CREATIVELY MINDED

Colombia 2014 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mariana Garcés Córdoba, Minister of Culture, on films, concerts, and encouraging Colombian citizens to read more.

Mariana Garcés Córdoba
BIOGRAPHY
Mariana Garcés Córdoba was born in Cali. She studied law in the Universidad de los Andes, and specialized in Marketing and International Commerce at the Universidad Icesi in Cali. Previous responsibilities include jointly managing the creation of Telepacífico and management assistant of Colcultura. She has served as Secretary of Culture and Tourism for Cali, as Director of the International Art Festival in the same city, as Executive Director of the Association for the Promotion of the Arts (Proartes), and as Executive Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Cali.

What have been some of the latest advancements in the Colombian cultural sphere?

There have been many; for example, we have taken decisive steps toward the development of the cinema industry after the adoption of a new law. Before the adoption of this law, we had legislation that set the establishment of a mutual fund to boost Colombian productions, and that worked out very well. Thanks to that fund, the Colombian cinema industry produced 53 films. The establishment of that fund more than 10 years ago gave the industry valuable economic resources totaling Ps60 billion, providing the cinema industry with a much-needed boost. When we started promoting our productions worldwide, it occurred to us that we needed to implement a law on incentives for the cinema industry. The ideas behind this new law were to attract foreign productions to the diversity of Colombia, to strengthen our local cinema industry through strategic partnerships between it and foreign partners, and, finally, to promote our country through cinema. The law stipulates that if someone decides to come to Colombia to shoot a movie, or part of one, we will return 40% of the investment directly related to production expenses, plus 20% of the logistics expenses, such as flight tickets, accommodation, and so on. We have already started receiving interest from foreign productions to come to Colombia, and we have an initial fund budget of around Ps25 billion ($12.5 million). We expect to give the green light to at least five productions within this business model. Another relevant law that we have recently implemented is the so-called “Public Show Law." The performing arts had a massive tax burden that made it almost impossible to remain in the loop, and it was not really encouraging the arrival of major foreign stars, due to the 33% income tax they had to pay when visiting the country. We removed a lot of this burden by reducing it to 8%, and we have already managed to attract big names, such as Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Beyoncé, while reducing tax evasion within the sector and increasing formality levels.

What are the main strategic actions that the Ministry carries out at the international level to promote Colombian culture?

Although Colombia is a rather young player in the cultural sector, little by little, we are creating public policies and strategies to strengthen ourselves. We put a lot of effort on intangible heritage, as Colombia is a rich country in this regard. We aim to preserve and promote that. For example, nine of our cultural traditions and indigenous heritages have already been named in UNESCO's World Heritage list. This is a great way for the world to get to know our wonderful country better, and for us to preserve and promote our rich demographic and cultural diversity. We are the first government that is actively promoting traditional cuisine through public policies. Additionally, another of our main priorities is literature and reading. We believe that, through knowledge, we can reduce social gaps in Colombia. For example, in the next four years, we will build 100 new public libraries. Also, we want to motivate children aged around five-to-seven years old to take up reading as a hobby, because we believe this is the best age to should take up the habit of reading for pleasure. These are just two examples of the strategies implemented within the nationwide plan, called “Reading is My Story." Overall, we have over 1,400 public libraries, and we are boosting technology levels as well by providing internet access and computers to all public libraries in order to increase technology literacy among Colombians. Additionally, we have increased economic resources for these public libraries to have all the latest books from international authors, as well as subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. All in all, 32% of our budget goes to this particular project to increase reading habits among Colombian children, as we believe we can achieve great social goals through such an intensive program. We have also signed an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which granted us $3.2 million to become a pilot country to increase connectivity and technology literacy among workers in public libraries.