In thanking such a large presence of Ministers and Responsible for Cultural Policies of Latin America and the Caribbean, in Havana, to participate in our IV Meeting, and in assuring them that we will work in order that the conference has as fruitful results as the previous three, we highlight the enormous significance of the moment in which this meeting takes place.

The participation here of important delegations from 28 countries and 10 international organizations is of singular value if one takes into account that today, in other areas of the earth, it is not easy, and sometimes not even possible, to gather so many different wills to debate, democratically and civilly, the problems of spiritual life. That is possible in our America because at the base of the enriching diversity of our approaches there is a unity whose deepest foundations are affirmed in a common history and in a cultural ideal of universal value. For this reason, allow us the following reflection: We are at the end of the twentieth century and we are on the threshold of the third millennium of our era. Economic, political, social and cultural processes are increasingly acquiring an accelerated degree of interdependence at the international level. Our America can confront this very complex situation by growing the powerful seeds of unity that are in the substratum of its cultural heritage.

We have a history rich in heroism and political wisdom, and we can and must lead the way to our integration. We have a culture that allows us to do that. Since our origins, we have a strong sense of the national and a solid vocation for integration and universality. We are faithful to our traditions of defending the patriotic and, at the same time, to our sense of regional belonging with universal projections. A deep-rooted democratic sentiment is present in the ideal of our America.

We know that one of our challenges is to face the realities of the world we live on the assumption of our independence and cultural identity, and on the basis of what was enunciated, much more than a hundred years ago, by the Benemérito de las Américas, Benito Juárez, when he affirmed: "Respect for the rights of others is peace."

Caring for, protecting and developing these cardinal features of our great common homeland is, without a doubt, one of the great aspirations of Latin American and Caribbean culture. As a Cuban, I can tell you that all of us, who together with Fidel Castro undertook the generous efforts of these last decades of the country's history and the new generations that accompany us today, from children or adolescents, felt our geographical area as the great homeland that Bolívar dreamed of and that José Martí taught us.


In an event like this, special recognition is due to all the cultural and socio-cultural institutions of the most diverse nature that have been carrying out in our America a selfless, meritorious and – many times – silent work in favor of our culture. We appreciate its importance for efforts in favor of the cultural integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, because since the beginning in 1959 of the Revolution, and in times when our cultural ties with the countries of the area became more complex, the Casa de las Américas began to develop, and continues to do so. a broad and outstanding work with the generous and courageous support of the intellectual and artistic movement of Latin America and the Caribbean, which also says a lot about the importance of the intelligentsia in this continent.

Today, in the midst of innumerable difficulties, we observe with emotion that our Encuentro is celebrated when a unifying will extends from the Rio Grande to Patagonia. An event such as the Summit of Ibero-American Presidents and Heads of State, held only two months ago, illustrates this eloquently. The historic event of Guadalajara, and its well-known objectives, analyses and conclusions, constitute a clear support for our deliberations.

If the yearnings for continental integration postulated by our best contemporary statesmen have been materialized through cultural means, in Guadalajara these desires rose to the highest political plane. The leaders also discussed specific issues of culture and agreed to gather background in this field to promote new approaches.

At this point, President Fidel Castro highlighted, in his message to the Summit: "If we still have a long way to go to achieve economic integration, in which it is necessary to overcome innumerable objective drawbacks; If the road to political unity is even longer and the obstacles can be greater, can there be any doubt that an important step in the indispensable and inevitable unity of our peoples must be taken in the field of culture, ideas, spiritual identification?"

We intend to work so that meetings like this serve to achieve the unity and mutual knowledge that Ibero-American statesmen in Mexico proposed. The three meetings of Ministers and Cultural Policy Makers of Latin America and the Caribbean, which we have held, guarantee how much we can do in this regard. In this way we are contributing, with maturity and confidence, to what could be defined as a new American and Caribbean expression of cultural relations.

As this is our fourth meeting, after those held in Brasilia, Mar del Plata and Mexico City, we note with satisfaction that meetings of this nature are becoming a tradition. In fact, never before have we Ministers of Culture met, let alone on such concrete and comprehensive bases and programmes of action. Based on this tradition, and the results achieved in the brief but fruitful path traveled so far, it is useful to underline the significance of the three previous meetings and the projection that we propose to give to the one we begin today in Havana.

The most important thing about the previous meetings is that we have cleared core aspects of politics, of the programmatic ideas of our identity and of continental integration in the properly cultural. With different political systems, legislations, methods and courses of action we succeed, because the common culture that unites us has predominated. That is why we can say to our governments, with all responsibility, that in this field there is no antagonism that prevents integration or the achievement of our goals of unity.

We share a force that encourages and requires integration and shows ways for its realization. Unity does not mean uniformity, these are the most important conclusions I have drawn from the three Meetings already held.

Having understood the foregoing and, even after having adopted measures of a practical nature, in the realization of which we have worked responsibly, in this Havana Meeting we suggest that work be done on the foundation and implementation of the programs that lie ahead. Thus, it is essential to ensure that our intentions are organically linked to the economic and social objectives of our respective countries and to the processes of economic and political integration at the international level. Questions concerning culture are not exclusively related to the ideological or the aesthetic.

One of our core problems is to see how, without distorting its essential character, but, on the contrary, emphasizing it, we achieve the closest relationship between cultural promotion and development programmes and how we raise even more the place that cultural promotion should occupy in our society. In this sense, it is vital to find means that allow spiritual production to increase its weight, its creative role and its consideration and dignity on a social scale. As long as cultural productions are seen only for hedonistic or elitist purposes or, what is even worse, reduced to crudely utilitarian objectives, their place and their strength will be relegated and their contribution to society will be ostensibly diminished.

