Friday, April 15, 2011

More from the Bernard Martinez Interview

The Honduran literary blog mimalapalabra on Wednesday posted a version of the Tiempo interview with the current Minister of Culture, that we translated and commented on previously.

Headlined "B. Martinez: Muy pocos concemos el concepto de cultura" ["very few of us know the concept of culture"], this version of the interview frames Martinez's dialogue around his somewhat unique interpretation of culture, which was our focus as well.

But it does something more. As a preface before the body of the interview, there is a passage reading
For reasons of space and of obvious censorship, the following interview did not appear in complete form in the edition of the newspaper Tiempo on March the 12th of April. As follows, I publish it with the parts that were missing. Observe, particularly, the "arguments" of the Minister for considering that he is the ideal person to occupy the post of minister of Culture, his "brilliant" ideas for the management of culture in the country and the curious reading that he gives of the concept of culture of UNESCO in the Declaration of Mexico in 1982.

The implication is that the interviewer who prompted Minister Martinez into a series of revelations that would certainly put in question his qualifications for his position-- or really, for any government position-- is the author of the post,
Do you think that this is sufficient argument for someone to carry out the functions of this post in an efficient manner?

I don't know if it would be sufficient, because that depends on President Lobo, but I do think that it has permitted us both to understand a little farther what the culture of the country is, where diversity and mestizaje have to be inflected, because here the topic is how to inflect cultural diversity to create the identity of the country.

This is, in the longer version, the first clear indication that Minister Martinez has an odd idea of what culture is, and perhaps an even odder idea of the mission of his ministry.

The interview continues as it was published, with the reporter asking pointedly about programs dropped by the Ministry (registry of ISBN numbers for authors) or shifted away from their original purpose (Cine en la Calle, which was funded for San Pedro Sula, but was disrupted by moving the equipment to Tegucigalpa).

But in the short interview, the questions about the latter program end with Martinez saying the real problem is he has no budget for anyone to run the equipment. In the longer interview, the next question is
And the Ministry is incapable of doing anything so that this would be started again?

It's that what we want to guarantee is that the people that come to manage it will have a serious engagement with this equipment, but the mission is to have the ideal personnel that is consistent with the budgetary structure so that both the equipment and the personnel can survive for the purpose of driving this theme of Cine and AV. Our legal department is already working on this.

Why remove this? Who knows? It does seem to reveal a Minister more concerned with pettifoggery than productivity-- which is more or less what the immediate follow-up question gets to.

A similarly inexplicable omission comes at the end of Martinez' reply to a question asking if the Ministry should just limit itself to lend its name to cultural projects, where one sentence was clipped in Tiempo: "So, what we are looking to do is involve all the people possible so that the Ministry will not continue being treated in the manner that it has until now."

Clearly finding the Minister's lack of concern about his inability to do anything of significance, the interviewer asked a series of questions, the last of which was cut from the shorter version of the interview:
Do you reckon that in four years of direction [of the Ministry] you will have worked on the structural question, and nothing more?

Not so much nothing more but that we want to go step by step in the structuring of something that responds to the culture of the country, to what will create the identity necessary so that we can differentiate ourselves from the rest of the countries.

The deletions do not, for the most part, add anything unexpected to the image we get of Minister Martinez from the shorter version published in Tiempo. But one they they do, perhaps, underline with greater clarity: Minister Martinez thinks that cultural identity is something that can be created from the top down; that it is primarily about distinguishing one country from another; and cultural diversity is a barrier to this goal, something to be solved, not understood, prized, or protected.

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