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Santo Domingo Wants to Export Its Rich and Active Cultural Life Throughout the Americas

By Dialogo
March 23, 2010

Santo Domingo will take advantage of its position as cultural capital of the Americas in 2010 to export to the entire continent its rich and active cultural life, a great attraction that “sometimes people have to come from outside to get us to see,” the minister of culture, José Rafael Lantigua, affirmed. The city has designed an intensive cultural program to promote its integration with the other countries in the region throughout the year, the minister indicated in an interview with EFE. “We want to increase the self-esteem of the Dominican cultural sectors, because we have the largest program of cultural activities in all of Central America and the Caribbean,” he emphasized with pride. Constant performances, not only organized by the official sector but also by independent institutions like Theater House and the Guloya Theater, which carry out “impressive cultural work,” according to the minister, are “a mechanism for achieving the international promotion” of the country’s culture “on a broader canvas.” The distinction was awarded on the sole basis of criteria such as heritage value, cultural activity, and what the city could offer, without the city having paid “one cent” to obtain it, the minister clarified in response to reports along these lines. “Let’s not forget that we are the first city in the Americas, that we are the location for many firsts (such as the first university and the first cathedral in the hemisphere), and that our colonial city is a world heritage site,” he explained with regard to the Dominican capital’s significance. It will be precisely the colonial city of Santo Domingo that will benefit from a good part of the government’s investments in order to refurbish its buildings and monuments as a result of the designation as cultural capital. This area includes the majority of the great heritage buildings, such as the Alcázar, the Museum of the Royal Houses, the Tostado House, the Ozama Fortress, the cathedral, and others where work will be done. In addition, there are plans to open a music museum and to reopen the Arsenal Museum and the Cathedral Museum, “a location of great historic value” that has been a public jail, the meeting place of the Senate, and a theater where the works of one of the fathers of the Dominican nation, Juan Pablo Duarte, were performed to promote the cause of independence, the minister explained. A second nucleus of institutions that will benefit from refurbishment will be the complex surrounding the Plaza of Culture, where such structures will be remodeled as the Museum of Dominican Man, the Modern Art Museum, and the National Library, “which will have a million volumes,” as well as the National Theater and the Historiography Museum. The slate of cultural programming began in January and had to be postponed due to the earthquake in Haiti, which redirected much of the government’s agenda toward helping the neighboring country, but since the beginning of March the schedule has returned to normal. The minister mentioned some of the most important performances, such as those by the National Ballet of Spain and the Basel Drum Corps and by orchestras such as the Youth Orchestra of the Americas and the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he highlighted Dominican elements in the program, such as a project for the artistic treatment of around twenty city buses, or the painting of around a hundred murals in the city. He indicated that the city’s term as cultural capital will include, in addition to the Culture Ministry’s projects (between fifteen and twenty a month), around thirty civil-society initiatives in the areas of theater, the visual arts, dance, performance art, and exhibits of photographs or works on paper, among other disciplines. The activities will not draw on large investments. “It’s something that we are required to do with modest resources,” Lantigua indicated, noting that for the civil-society projects there is a budget of 25 million pesos (around 685,000 dollars). The ministry’s cultural events will be financed from a fund of 50 million pesos (1.3 million dollars) and from the ministry’s general budget of around 1.2 billion pesos (32.8 million dollars), of which only 17% is dedicated to cultural activities.