It was in the distant times of Simón Rodríguez, the teacher of El Libertador, when he began to insist that the American utopia was based on our education and our culture. This is the great contribution that Latin Americans and Caribbeans must make to the modern world. But, to achieve this, it is necessary to link ourselves in a practical way to the most important purposes of our economies, which can only be achieved if we affirm the core issue of any national culture: its identity.

We underline here one of the purposes contemplated in the Declaration of Guadalajara, when it urges us to "promote a common market of knowledge as a space for knowledge, arts and culture". For this reason, we consider it important to discuss, analyze and evaluate the implementation of the Plan of Action of the Ministers of Culture agreed in Mexico and, in particular, to move forward, in the shortest possible time, towards the creation of a Latin American and Caribbean Fund for Culture and the Arts; to ensure the definitive impetus required by the Common Book Market, the draft of which has already been drawn up; as well as extending the adhesion by all our governments to the Common Market for Cinema.

Also, work in favor of the exchange of experiences in international cultural events; to solve the problem of the defence of cultural heritage, on which proposals and analyses will be presented in the course of this meeting; achieve the support demanded by the projects of the Data Bank, the Audiovisual Development, the Inventory of Cultural Property and the ideas that are advanced on a Regional Program for the Defense and Promotion of Music. In addition to these, there may be a diversity of initiatives for the different branches of art and culture, on which we could dialogue and find specific ways to promote exchange.

Later, we must also reflect on how we insert, more deeply and consistently, culture in the processes that have to do with the development of tourism, which will only be achieved if we guarantee culture its autonomy of operation and its peculiarity.

All of the above leads us to highlight the importance we attach to the collaboration that the LAIA has been giving us, based on its Partial Scope Agreement for the Free Circulation of Cultural Goods, as well as the advice of several specialists in the economy of our continent, with the purpose of helping us find solutions and broaden our perspective in a notion of culture that corresponds. Increasingly, with its growing role within society.

Special mention deserves the close collaboration of work with UNESCO, whose Director General, Mr. Federico Mayor, has expressed to us in conversations held to the effect great sympathy and support for these meetings, as well as the possibility that they serve to connect with the work of this international institution. The Ministers of Culture need this support and the consequent interdisciplinary vision. Together we will achieve what would be impossible if we faced it only with our own resources and potentialities. In short, it is a question of opening or consolidating new accesses for cultural work. For the time being, we have specific proposals and projects, to whose discussion it is right to devote our meeting.

Perhaps an in-depth analysis can also lead us to consider that the cultural sector is one of those with the greatest possibilities to work in the search for formulas for international economic cooperation, in correspondence with the derivations of the recent meeting of Ibero-American leaders. For culture it is imperative to find such formulas because, in addition to its value in what has to do with the development of ideas, ethical and aesthetic formation, as well as the strengthening of our spiritual ties, it has an economic weight that influences, in a decisive way, what has been called the quality of life.

The economic weight of culture is often not measurable with arithmetic precision, which does not mean that it necessarily moves only in the field of the conceptual. Hence, it is essential to find, in its nexus with the economic and the social, the mechanisms that allow us to promote cultural manifestations to prove their extracultural effectiveness. That is, its ability to raise aspects such as the quality of life and, therefore, its narrow impact on the social economy. In the case of Cuba, an analysis of the most important economic and social objectives has led us to determine that if we do not fully insert it into its dynamics and growth, we will not achieve the essential cultural enrichment to which our country aspires.

Of course, it is very clear to us, and we believe that for all Latin American and Caribbean leaders who honor us with their presence, the principle that our responsibilities as Ministers of Culture are not of an economic nature, but are fundamentally related to the defense of the identity of our nations, and with the indispensable articulation with the country's education system, which is one of the essential roots of culture. The problem is that, by influencing the subjective field on a social scale, it ends up having an impact on the economy.

It happens that we will not find a way to defend and protect that identity if we do not find its practical relationship with the social and economic processes taking place in our respective countries. Disconnected from the economy and the social process, our identity would be at the mercy of those who aspire to destroy it in order to impose their hegemonic models hostile to our idiosyncrasies.

We know that culture is not administered or governed, but is promoted and developed. We know very well that its essential objective, its highest aspiration, is to strengthen the moral fibers of our societies. We clearly appreciate that the peoples we represent here are the protagonists of our most genuine cultural expressions. These values have been created through a long history of struggle in which we have had to face obstacles that some have found insurmountable. But beyond these difficulties, and however dramatic and difficult to overcome those of today, has been the will to guarantee the independence of each of our countries and the integration of all of them into a great common homeland, which of course would not erase but would strengthen the best of our national specificities. And this desire to integrate has cultural content and character, and has repercussions in the most diverse spheres of our lives.

We hope that in Havana firm steps are taken so that the great utopia of our founding fathers, as far as culture is concerned, has a real weight in society, opens the way and reaches its expression in facts. We have begun to act. We propose to speed up this process and move to more dynamic, coordinated and effective action. On that path are the desires of Cuba, for which the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean is not only viable, but essential, in the face of the contingencies of today's world and the need to show ourselves as a single people, strong and dignified.

I thank you, on behalf of the Cuban Government and people, for your generous presence in our homeland at a crucial moment in the history of Cuba, America and the world. And I conclude by underlining what seems to me to be everyone's sense: a united and true to itself America is the only realistic response to the challenges of our time. A time when Patria is much more than a single country.

Thanks a lot.

Speech delivered by Dr. Armando Hart Dávalos, on September 19, 1991, to inaugurate the IV Meeting of Ministers and Responsible for Cultural Policies of Latin America and the Caribbean, held at the Palace of Conventions.