HISTORY MATTERS

Colombia 2015 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mariana Garcés Córdoba, Ministry of Culture, on investing in culture and history, reclaiming historical sights, and the role of other ministries in cultural development.

Mariana Garcés Córdoba
BIOGRAPHY
Mariana Garcés Córdoba was born in Cali. She studied law in the Universidad de los Andes and has a specialization in International Business and Trade in the Universidad Icesi in Cali. During Amparo de Carvajal’s administration she worked as an assistant for Colcultura’s directorate. Previous responsibilities include management of Telepacifico and Secretary of Culture and Tourism for Cali. In this last city she was also Director of the International Art Festival and Executive Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra.

Under the current government, the budget of the Ministry of Culture (MOC) has risen by 92%. What do you think underlies this notable rise?

The total growth of 92% over the past four years was due to several factors. The first is that the president is convinced of the importance of cultural issues, and that we worked on consolidating municipalities that have been victims of violence. Today, we have a social offering by the state in which culture plays an prominent role. This, in a country that wants to achieve peace, is indeed, relevant. The other reason is that I believe we are good executors. The budget that is given to us is executed based on goals and on the period that we were committed to.

Between 2010 and 2014, 39 cultural heritage sites have been recovered. What is the MOC's strategy here?

We consider the infrastructure as a whole. From the total number of new additions to the cultural infrastructure, 39 are heritage sites and over 290 are renovated buildings. This means that as an infrastructure project, regardless of whether it is a public space, the recovery of a house of culture, a theatre, or the construction of a new library, a dance studio or a music school, has a huge impact on its surroundings. The truth is that it is not only the bricks themselves, but also the content support we provide to these properties. The ultimate use of these properties is also of paramount importance. Hence, it is a project to be considered not merely from an engineering and architectural perspective, but rather as work that bears enormous cultural value in the community.

The MOC is focusing on restoring and constructing cultural spaces, such as the Colón Theatre and the National Museum. What makes these projects significant?

The property receiving the bulk of the ministry's is the Colón Theatre in Bogotá. In regards to the National Museum, we have been working in two directions. One amounts to new museology, as after nearly 25 years we are rethinking the way in which our heritage museum tells the story of Colombia. We want the story to be more conclusive, we want it to have our original collection, because it is important in the museum, but we also intend for Colombia's history to be told from diverse perspectives where the indigenous and Afro-Colombians are also seen holding a stake in building this country. This is an important issue, and we will open the first room with the new outline toward the end of November 2014. At the same time, we have advanced a number of steps on the legal side to look at the possibilities of expanding the national museum, adjacent to the museum a university and a school. With the support of the Minister of Finance and the President, we have been looking at the possibility of expanding in the near future through the law of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the expansion of the National Museum of Colombia.

In what other ways has the MOC helped the tourism sector develop over the past four years?

Negotiating agreements with the regions has been important, and our strategic partners include mayors and governors. We believe that having a policy that shows the institutional offer from the Ministry, to both mayors and governors, gives them better access to the resources in a more balanced way. Also when there are proposals from the region, department or municipality that coincide with the ministry's proposals cooperation blossoms. There is a firm commitment to encouraging reading and writing, and the strengthening of public libraries nationwide, as well as to liaising with other ministries such as the Ministry of Education, or even the Ministry of Agriculture, regarding cultural projects in rural areas.