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Celebrations that resound throughout the hemisphere.

The Inter-American Year of Culture, which officially came to a close in April 2012, was a year in which we celebrated our immense cultural wealth and our tremendous creative and intellectual potential, Festivals, parades, galas, contests, exhibitions, symposiums, conferences, and roundtable discussions were some of the many initiatives that gave witness to the importance of culture in the economic, social, and human development of communities in the Americas,

After the OAS General Assembly declared 2011 the Inter-American Year of Culture, the year was launched officially in a special joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CEPCIDI) in Washington DC on March 23, 2011.

The Secretariat for Integral Development invited member states to participate in the Year of Culture celebration and to register their national cultural projects and activities on line. A total of 110 initiatives from 20 countries and regions signed up: Argentina, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay. These initiatives brought together thousands of people from different backgrounds and highlighted the contribution of culture in the creation of resources and employment and in the promotion of citizen participation, diversity, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among societies.

This article highlights four successful cultural activities that were part of the Inter-American Year of Culture celebrations.

On June 2-5, 2011, the Argentine Cultural Industries Market (MICA) in Buenos Aires drew more than 34,000 people. Producers and artists from all over the country came to meet with the world's largest cultural enterprises and sought out business opportunities through roundtables, conferences, and seminars. The success of the event was evident in the specific business deals reached as a result of the contacts made there. In publishing, for example, Barcelona's largest bookstore chain, La Central, signed an agreement to publish samples of Argentine cultural magazines between the months of December 2011 and March 2012. In design, 20 Argentine designers were invited to present an exhibit in Colombia during 2012. And in the area of music, more than 50 local record licenses were sold to other countries. Numerous other agreements were also signed between national producers/artists and companies. Plans are already being made to turn this successful first MICA into a biennial event.

The Grand Cultural Gala of Panama--which took place August 4 in the Ciudad de Saber (City of Knowledge) Foundation in Panama City under the slogan: "Panama: Our Cultures, Our Future"--was equally successful. The event was part of the Central American Year of Culture established on November 5, 2010 by the Council of Ministers and General Directors of Culture of the Central American Education and Cultural Coordination of the Central American Integration System (CECC/SICA) in support of the Inter-American Year of Culture. Approximately 100 artists from all over the country gave presentations at this event. Inspired by the history and cultural diversity of Panama, the Gala included indigenous dances like los congos and los diablos espejos, multicultural music concerts, and a parade of folkloric costumes including lavishly decorated Panamanian polleras. The Gala also included a pictorial exhibit of Panamanian brushstrokes and a poetry recital. Supported by the OAS National Office in Panama, the event was projected to all of Latin America and called for synergies and cooperation at the regional and local levels in a joint effort to recognize the central role of culture in the development of the people of the Americas.

One great Caribbean example of the year's celebrations was the Bahamas National Arts Festival, also known as the "E. Clemente Bethel National Arts Festival." Now in its 35th year, the festival includes a national art competition in which the entire population is invited to participate, regardless of age, gender, origin, or preferred type of art. The festival is a clear indicator that cultural cohesion is alive and well in the archipelago. Awards included: scholarships to study art in the College of the Bahamas; opportunities for artists to present their work internationally; and opportunities to act as ambassadors for the Bahamas through cultural exchanges.

Finally, in North America, the energizing Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture was held in the city of Toronto, Canada on September 15-25, 2011. "Manifesto" was an event aimed at uniting, supporting, and celebrating the vibrant and diverse community of Toronto musicians and artists. Eleven days of activities in various parts of the city brought together hundreds of artists and musicians and thousands of attendees in art exhibits, workshops, "dance battles," free open-air concerts, a graffiti competition, film showings, networking, an art market, seminars, and many other activities. Begun in 2007, Manifesto is already known as the largest Hip Hop Festival in Canada. The 2011 event was so successful that festival leaders are already beginning preparations for next year.

In addition to the activities carried out in each country by the member states, the OAS was also involved in other projects, such as the launching of the Cultural Heritage of the Americas Award. The OAS Secretary General will present this award each year to recognize the most outstanding cultural expression of the country that hosted the General Assembly during the previous year. The first award (2011) went to Peruvian cuisine.

The OAS Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) in Washington DC also highlighted the Year of Culture in its 2011 program of activities. Exhibits related to the Inter-American Year of Culture included the works of artists from Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Haiti, among other countries; and social inclusion projects aimed at youth. Additionally, the Scholarships Office of the Department of Human Development, Education, and Culture, of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI/OAS) made a special invitation to states to publicize study scholarships available in art and music. In 2011, 20 students from different member countries won academic scholarships in cultural areas.

For its part, the OAS Office of Education and Culture, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), published: Culture: Common Denominator for Development, 18 Successful Practices, featuring cultural practices in eighteen countries that are carried out in various public, private, and civic arenas. The publication is available in Spanish and English in both print and digital versions. A digital version is also available in French. The objective of this publication is to contribute to a bank of successful practices and a constantly updated tool that will provide feedback on the synergies between culture and other sectors for the benefit of member states. The Office of Education and Culture is also promoting a best practices exchange through a Culture and Development portal on the Internet, in partnership with the Technological University of Bolivar (Colombia).

Finally, in the framework of the Inter-American Year of Culture, the Fifth Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and Highest Authorities of Culture met November 9-10, 2011 in the central offices of the OAS in Washington DC. They approved a communique called "Culture: Common Denominator for Integral Development," in which they reiterated the intrinsic value of culture and its contribution as a cross-cutting element for development and called on member states to strengthen cultural policies, increase resources aimed at culture, and promote the incorporation of culture in all areas of public policy, especially in opportunities offered to youth. ----------Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.
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Title Annotation:Inter-American Year of Culture: "Our Cultures, Our Future"
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2012
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