Culture in the world of MERCOSUR | INA Global

Culture in the world of MERCOSUR

Article  by  Juliette DUMONT  •  Published 04.11.2010  •  Updated 10.11.2010
Is MERCOSUR developing a coherent cultural policy in terms of cultural and creative industries?

Summary

What regional cultural identity for MERCOSUR?

When considering the question of cultural relations in Latin America, we are often faced with accounts of failure. The subject of widespread ignorance of Latin American countries regarding their neighbours seems to have become a leitmotiv since the end of the 19th century. The need to modify, both within education systems as well as on the level of cultural production, the images and mutual impressions that influence inter-American relations has been the cause of agreements and declarations on multiple occasions. Today, a new necessity must be added to this – that of transcending a national point of view in order to adopt a regional logic within the context of MERCOSUR. This leads us to ask whether a coherent policy exists within MERCOSUR concerning culture and cultural industries. And if so, is this policy envisaged solely on an economics front, or also on that of cultural identity? In other terms, between an old-fashioned view of culture, one that can only be considered in terms of heritage, and a mercantile view that turns cultural assets into simple merchandise like any other, have MERCOSUR’s institutions managed to create a satisfactory new channel towards change? MERCOSUR’s institutional framework and current accomplishments in the cultural field must be considered alongside the cultural industries – the audiovisual ones, in particular. Indeed, thanks to their economic and social significance and their ability to reach a large public, these industries appear to be destined to become serious factors in the integration process.
 
It seems necessary to make a certain number of preliminary comments. One must be aware of the fact that it has been difficult for the institutional stakeholders of MERCOSUR to agree on a definition for the terms “culture” and “cultural industries”. The main cause of these controversies comes from the fact that entering into negotiations on cultural products brings up some complex questionings about the links between economy, culture and social identity. It is equally important to keep in mind that the goods and services produced by the cultural industries are of secondary importance within the trading that forms the heart of an entity that is, above all else, a common market.
 
In this same way, as is remarked upon by Guillermo Mastrini and Martín Becerra [+] NoteGuillermo MASTRINI, Martín BECERRA, “Globalización, mercado e industrias culturales: ¿Resistencia o simulacro ?”, in Actas del XII Encuentro Latinoamericano de Facultades de Comunicación Social FELAFACS Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Bogotá, September 2006, p.3.X[1], it is nearly impossible to keep quiet about the limited and unequal access that Latin American citizens have to information, communication and cultural goods and services. The overwhelming concentration of cultural production [+] NoteFor example, the group Globo in Brazil carries just as much weight, if not more, than all its other rivals put together. In Argentina, 85% of what is produced and broadcast in the National Media is controlled by four large companies.X [2] as well as the fact that is it extremely centralised [+] NoteMost cultural industries are located within the main urban centres. This means that over 70% of cinema-goers are found within the Argentinian capital and its surrounding areas. This is equally true of Asunción and Montevideo.X [3] explains for the most part this state of affairs, and obviously works against the attempt to create wider access to these goods and services, creating a huge obstacle to the integration process that is indispensable to MERCOSUR’s target aims.

In short, the lack of reliable – or even available – statistics in most Latin-American countries on investments and consumption in the main areas of production and commercialisation of cultural goods hinders the development of cultural policies that take regional aspects into consideration in an efficient way. There are not even many studies in existence that consider the relationship between investments in cultural production and the response towards them. According to Nestor Garcia Canclini, this state of affairs is linked to the lack of public information in the domain. The author recognises in this both the cause and consequence of the fact that cultural exchange receives little time for consideration in the schedules of the Ministers of Culture and Education [+] NoteNestor García Canclini, “Políticas culturales: de las identidades nacionales al espacio latinoamericano”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.), Las industrias culturales en la integración latinoamericana, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1999, p.39.X [4].
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The cultural aspect of MERCOSUR

While a cultural aspect appeared on the scene in July 1991 during Reunión Preparatoria sobre la Dimensión Cultural y Educativa del Mercosur, it was only in 1992 [+] NoteThis was during the Common Market Group Meeting that took place in Brazil from the 30th September to the 2nd October.X [5] that the Reunión Especializada en Cultura was created in order to concentrate on “promoting the dissemination of culture within member States, promoting the understanding of their respective values and traditions, as much by means of combined initiatives as by those of regional cultural endeavours”. The first Reunión [+] NoteThe first Reunión Especializada en Cultura took place in Buenos Aires on the 14th and 15th of March in 1995.X [6] resulted in the appointment of seven Technical Committees. It was then promoted within MERCOSUR’s institutional structure during the second Reunión, which took place in August of the same year [+] NoteThe second Reunión Especializada en Cultura took place in Asunción, on the 2nd August 1995.X [7], transforming it into the Reunión de Ministros de Cultura. It is for this reason that the meetings coincide with those of the Consejo del Mercado Común.
 
