Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Culture Warriors, New Tactics

The culture war in Honduras is heating up-- and there's a new player involved.

Yesterday the Minister of  Culture, Tulio Mariano González, asked the director of the Casa Morazan (Morazan House) Museum to resign.  Gonzalez wrote:
"If you don't want to work in harmony with the authorities and criticize the government, please resign so that other people who have the will can take you're place."

Carlos Turcios, the Director of the museum, has told the press that his entire budget will be used up on July 31 so the museum will have to fire staff unless the government allocates more funds to pay the staff to keep it open. 

González told the press that the museum was not going to be allowed to close.  He said:
 "NASA also had its budget cut but that doesn't mean that NASA is closing.  What we need to do is improve our offering, improve the initiative, make more work and this is what we're doing in all parts."

Except that NASA would close if you cut its budget so that it could not pay the people it needs to carry out its mission.  A museum cannot stay open without staff to operate it.

According to Turcios, the museum has 8 employees, and enough money to pay half their salaries through July 31. After that, he has 74,000 lempiras ($3700) to pay people for the rest of the year.  He told Conexihon that
"After the 31 of July there is no budget for us but we will not close the Casa Morazan."

Meanwhile, González says the museum is only closing temporarily.  La Prensa says he told radio station HRN that
"The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History is doing a restoration and decided to close it [the Casa Morazan] for two weeks while doing the work to provide better service."

(The Minister may be referring to the installation of 46 objects that the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History agreed to loan the Casa Morazan.)

So why did Gonzaléz call for Turcios to resign, when he is apparently volunteering to run the museum, for free?

Turcios thinks that González is operating under a misunderstanding.

The museum rented space for a week long community action seminar by the Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (CUTH). A group called the Frente Amplio de Trabajadores de la Cultura y el Arte (Broad Coalition of Workers in Culture and Art) was included.

The Frente Amplio is a new player on the scene of culture, organized earlier this summer with an agenda prominently calling for the resignation of the current Minister of Culture. The original announcement of its formation indicted "the total disfunctionality of the Secretaría de Cultura, Artes y Deportes (SCAD) and the head of that same institution, Tulio Mariano Gonzales". Their conclusion was that the leaders of SCAD "are not interested at all in culture" and have put historic patrimony in danger "through governmental indolence".

The initial statements about the formation of the Frente Amplio say that "this is not a closed group, since all artists, intellectuals, and creators of art" are welcome. So unlike the unions of SCAD and other cultural entities like IHAH, which have either gone along with decisions of the ministry and its appointees, or suffered retaliation for efforts to correct mismanagement, the Frente Amplio is not subject to the same kinds of pressures that can be placed on employees.

On Monday the Frente Amplio denounced the virtual abandonment of local Casas de Cultura by the Ministry of Culture, and mismanagement of national museums. They singled out the Casa Morazan, noting that "the budget has been reduced to 800,000 lempiras (some 39,000 dollars), so that it will cease operations this coming [July] 31".

Turcios says some "political activists" in the Secretaria de Cultura, Artes, y Deportes, Minister González's organization, used this statement as a pretext to denounce him for supposedly allowing "political" activities to take place in the museum, resulting in the Minister asking for his resignation.

We think the Minister can't take criticism-- and is unwilling to admit that under his guidance, cultural organizations are falling apart in the country.

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