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More in this section The Workshop - Coroico 2012

Conclusions and Proposals


The following text recaptures the document that was drafted by the entire workshop during the plenary session, and the “we” in these sections refers to this collective. However, these conclusions do not represent a single line of thinking, but instead attempt to capture the different perspectives present; sometimes these even reflect contradictory visions. At his request, this document was sent to the Minister of Cultures, Pablo Groux, via email, the night before the Round Table at MUSEF.

Changing established ideas

Group DiscussionThe process of heritagization needs to be defined in terms of how, why, and with whom. It is crucial that this process moves forward through consultations, so proposals and specific claims emerge from civil society groups, rather than being imposed on them from the top down. Media also plays a key role in the dissemination of cultural policies. The idea of culture as entertainment still persists, rather than the idea of culture as an integral part of life. The vision of a welfare state that gives aid in the name of the people is still very much alive. Thus, it is important that plans and projects also emerge from different regions [1] and from civil society.

Some participants voiced the idea that Bolivians should not consider the state as an entity that exists in opposition to the regions or departments, but instead that all these entities should be seen in relation to each other. In this sense, plans and efforts should not be limited to a regional level, but go beyond their official jurisdiction to become national plans. For the indigenous case, these plans should not only be binding at a regional level, but should also be adopted at national levels. Such efforts should not be limited by municipality, department, or nation, but rather should seek to correspond geographically with the territories that define indigenous peoples.  

It is also necessary to bring people’s attention to many aspects related to the themes of the workshop: the norms (not everyone knows about them); the criteria applied by organizations like WIPO (very few people know why this organization exists or how it operates at an international level; yet through this organization regulations get imposed universally over all nation-states without any differentiation). We need to learn what legislative alternatives might exist for the country, ones that go beyond mere capitalist interests.

We need to rethink the moral recognition of cultural products’ origins. But we also need to rethink remuneration, as related to the differences that exist between what comes from urban and rural contexts (for example, SOBODAYCOM’s structures do not recognize rural artists or cultures). It was observed that, by not recognizing these differences, even the Ministry of Cultures could fall into discriminatory practices in the course of state forms of control and the collection and dissemination of cultural resources.

Group discussion: Jorge Oporto, Janela Vargas, Celestino Campos, Iván Nogales and Francisco Balboa  - 

Photo credit: Phoebe Smolin

[1] Bolivia is characterized by markedly contrasted regions (ecology, economy, ethnicity) and associated identities. The sharpest division, which has strong political repercussions, is between the more heavily populated Andean highlands and the larger, but less densely populated, tropical lowlands. Historically the lowlands were highly dependent on the highlands, but since the discovery of rich gas deposits and the growth of a booming agribusiness in the lowlands, where the disparity between rich and poor is particularly marked, there have been calls from the lowland regions (the so-called media luna ‘half-moon’) to become an independent state. In addition, since the mid-1990s (as part of a second round of neo-liberal laws) Bolivia has been characterized by increased decentralization. Accordingly, the 2009 constitution dedicates considerable space to the issue of regional autonomies.   

Cultural expressions and their protection

Regarding the promotion and dissemination of cultural expressions, participants also observed that there are no concrete actions, related to authors or to the nation’s diverse cultural realities that allow Bolivians to become better informed about the country’s cultures.

Participants differentiated between two kinds of protection that are in force, even though in practice they are somewhat contradictory or confusing. One, linked to the National Intellectual Property Service ( SENAPI), tends to recognize the individual and the commercial dimension, and is backed by intellectual property law. The other, associated with the Ministry of Cultures, is related to the idea of registering and cataloguing heritage, and seeks ways of recognizing and respecting cultures.

Francisco, Henry, IvanIn Bolivia, conflicts have been generated when different groups claim as their own a broadly collective expression that is also recognized beyond the given community or region that makes the claim. In these cases, who enjoys the privileges attendant to that claim? Registration of cultural heritage has brought conflicts with it, and regulations could lead to injustice and omissions. Participants observed that there are still many problems internal to the power relations in which these processes are embedded. Mechanisms should be established to resolve these conflicts and the Ministry of Cultures should be in charge of internally working on reconciling these disputes, drawing on alternatives that emerge from civil society.   For example, protocols may be proposed at the margins of existing judicial frameworks.