The first Reunión de Ministros de Cultura in February 1996, during which the proposal for a meeting between the culture commission legislators of all four countries was approved, instigated the creation of the Parlamento Cultural del MERCOSUR (PARCUM). The aim of this was to award the cultural aspect of MERCOSUR an institutional structure and legislative support. Parliament was working on making the current cultural legislations compatible in each of the member countries with the view of reaching a standardising accord that would encourage and facilitate the exchange and circulation of goods and people. The Parliament therefore found itself responsible for the mission of protecting and raising awareness of the cultural heritage of each country; defending and managing intellectual property rights; and promoting and consolidating the cultural industries.

In 1996, MERCOSUR’s Council also adopted the “MERCOSUR Protocol of Cultural Integration”. Waldo Ansaldi denounced the text’s statements as “vague and unoriginal” [+] NoteWaldo ANSALDI, “La seducción de la cultura. Mucho más que un Mercado”, in Encrucijadas UBA, Año I, n°4, Buenos Aires, February 2001, p.4.X[8], even if he does add that it was a legal instrument that constituted a first step towards a common desire concerning the approach to culture. Gabriel Omar Álvarez was less critical and estimated that this protocol would “guarantee MERCOSUR an in-depth integration process that transcends business aspects and avoids the homogenisation of identities…” [+] NoteGabriel OMAR ÁLVAREZ, “Integración regional e industrias culturales en el MERCOSUR: situación actual y perspectives”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.), Las industrias culturales en la integración latinoamericana, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1999, p.153.X [9]. For the first time, the cultural arena was explicitly incorporated into the integration process, even becoming a fundamental element. In this document, the idea of respect for cultural diversity is introduced, as is the acknowledgement of the new phenomena and realities born out of cultural exchanges [+] NoteIn article 2 of the Protocol, it is stipulated that importance is placed on “(…) cultural actions that respect/express historical traditions, common values and the diversity of member countries”.X [10].

It is not necessary here to draw up an exhaustive list of initiatives dedicated to culture that have been taken thanks to MERCOSUR’s different institutions, but rather, to draw up a brief assessment of this, despite the fact that MERCOSUR’s cultural activities are given little visibility. The cultural institutions are practically invisible amongst the options offered on MERCOSUR’s website, and even on the MERCOSUR Culture website, which is hosted by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and has almost no real content to speak of, with most sections having been under construction since 2008. With both the efficiency and visibility of the cultural aspects of MERCOSUR needing to be improved, these regular specialised meetings progressively award an institutional time and place for culture within the integration process. Indeed, certain decisions that have been made have contributed to affirming, on a symbolic level, the cultural aspect of the integration efforts – such as the adoption, in 1996, of the logo “cultural MERCOSUR” [+] NoteThe decision about this logo included the Customs Treaty ensuring the free circulation of goods and services related to cultural projects within the MERCOSUR countries.X[11] and, in 1997, of “Día del Patrimonio Cultural” (on the 17th September). Some other similar initiatives that aim to contribute to integration via culture have been promoted by Waldo Ansaldi, such as the establishment of a Musical Documentation Centre of the MERCOSUR, based in Montevideo; the development of national cultural information networks that are connected to the Cultural Information System for Latin America and the Caribbean (SICLAC); internships carried out by cultural technicians and administrators within the institutions of member countries; the introduction of an Annual Prize for creators, directors, writers, and artists; the implementation of both academic and general seminars, publications and meetings promoting better mutual understanding, etc.                                                                                                                

Ultimately, the Reunión Especializada de Asunción made two decisions that it seems important to mention: firstly, the broadcast of cultural programmes by the mass media and the joint publication of a collection of MERCOSUR authors; secondly, that Guarani was promoted to become considered one of the historical languages of the MERCOSUR. This latter measure taken resulted in a list of heritage sites being drawn up, the encouragement of academic research and to the language being studied more widely.                                                                                                                                  

