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Venezuela: Foundation for Urban Culture Shut Down

The space dedicated to culture and identity is going through another crisis in the central part of Venezuela, with the closing of Fundación para la Cultura Urbana [es] (Foundation for Urban Culture). This foundation gathered collective works, visions and pieces that told the story of daily life in Caracas. The contests, publications, exhibitions and other activities meant the reconciliation and exaltation of beauty in a dynamic and chaotic city with very creative people.

However, the brokerage firm Econoinvest, a founding investor in the Foundation for Urban Culture, was raided by the government in May. This was enough excuse for the National Exchange Commission to shut down [es] the Foundation permanently.

Bloggers who follow cultural activities in Caracas have expressed a strong opposition to the close down, which they accuse of being illegal and unrelated to the intervention of the brokerage firm.

In the blog Círculo de Escritores de Venezuela [es] (Writers Circle of Venezuela), Magaly Salazar, says:

La creación de una Fundación para la Cultura Urbana tiene como objetivo contribuir a la humanización y armonía de la ciudad. Al frente de ella han estado distinguidas personalidades, entre ellas el escritor Rafael Arráiz Lucca. Esta Institución se ha constituido en un espacio de discusión, expresión del pensamiento contemporáneo, creadora de la Cátedra Permanente de Imágenes Urbanas, de Concursos literarios, de numerosas publicaciones.

The creation of a Foundation for Urban Culture has the objective of contributing to the humanization and harmony of the city. There have been distinguished personalities in its ranks, among them writer Rafael Arráiz Lucca. This institution has been built as a space for discussion [and] the expression of contemporary thinking, creating the permanent installation of Urban Images, literary contests, and numerous publications.

Gabriel Payares, in his blog Kariba [es] reflects on the closing of the brokerage firm and on the empty spaces that will be left behind with the closing of the Foundation:

Cuando anunciaron la intervención de Econoinvest Casa de Bolsa, C. A., no pegué el grito en el cielo, como muchos compañeros y amigos, sino que esperé a ver. (…) Tal vez el problema esté en nuestra desconfianza por las instituciones de todo tipo, y que con el chavismo ha alcanzado sus niveles más elevados en la historia (…) pero ahora se le allana e interviene directamente (…) y se detiene la marcha de una institución que desde el inicio de sus labores en 2001 se supo integrar al panorama cultural y literario del país, convirtiéndose rápidamente en una alternativa para canalizar muchísimas propuestas que no hallaban espacio.

When they announced the intervention of Brokerage House Econoinvest, I was not alarmed, like other friends and colleagues were, but instead I waited to see what happened (…) Maybe the problem is our mistrust for all types of institutions, and with “chavismo” that has reached its greatest level in history. (…) but now [the brokerage] is broken into and intervened directly (…) and now progress is stopped in an institution that since its opening in 2001 knew how to integrate the cultural and literary scene of the country, quickly turning into an alternative to channel many proposals that couldn’t find a space [to develop].

He goes on to say:

Ahora que cierra sus puertas y no sabemos si para siempre, la incertidumbre y el pesimismo a los que cada vez nos acostumbramos más nos hacen preguntarnos qué carajos se gana cerrando uno de los pocos, poquísimos espacios para la edición y la producción cultural de los que dispone nuestro país (…) Agotar nuestros pocos espacios de generación de objetos culturales al mismo tiempo que se planifica una Gran Explosión Cultural Bicentenaria es no solo una cruel ironía, sino una estupidez mayúscula, que apunta hacia una nauseabunda monopolización del rótulo “cultura” por parte del Estado.

Now that it is closing its doors, and we don’t know if it will be forever, the uncertainty and the pessimism that we are getting used to makes us wonder what is gained from closing down one of the few, very few spaces for editing and cultural production that our country possesses (…) To exhaust the few spaces that generate cultural objects at the same time that the Great Cultural Exposition for the Bicentennial is being planned, is not only a cruel irony, but stupidity with capital letter, that points to a nauseating monopolization of “culture” by the State.

