Gonzalo Carámbula: "No one doubts the social importance of culture"

February 2009 -

"After so many years, the cultural sector has still failed to place the discussion on culture policy in the spotlight of public debate. Although we act as if culture plays a fundamental part in development processes, formulating and implementing culture policy is still considered to be of secondary importance", says Uruguay's Gonzalo Carámbula. Working as a consultant in the field of culture policy Carámbula is one of the authors of Agenda 21 for Culture (2004).

"There are few who fail to understand the social importance of education and healthcare, or of strict environmental regulations. Culture, especially the living, contemporaneous culture, still holds a position that is too marginal in that respect. That is in part due to the limited and careless effectuation of legislation. The shortage of qualified, well-educated professionals, however, and the lack of a properly functioning cultural infrastructure are also to blame."

"After much debate, policy has been implemented in Uruguay in recent years regarding audio-visual arts, social security for artists and regulating tax benefits. The Unesco treaties on cultural diversity and immaterial heritage were also ratified. But if you then look at the people behind the effectuation of the plan ceibal, an initiative giving every school child in Uruguay a computer with Internet access, you see that they are not from the traditional cultural sector. Apparently, we are still unable to acquire a fundamental position in social development processes."

"To tell the truth, I do not think that our message is improperly formulated: no one doubts the social importance of culture. Our task now is to facilitate the dialogue between culture and society. We need to learn to communicate the cultural 'issue' better to society and to utilise our negotiating position more adequately. Cultural development and excellence must have a chance on every level. I like to compare it to a forest: the broad social humus is a breeding ground for a wide variety of cultural initiatives. These must then have the room to develop and to find their way to the general public", according to Carámbula.