The Cultural MERCOSUR tends also to include a certain legal aspect, as shown clearly by the Anti-Piracy Conference that took place in Buenos Aires in November 2009 and that aimed to develop common strategies and solutions to the cross-border piracy problems. Initially, it seems that the MERCOSUR’s political project was not considering integration as a process of cultural homogenisation. The main challenge comes from being able to implement policies that are not limited to a view of culture as purely heritage (i.e. culture reduced to the pure administration of artistic and historical heritage) but rather that envisage a flexible cooperation of MERCOSUR’s cultural industries, recognising the role played by both private and civil participants. As Nestor García Canclini said, “the questions that will come up over the next few years about what will become of the different Latin American cultures need to be counteracted with archaeological sites and museums, historical centres and artistic masterpieces, and certainly with books and videos and with the possibility to maintain and develop the musical and cinematographic industries that represent us today” [+] NoteNestor García Canclini, “Sobre estudios insuficientes y debates abiertos”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.), work cited, p.16.X[12]
– in other words, to put a serious policy for the cultural industries into action in order to compete with foreign rivals, especially from North America.
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Cultural industries, of potentially major importance to the integration process

The cultural industries of each member country not only have a social and economic importance [+] NoteFor a detailed analysis of the influence of the cultural industries in each member country, as well as an outline of the exchange of their products and services within MERCOSUR, consult ÁLVAREZ Gabriel O. (ed.), Industrias culturais no MERCOSUL, Brasilia, Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais, 2003, p.576 and GETINO Octavio, a href=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. _fcksavedurl=http://http://estatico.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/produccion/industrias/observatorio/documentos/ind_cult_en_el_mercosur.pdf. target= "_blank">“Las industrias culturales del MERCOSUR”, 2001, published by l’Observatorio de Industrias Culturales de la Ciudad de Buenos AiresX [13] but they also contribute, through the works of their national writers and other creative citizens, to the expression of a large part of each community’s social consciousness as they have made cultural exchanges with other populations possible. This is why Octavio Getino, and other authors along with him, insist that he has become an essential part of reinforcing the regional and national processes of economic, political, social and cultural integration. He remarks, however, that both the countries themselves and the main players from within the cultural domain (entrepreneurs, workers, and creative artists) don’t seem to be entirely aware of their own strategic importance [+] NoteOctavio GETINO, article cited, p.3.X [14].

This is even more surprising given that the incorporation of these cultural industries into MERCOSUR would certainly award them a significantly larger market that would cover production costs and give them a favourable entrance into third-party markets, increase their investments, create new jobs and finally increase the trade of cultural goods and services. However, this supposes that these industries adapt to the heterogeneity of the different industry groups in the MERCOSUR zone. Those which are involved with the cultural aspect of the integration process are called upon to aid with the implementation a virtuous circle through their simple presence. Nestor García Canclini adds that, in this context, it is necessary to find a happy medium between state intervention and culture being reduced to mere merchandise.

What, exactly, is MERCOSUR’s position regarding cultural industries? They are not given much attention in the first legislative documents. For example, in the Colonia Protocol of 1994 for the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments within Mercosur, the cultural industries only appear in an annex of Article 2 that specifies the exemptions asked for by each country: Brazil excludes radio companies from the agreement; Paraguay and Uruguay the radio, television, publishing and telecommunication sectors. Only Argentina, whose government had adopted a more open policy concerning foreign investments, did not ask for any exemptions [+] NoteSee Carmina CRUSAFON, “La política audiovisual del MERCOSUR y la influencia del modelo europeo”, in Cuadernos de información, n°25, 2009-II (July-Dec.), p.4.X [15]. These highlight the obstacles to regional integration and reveal the importance of the audiovisual sector in national sovereignty. This is why regional integration regarding the audiovisual was limited to cinema [+] NoteDue to this, the Comisión de Industrias Culturales del MERCOSUR decided in 1998 to “encourage the productive sectors to implement a series of meetings between the music, cinema and publishing industries”.X [16]. MERCOSUR’s Culture Ministers met in Buenos Aires in June 2000 to approve a research project on the social and economic impacts of cultural industries in the region in order to improve policies and legislation in this domain and to implement systematic information systems in the sector. Later, in December 2003, an inter-governmental decision allowed the Grupo Mercado Común to create the Reunión Especializada de Autoridades Cinematográficas y Audiovisuales (RECAM), whose main objective is to “analyse, develop and introduce mechanisms for aiding the complementary nature and integration of these industries on a national level, to increase the free circulation of cinematographic goods and services and the harmonisation of legislation” [+] NoteQuoted by Carmina CRUSAFON, art. cited, p.4.X[17]. We are witnessing, little by little, the extension of the integration process to sectors other than the cinema – even if this remains at the heart of MERCOSUR’s audiovisual policies. By late 2005, outside of the four member States, the organisation and integration project of MERCOSUR’s cinematographic industries were made up of Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela in the form of partner States, which makes it the largest project in existence on the   continent for the development of regional cinema and the audiovisual.
The influence of the European model cannot go unnoticed. Indeed, since its beginnings, RECAM has made cooperation with the European Union one of its primary focuses. Carmina Crusafon sees two possible explanations for this: firstly, the need for a reference on which to model MERCOSUR’s audiovisual policy, and secondly, for financial sources.
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The efficiency of the cultural industries within MERCOSUR