In the post La cultura y Econoinvest [es] (Culture and Econoinvest) Petrusco points out:

No conozco a los directivos de Econoinvest. Es más, no conozco a nadie de los que trabajan allí. De ninguno de ellos puedo decir si es buena o mala persona, si es honesto o no (…) Pero sí conozco a mis amigos músicos, artistas y productores, particularmente de la Movida Acústica Urbana, quienes se han visto apoyados en forma firme y desinteresada por Econoinvest y por la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana

I don’t know the managers of Econoinvest [es]. What’s more, I don’t know anyone that works there. I can’t say whether any of them are good or bad people, or if they are honest or not (…) But I do know my friends that are musicians, artists and producers, particularly from the Movida Acústica Urbana [es], who have been supported in a strong and selfless way by Econoinvest and by the Foundation for Urban Culture [es]

Fedosy Santaella, in his blog Caja Virtual [es], presents the reasons for the ideological rage which he thinks is the engine behind the closing of the Foundation, and reflects on what the government’s ideological base is looking for and avoiding. This is his final thought:

…una cosa sí es cierta, la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, seguirá existiendo. Fundó en el espacio valores intangibles que por más zarpazos que les den, permanecerán como evidencias de lo verdaderamente bueno,y revolucionario incluso.

…one thing is true, the Foundation for Urban Culture, will continue to exist. It established intangible values that no matter how many blows they get, will remain as evidences of what was truly good, and even revolutionary.

Kira Kariakin in her blog Anotiaciones al Borde [es] writes:

La cultura venezolana repudia lo que se le hace a esta Fundación pero en general creo que repudia todo abuso, todo vilipendio producto del investíguese, exprópiese, encarcélese o un simple no me gusta del presidente. Su dedo que apunta a capricho comandado por alguna epifanía momentánea causa desgracia y temor, porque ha significado la ruina de empresas y familias, pérdida del sustento de mucha gente. Las razones siempre caen en lo mismo: eran unos capitalistas o unos burgueses, o era un jueza/funcionario desobediente, una finca de un oligarca, un canal de un oligarca, una radio de un oligarca, una casa de bolsa especuladora de un oligarca.

Quizás desaparezca la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, pero quedará la leyenda (…) Bajo esa aura de mito posible surgirán otras iniciativas. Dependerá de nosotros.

Venezuelan culture repudiates what is being done to the Foundation but in general I think it repudiates all abuse, all vilification that is a product of investigation, expropriations, incarcerations or a simple “I don’t like it” from president [Chávez]. His finger that points to a commanded whim from a momentary epiphany causes misfortune and fear, because it has caused the ruin of businesses and families, the loss of livelihood for many people. The reasons are always the same: they were capitalists or from the bourgeoisie, or it was a disobedient judge/official, an oligarch’s farm, an oligarch’s channel, an oligarch’s radio, or an oligarch’s speculative brokerage house. (…)

The Foundation for Urban Culture might disappear [es], but the legend will remain (…) Under its myth other initiatives will emerge. That depends on us.

In social networks, the initiative to support the Foundation has been intense. Many Facebook [es] and Twitter [es] users show this support through the Foundation’s profiles and discussions. A blog called Solidaridad Ciudadana con la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana [es] (Citizen Solidarity with the Foundation for Urban Culture) was created to collect signatures against the closing of the Foundation. In the blog, numerous national artists and writers have participated with their signature and with letters showing their support. In its main text, the blog points out that the closing of the Foundation is illegal, because it is independent from Econoinvest; this is what it says:

Convocamos a reflexionar detenidamente sobre el significado y las implicaciones de esta acción contra la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana, porque más que afectar a una institución, constituye un agravio a esa Venezuela pensante y democrática que ha hallado en la Fundación para la Cultura Urbana un espacio de encuentro, discusión crítica y expresión de las más diversas ideas.

We call for careful reflection on the meaning and implications of these actions against the Foundation for Urban Culture, because more than affecting an institution, it constitutes an affront to a thinking and democratic Venezuela that found in the Foundation for Urban Culture a gathering space for critical discussion and the expression of the most diverse ideas.
Post translated by Silvia Viñas. Thumbnail image by Flirck user NeoGaboX used under a Creative Commons license.

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