Cover of Puerto Rico en el mundo

Cover of Puerto Rico en el mundo

Redefining the task of culture in Puerto Rico implies thinking of new representation policies with more visibility of diverse groups, and something for all tastes, likes, and dislikes. Culture should abandon its pharmacological function of avoiding all pain and should become a place for critical thought, while main­taining its character of leisure.

Present mass culture is charac­terized by hedonism, an effortless modality of consumerism and im­mediate gratification. Mass media responds to the market criteria of the “culture industry” and to the interests and agendas of special sectors or political groups. Cul­ture today rhymes with market and nationalism. There is no great pretense to “elevate the human spirit”. Reference to ethics usually responds to old fashioned, formal morality. Yet culture has nothing to do with morality. We cannot return to classical culture because it is laden with cultural practices marked by class strug­gles and racism.

In many countries, private philanthropy and State subsidiz­ing of culture do not respond to the interests of the market. This speaks highly of the countries that do so because culture should be supported without conditions, without consideration of particu­lar economic interests. Should the institutions of the State be de­fended against the market? Yes, but what kind of sponsorship should that entail? Cultural pa­tronage is not common among Puerto Rico`s most privileged sectors. The privileged classes go to New York to consume high culture while the middle classes dream of going to Disney. Neither favors subsidizing culture

It is clear that institutions that support cultural expressions that are not intended for private enrichment are necessary. Only in countries with diverse forms of support, public and private, is it possible for a cultural sector to thrive. This allows for other forms of cultural enrichment, not limited to going to the mall, to see a commercial movie, or hanging out at the clichéd “Social Friday” locations. This type of trivial leisure excludes a vast majority of the population, since they are usually intended for teenagers; as if there weren`t ample sectors of the population in need of a more diverse cultural production.

Some cultural institutions per­severe with great difficulty, such as the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the Ateneo Puertor­riqueño. It is time to separate the priorities of education, public housing policies and community organizations from economic cri­teria. They should not be used to buy the good conscience of the wealthy classes. Subsidizing of culture should be a public policy priority if we seek social change and a better quality of life in Puerto Rico in the 21st century.

Mara Negrón
Cultural Critics and Professor
University of Puerto Rico- Río Piedras



Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: January 16, 2008.

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