Are the cultural industries productive within the “imagined communities” of MERCOSUR, to use Benedict Anderson’s phrase? As Nestor García Canclini states, “today, in order to take on the question of identity, one must first understand the policies concerning the communication industries” [+] NoteNestor García Canclini, “Políticas culturales: de las identidades nacionales al espacio latinoamericano”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.), Las industrias culturales en la integración latinoamericana, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1999, p.39.X [18]. Yet, according to Hernan Galperin, it is rather the economic intentions that dominated, whilst essential issues such as industrial concentration and the growing inequality of access to cultural goods and services, audiovisual in particular, have been neglected. In other words, MERCOSUR has not yet contributed to the functioning of democratic and culturally diverse public spheres on a regional scale. This is not specific to MERCOSUR: the ALENA and the European Union have not done much better, according to them [+] NoteGALPERING Hernán, “Las industrias culturales en los acuerdos de integración regional: el caso del NAFTA, la UE y el MERCOSUR”, Brasília, UNESCO, 1998, p.58-59X [19]. The MERCOSUR, like other zones undergoing integration processes, still needs to overcome the challenges brought about by the internationalisation of cultural products: it is necessary to develop policies that promote and regularise the commercialisation of culture beyond national borders; it is necessary to have fixed agreements regarding prices and intellectual property, foreign investments, and consumer rights.
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Bibliography

Hugo ACHUGAR, "A política cultural no acordo MERCOSUL", in Estudos avançados, São Paulo, vol. 8, n°20, Jan.-Apr. 1994, pp. 215-229

Hugo ACHUGAR, CAETANO Gerardo, Mundo, región, aldea : identidades, políticas culturales e integración regional, Montevideo, Ediciones Trilce, 1994.

Luiz Alfonso ALBORNOZ(coord.), Al fin solos…La nueva televisión del MERCOSUR, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Ciccus-La Crujía, 2000.

Gabriel O. ÁLVAREZ(dir.), Industrias culturais no MERCOSUL, Brasilia, Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais, 2003.
 
Waldo ANSALDI , "La seducción de la cultura. Mucho más que un mercado, in Encrucijadas UBA, Año I, n°4, Buenos Aires, Feb. 2001, pp. 64-77.
 
Roger Luis da Cunha BUNDT, "Cultura e comércio do audiovisual no MERCOSUL", in Conhecimento Interativo, São José dos Pinhais, v. 4, n. 1, Jan./June 2008, pp.81-89.
 
Néstor García CANCLINI, Carlos MONETA (coord.), Las industrias culturales en la integración latinoamericana, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1999.
 
Carmina CRUSAFON, "La política audiovisual del MERCOSUR y la influencia del modelo europeo", in Cuadernos de información, n°25, 2009-II (July-Dec.), pp.93-104.
 
Ticio ESCOBAR, "Las paradojas del sur : la cuestión de la cultura en la integración", in Gregorio RECONDO (org.), Mercosur : una historia común para la integración, Consejo argentino para las Relaciones internationales, 2000.
 
FUNAG, Mercosul e a integração Sul-americana : Mais do que a economia. Encontro de culturas, Brasilia, FUNAG, 1997.
 
Hernán GALPERING, "Las industrias culturales en los acuerdos de integración regional : el caso del NAFTA, la UE y el MERCOSUR", Brasília, UNESCO, 1998.
 
