Saturday, December 3, 2011

So what is "Culture" in Honduras these days?

In what could be a metaphor for its current state, on November 17, the Ministry of Culture, Art, and Sports left a semi-trailer containing its mobile stage blocking a lane of a major thoroughfare in downtown Tegucigalpa. The Ministry has consistently declined to loan the stage for programming when requested. It is a former asset that simply has become an abandoned truck load.

Last year the Ministry discontinued the BiblioBus, a mobile Library that visited remote communities, only allowing it to travel if the community paid for the fuel consumed and provided lodging and meals for the staff.

So what is SCAD doing with its funds this year?

The press coverage we have found covers only a few events, but those tell an interesting story: continuing a trend begun by Myrna Castro, appointed to run the ministry during the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, the events SCAD promoted this year seem to have less to do with awareness of Honduras' own culture, and more to do with implementing a weak reflection of a global kind of "culture".

Not that there is all that much to judge by. Press reports show that the ministry has done some of what we might think of as its normal honorific activities, awarding certificates to some athletes, awarded the medals of art and literature (but not science). It has also published some books.

All of this took place in Tegucigalpa. What has SCAD done for the rest of the country?

At least one press critic answers that question: nothing.

In an editorial in La Tribuna, Miguel Osmundo Mejia Erazo says
The reality is that little or nothing has been done by Culture, Art, and Honduran Sports...

That's not entirely accurate. The ministry funded a concert performance of Carmina Burana, the cantata by German composer Carl Orff. The ministry also partially funded an international food festival.

We cannot help hearing echoes of the Euro-centric "fashion is culture, also" of the lamented Castro in these decisions about where to invest the ministry's resources. We happen to love Carmina Burana, but there is a lot of Honduran music that doesn't appear to be on the radar screen of the new ministry.

This move to a vision of high "culture" located somewhere outside Honduras also calls for renewed reflection on the famous interview in which Bernard Martinez provided his own definition of culture as a quality of the individual person.

At the time, we confessed to being uncertain if we understood the minister. It now seems clear that we did.

What he thinks his ministry should promote is not the distinctive practices of a people that mark their historical presence.

It is culture in the sense of "someone with culture", someone who has cultivated a set of values and behaviors, historically usually those of a restricted class set as the standard for others. Culture as fashion; culture as European symphonic music; but where is the culture that only the Honduran ministry could possibly encourage?

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