08 de mayo de 2007

It is a great honour for me to announce the beginning of the program series “Mexico at the Smithsonian”, a partnership between the Smithsonian Latino Centre and the Mexican Cultural Institute that will highlight the great contributions of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to the culture of the United States.

The Smithsonian Institution has been a great friend of Mexico for many years.  Mexican treasures have been studied in its many museums and research facilities for decades, and Mexican artists, filmmakers and performers have been showcased at the Smithsonian’s unparalleled venues.

Today I would like to thank the Smithsonian Latino Centre, its Executive director, Pilar O’Leary, as well as the Smithsonian National Latino Board for their selection of Mexico as the country to showcase on the occasion of their tenth anniversary. I would specially like to thank Mrs. Columba Bush for her personal and enthusiastic support of this program.

Last but not least I would like to thank Sergio Vela, President of Mexico’s National Council for the Arts and Humanities, for having joined us today and for his decisive support in bringing the best expressions of Mexican culture to Washington DC.

Much of Mexico’s international prestige and reputation has, in the past decades, been built primarily on a unique strength: it’s cultural and artistic vitality. In a rapidly changing world, culture will continue to be the best letter of introduction that our country has abroad. Mexican culture, with its extraordinary historical legacy and its no less vital present, must continue to be a necessary point of reference on the global cultural scene, but at the same time enhance our international image.

The Mexico of the last few years is discovering that a large part of its strength resides precisely in its diversity. Tolerance and plurality are replacing censure and uniformity. And it is for this reason that the consolidation of democracy is so important for Mexico’s cultural diplomacy. This cultural diplomacy should not only recognize criticism and diverse opinions, but also give them room for expression.  We as a nation must open ourselves to the world without fear, both to understand it and for it in turn to perceive and understand us for what we truly are.

Today, our culture must continue to play a key role in building bridges, and more so in the case of the complex and dynamic Mexico-U.S. relationship.  But Mexican cultural diplomacy must also break new ground. To do this, we must seek to establish new links between government and business, between artists and cultural institutions.  The State alone cannot –and should not- underwrite the cost of strengthening Mexico’s presence abroad. We want to trigger an effective partnership with the private sector so that the dissemination of Mexico’s culture benefits from the potential synergies between the Government and the market without subordinating either one of them.

Most of all we must strengthen the ties between Mexican and American cultural institutions.  The partnership we are announcing today, between The Smithsonian Latino Centre and the Mexican Cultural Institute demonstrates the powerful results and synergies that can be created when Mexican and American institutions work together.

It is time to take advantage of the Mexican cultural wave that has been crashing onto US cultural and arts scene. Innovative aesthetics and original voices; poetry and novels; from the installations of Gabriel Orozco and Betzabé Romero to the architecture of Enrique Norten; from soap operas to the popularity of Salma Hayek; from the expanding popularity of tequila to the newest Mexican restaurant of the day; from Gonzalez Iñarritu’s Amores Perros and Alfonso Cuaron’s Y tu mama tambien to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Laberynth. There is more to Mexico than lovely beaches and margaritas.

Every country has its unique advantages. Ours is the extraordinary vitality of Mexican culture, understood in its broadest sense. Culture and the arts, along with our rich historical heritage, are perhaps our greatest comparative advantage in this globalised world.  Our culture certainly allows Mexico to punch above its weight in the world.

And “Mexico at the Smithsonian” will certainly help to prove it.