recital. But that activity has its own audience and we have to protect it. But we cannot forget the fact that some manifestations, which sometime were minority, if we have a good promotion, will turn into manifestations for the majority.
But cultural offer is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and its institutions. There are other actors…
There are too many people deciding the artistic programs. They are not well prepared people sometimes. There are no few recreation areas, touristic or gastronomic spaces and they simplify their cultural proposals; they make concessions to bad quality with a very prosaic vision of what they call “popular”.
That is why; it is so important the performance of the joints for the programs in each territory. The local government is responsible for that. In those joints there must be the participation of all ranks of cultural institutions.
The problem is that those joints are not considered as essential element for the artistic proposal.
Let’s talk about the economic blockade imposed by the United States (U.S.) against Cuba. People think that Culture is one of the least affected sectors…
It is false. The blockade is a reality that seriously affects, although there is not much said about it. Let’s start with the musical instruments, the equipment for the theaters, school materials for artistic teaching… We could buy it at the US, but the blockade does not allow us to. We have to make more expensive investments and purchase what we need in far markets. It also affects the circulation and promotion of our artists. Those who travel to the US go in cultural interchanges, with many limitations. For instance they cannot receive payments for their performances, just diets. All those American artists who want to come to Cuba are subject to approvals and licenses. Not all of them can come. And besides that, there is no permission for Americans to travel to Cuba as tourists and enjoy our beaches.
The historical cultural dialogue is obviously affected between the two peoples…
That’s right. We have read and still read the best American works. We have heard and we still heard the American music; we watch the best and the worst films from that country too. Some people believe that avalanche could bury the Cuban culture. I am convinced our culture is very strong and can resist.
Some artists are living abroad. Which is the policy of the Ministry with them?
It is inclusive; it has to do with the integrating vision of our culture. Not few creators have abandoned the country for economic or personal reasons and they have the doors open. Besides the possibility to return to Cuba, they also have the right to attend the cultural spaces.
The bases of the Cuban culture are in Cuba. They are present in the everyday activities of this people. Cubans living abroad take with them- whether they like it or not-, that immense legacy.
In Cuba, culture is not a privilege of an elite, is the right for all the people and it can do –and of course it has-, a substantial contribution to a better way of life of our people.