Culture in the time of the plague in Chile

The tenth edition of the festival organized by the Fundación Puerto de Ideas took place in Valparaíso, 110 km from Santiago, between 4 and 9 November, in the middle of the southern hemisphere spring. Since 2010, the meeting has been held under the direction of its president, the cultural manager Chantal Signorio, who was inspired by the great festivals of poetry, philosophy and art held in the land of her ancestors, Italy. In this way he created what has become a real point of reference for the cultural spaces of Chile due to the pandemic, the consequences of the social explosion of 2019 and the low importance attributed to culture by the right-wing government coalition by Sebastián Piñera, which reduced the Ministry of Culture’s annual budget to just 0.34% of GDP. In normal times the festival also takes place in presence in the port of Antofagasta , more than 1,300 km north of the Chilean capital, but the circumstances imposed by the disease that is affecting the planet have reduced it to the digital version only.


Puerto de Ideas is a space where the great themes of contemporary reality are addressed in a multidisciplinary way by leading personalities from the scientific, artistic, literary and academic communities, shared with an audience eager to listen and learn. Almudena Grandes, Julia Kristeva , Carlo Ginzburg , Salvatore Settis or the unforgettable Luis Sepúlveda , participated in the previous editions, together with national intellectuals and artists, attending conversations and discussions with young people, filling the halls and cultural centers where the debates. This year there were online sessions attended by, among others, Salman Rushdie, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Michael Rosbash , and the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz . The latter made a gloomy presentation, in which he stressed that “there will be no economic recovery until we get out of the pandemic”, adding that the second wave of infections will be worse than the first, which will make it more difficult to return. at the usual levels of growth. It was definitely a warning of what is happening in the Northern Hemisphere and that it could come to this part of the world once the summer season ends, in March 2021.


The Puerto de Ideas 2020 program also featured a musicalized narration of one of Luis Sepúlveda’s latest works, The Story of a Dog Who Taught a Child Loyalty . Staged by the company of the Teatro del Canto directed by María Izquierdo, this coming-of-age novel reflects on the conflict of indigenous peoples with Western culture that is affecting many countries in the Latin American region, including Chile.


Puerto de Ideas , with its music, art, philosophy, science, documentaries and lectures that bring together thousands of people, has helped make Valparaíso – a city in many ways abandoned – an attractive cultural center. It is one of the main ports of the Pacific coast of the American continent, has a beautiful architectural heritage together with the magic of its hills, elevators, graffiti, Pablo Neruda ‘s house-museum and a rich, bohemian nightlife through which they passed the national artistic and literary glories. In the history of the city, anecdotes of characters such as Charles Darwin or Neruda himself abound . Valparaíso experienced its golden age before the opening of thePanama Canal in 1914. Until that year, along with San Francisco, it was one of the main ports through which trade and immigrants passed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, once they passed the Strait of Magellan. English, French, Italians, Austrians, Germans, Chinese and Arabs populated the south of the continent, leaving an important Italian colony, especially Ligurian, anchored in Valparaíso.


Faced with the current uncertainty about the future of the planet, which is going through crises that we do not know how they will end or how they will affect us, such as pandemics and global warming, people and especially young people are looking for answers. Science has expressed itself clearly on this issue, but it is politics that governs, trapped in turn by multiple short-term interests and visions. It will have to respond to increasingly demanding citizens who seem to no longer want to wait, but to see concrete actions. Humanity has watched too long as poverty, hunger, wars, discrimination and the production of weapons of destruction continue to grow. Rethinking the world has become a task for everyone and especially for the new generations. It is no longer a question of the pursuit of a revolutionary utopia, but of the power of the citizen who wants governments to fulfill the tasks for which they were elected.


Meetings such as those organized by the Fundación Puerto de Ideas, in addition to emphasizing the importance and transcendence of culture, allow us to at least renew the hope that there are talented people who think and approach the great problems of today. This gives us the opportunity to listen and discuss the future that awaits us.


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