Research and history are crucial, not only to be faithful to the data and to avoid denying the existence of “ancient” expressions that should be respected and from which we still have so much to learn, but also not to restrict innovations. In this sense, cultural dissemination is important. Without it, culture is lost. Moreover, researchers cannot simply work independently, but rather different peoples need to be consulted about research conducted on their cultures.

Yet, this work is not only about conserving and registering cultural elements, but also about promoting on-going dynamic practices. Participants pointed out the need for all research to start by identifying cultural expressions by zones, areas, municipalities, and/or territories, to put in place specific protective strategies. In other words, this is about establishing concrete spaces of action. Moreover, every act of documentation could serve as evidence to avoid confusions, although it would be difficult and inappropriate to standardize cultural expressions through norms expected to work in the same way for all cases.

It is also important to understand that some things are not conceived of as eternal, as in the Western conception of art, but rather are seen as fleeting and/or temporary.  Moreover, registration documentation should be able to account for any element that is part of a cultural context (ritual, symbolic, and historical dimensions, etc.). Every registration system should operate at this level of detail and complexity.

Today’s legislative proposals related to art and culture do not reflect coordinated and well-connected work among the appropriate and like-minded institutions. Information remains scattered among them.

Francisco Balboa, Henry Stobart, Celestino Campos and Iván Nogales - Photo credit: Phoebe Smolin

Commodification of culture

Participants noted that there is a tendency to consider indigenous cultural elements as commodities, when in fact they are an integral part of complex rituals, practices, and worldviews. However, many people cast a romantic gaze on these elements, when they propose that they should be set apart from a market economy. If we are already immersed in this economic system, every programme that hopes to establish and strengthen policies of cultural defence should be considered as operating within this dimension.

Afiche Conversatorio - Detail 5Many of the actions and radical positions governments adopt are reined in by international regulations that ultimately contradict local realities. UNESCO provides a key example of this problem, because it can only operate through the nation-state, leaving aside the issues of indigenous nations whose territories often intersect with the borders of multiple nation-states.

Culture should be used as a means to strategically transform society, as a means to develop. Even if we live in a very different historical moment characterized by defiant questioning of everything that is colonial and patriarchal, there are still institutions like WIPO and UNESCO that dictate what must or must not be done with cultures. To these concerns we add the fear that other institutions such as the Ministry of Cultures, the  National Intellectual Property Service ( SENAPI), and the Bolivian music royalty collection society, (SOBODAYCOM) will continue to respond to an old state model, a logic that we are supposedly trying to overcome. The fear, therefore, is of a reappearance of the bad taste left by the old style paternalistic welfare state.    These different entities are necessary for a country, provided they are repurposed and redefined towards another kind of institutional framework.

Now, if we are to have a Law of Cultures and Heritage, everyone must participate in its formulation. In this sense, it is evident that Bolivia has already played a very important role in amending UNESCO policies with regards to intangible heritage. Additionally, in the pursuit of social wellbeing, the government has taken a radical stance by opposing international treaties related to the intellectual property of generic medicines and seeds. However, the government still has not taken a similarly radical position regarding other fields related to cultures.

Detail from poster for the project's final public roundtable even - "Do Cultures Have Owners?" - designed by Anuar Elias



The participants propose that:

  1. In all media, a greater proportion of time and space should be dedicated to the dissemination of the country’s cultural expressions.
  2. Departmental Cultural Plans should be formulated, starting from consultations with indigenous peoples, and these processes must not be disconnected from the central government.
  3. A Summit of Cultures should be promoted and held in order to revise and re-conceptualize fundamental ideas about heritage, property, related institutions and their powers, and not to just patch up the old institutional framework. Such a summit should work to deepen social and cultural foundations.
  4. The regulations for royalty collection societies and those of the Law 1322 ( Bolivian Copyright Law, 1992 ) should be revised.
  5. The procedures for registration in the National Intellectual Property Service (SENAPI) should be revised.
  6. Given that cultural heritage must be sustained through research, from now on, every cultural heritage process should be backed by research. Similarly, those cultural expressions that have already been declared as heritage should retroactively and without exception be supported by proper research.

Ramón Caizari Coca, Jorge Oporto and Francisco Balboa - Photo credit: Phoebe Smolin

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Rethinking Creativity, Recognition and Indigenous Heritage by https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/boliviamusicip/home.aspx is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/boliviamusicip/home.aspx


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