GETINO Octavio, "Las industrias culturales del MERCOSUR", in Octavio GETINO, "Negociación e integración en el sector cinematográfico y audiovisual en los países del MERCOSUR. Antecedentes y experiencias”, in MONETA Juan Carlos (ed.), El jardín de los senderos que se encuentran. Políticas públicas y diversidad cultural en el MERCOSUR, Montevideo, Oficina de Representación de la UNESCO, 2006.
 
Margarida M. Krohling KUNSCH (org.), Indústrias culturais e os desafios da integração latino-americana, São Paulo, INTERCOM, 1993.
 
Guillermo MASTRINI, Martín BECERRA, "Globalización, mercado e industrias culturales : ¿Resistencia o simulacro ?", in Actas del XII Encuentro Latinoamericano de Facultades de Comunicación Social FELAFACS Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Bogotá, September 2006
 
 Gregorio RECONDO , "Identidad cultural en la integración", in Archivos del presente, Buenos Aires, Ed. Fundación Foro del Sur, 2001-04/05/06, año 6, n°24, pp.77-90.
 
Gregorio RECONDO(org.), Mercosur. La dimensión cultural de la integración, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Ciccus, S. XXI, 1997.
 
Gregorio RECONDO, Identidad, integración y creación cultural en América Latina : el desafío del Mercosur, Paris, UNESCO, Buenos Aires, Ed. de Belgrano, 1997.
 
Mariana VAZQUEZ , Facundo SOLANAS, MERCOSUR : estado, economia, comunicación y cultura : estrategias politicas, economicas y audiovisuales del Mercosur en el contexto de globalización, Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1998.
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  • 1. Guillermo MASTRINI, Martín BECERRA, “Globalización, mercado e industrias culturales: ¿Resistencia o simulacro ?”, in
  • 2. For example, the group Globo in Brazil carries just as much weight, if not more, than all its other rivals put together. In Argentina, 85% of what is produced and broadcast in the National Media is controlled by four large companies.
  • 3. Most cultural industries are located within the main urban centres. This means that over 70% of cinema-goers are found within the Argentinian capital and its surrounding areas. This is equally true of Asunción and Montevideo.
  • 4. Nestor García Canclini, “Políticas culturales: de las identidades nacionales al espacio latinoamericano”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.),
  • 5. This was during the Common Market Group Meeting that took place in Brazil from the 30th September to the 2nd October.
  • 6. The first Reunión Especializada en Cultura took place in Buenos Aires on the 14th and 15th of March in 1995.
  • 7. The second Reunión Especializada en Cultura took place in Asunción, on the 2nd August 1995.
  • 8. Waldo ANSALDI, “La seducción de la cultura. Mucho más que un Mercado”, in Encrucijadas UBA, Año I, n°4, Buenos Aires, February 2001, p.4.
  • 9. Gabriel OMAR ÁLVAREZ, “Integración regional e industrias culturales en el MERCOSUR: situación actual y perspectives”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.),
  • 10. In article 2 of the Protocol, it is stipulated that importance is placed on “(…) cultural actions that respect/express historical traditions, common values and the diversity of member countries”.
  • 11. The decision about this logo included the Customs Treaty ensuring the free circulation of goods and services related to cultural projects within the MERCOSUR countries.
  • 12. Nestor García Canclini, “Sobre estudios insuficientes y debates abiertos”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.), work cited, p.16.
  • 13. For a detailed analysis of the influence of the cultural industries in each member country, as well as an outline of the exchange of their products and services within MERCOSUR, consult ÁLVAREZ Gabriel O. (ed.),
  • 14. Octavio GETINO, article cited, p.3.
  • 15. See Carmina CRUSAFON, “La política audiovisual del MERCOSUR y la influencia del modelo europeo”, in
  • 16. Due to this, the Comisión de Industrias Culturales del MERCOSUR decided in 1998 to “encourage the productive sectors to implement a series of meetings between the music, cinema and publishing industries”.
  • 17. Quoted by Carmina CRUSAFON, art. cited, p.4.
  • 18. Nestor García Canclini, “Políticas culturales: de las identidades nacionales al espacio latinoamericano”, in CANCLINI Néstor García, MONETA Carlos (coord.),
  • 19. GALPERING Hernán, “Las industrias culturales en los acuerdos de integración regional: el caso del NAFTA, la UE y el MERCOSUR”, Brasília, UNESCO, 1998, p.58-59
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