Portal de la Cultura de América Latina y el Caribe
Integrating youth through cultural industries in Asunción
9 June 2015/ IFCD

Cultura y Participación para el Cambio Social (CyP), a social sciences research center, launched its Desde el Barrio project in Asunción, Paraguay with financing from UNESCO's International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in 2014. The project was conceived to promote the participation of youth in cultural industries and give the members of underserved neighborhoods access to the arts, revitalizing the life of the communities in which they performed.

An edited version of a conversation with Romilio González, director of projects at CyP, and Juan Gabriel Castillo, a young participant in Desde el Barrio, follows.

Romilio, could you tell us a little bit about your project?

Romilio: Sure. It all started with a mapping exercise. First, we selected five neighborhoods located in the periphery of Asunción: Lambaré, San Jorge, San Jerónimo, Bañado Sur and Banco San Miguel–Bañado Norte. Then, we mapped these areas out to find out which existing cultural groups were already acting in these areas and to also identify which artistic profiles these groups were engaged in strengthening.

And what particular findings were you able to collect from this mapping exercise?

R: We learned that depending on the neighborhood, young people had different creative interests and unique artistic potentials. For example, in Banco San Miguel-Bañado Norte and San Jerónimo, it was theater. In Lambaré and San Jorge, the majority of young people were interested in music. Banãdo Sur, in turn, was all about communication. In that sense, this mapping exercise was absolutely key in the success of our project, because it allowed us to be more assertive and efficient.

So how did these groups benefit from your project?

R: During six months, we held 40 training workshops with all five organizations, to develop the capacities of 100 male and female young people. Once again, we were very assertive and the content of these workshops varied according to the results of the mapping study. So, some organizations learned about music and percussion, some strengthened their theater and choreography skills, while others focused their efforts on photography and video recording.

We understand that five cultural products came out of these workshops. Did any of these products generate revenue?

R: We use the term “cultural products” with different meanings. It can be a music concert for the organizations associated with music. It can be a stage play for those involved with theater. Or it can be a documentary film for the one organization involved with communication and audiovisual productions. And yes, they did generate income. For example, since joining our project, Banda Koygua (one of the five cultural organizations created through the project), has been hired as a band to perform at the Mercado 4, a large public market of the San Jorge neighborhood.

Gabriel, you have been involved with Yvy Ta'ãnga (one of the five cultural organizations created through the project), tell us about your experience. Have you learned anything new with the project and how is this going to make a difference in your future?

G: We do Community Theater. Through theater, we found a way to present our reality. We are not interested in doing plays such as "Little Red Riding Hood", because that doesn't reflect the reality of our people. I have learned many things with this project, including how to be more professional. Now, thanks to theater, I am studying music, instruments and chorus at the Conservatory and communication for development at the Facultad Nacional del Pilar.

Romilio, as Gabriel just mentioned, he learned how to be more professional with this project. Can you tell us how that happened?

R: Yes, most definitely. When we started working with these organizations, for example, they didn’t even have a visual identity to attach to their work. So we taught them the necessary skills to come up with their logos, which – professionally speaking - became their brand. And as five distinctive brands, it was imperative that they also learned about the importance of intellectual property. So we taught each of the five organizations how to register their brands before the Office of the National Direction for Intellectual Property (DINAPI) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MIC). This is one example of how these organizations learned to work on a more professional level in the creative industries.

Romilio, what do you think must be done so that culture can be seen more and more as a factor for development?

R: I think that public institutions and the private sector should invest more in the arts and in culture on a community-level because culture contributes to sustainable development. We insist on training as a principal base for long-term sustainability for this project. If public and private institutions provide youth access to training or education, this benefits cultural products in communities, allowing them to value culture and see it as an alternative for the future.

And was your project able to achieve significant results in that sense?

R: Yes. As far as public institutions go, we have signed an agreement with the National University of Asunción. The intent is to further reinforce the capacities of young people, so that they can have opportunities to enter more easily into universities. As for the private sector, we have been able to establish partnerships with cultural centers. As a result, there’s now a network of cultural centers that have made their space available for the activities for these groups, such as the Cultural Center of the Banco Central del Paraguay, and the Centro Juan de Salazar.

What has been UNESCO's role in the success of this project?

UNESCO has been fundamental in many ways. The first is the opportunity that UNESCO gave us to kick start our project. UNESCO allowed us to think of linking those cultural and social initiatives with culture and the sustainability and development of the groups. UNESCO in that sense is a main driver. We now have a more concrete guiding policy of promoting participation of youth from urban areas in cultural and productive matters. The IFCD allowed us to accelerate our proposals and install capacities in these cultural groups in less than a year.

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