Yucatán is a land of incalculable beauty, so much so, that sometimes it’s unfathomable. When you think of the Mayab, your heart recalls colors, smells, flavors, images, and sounds that are unlike any others, and that are impossible to imitate once they’ve taken hold in your memory. Yucatán is made rich by its ancient Maya culture, but also by its Mestizo heritage, and the wealth of traditions that have been brought by peaceful migrant groups and have diversified our existing customs.
Developing Yucatán as an artistic state presents an enormous challenge. A challenge that has consisted of migrating from the image of a profoundly traditional Yucatecan society, to become a Yucatán where so many forms of artistic expression coexist.
Cultural life in Yucatán can be experienced by simply walking through the public parks and squares, by marveling at the performances of a young, but consolidated, symphony orchestra, or by spending hours at the state’s numerous galleries and museums. This vibrant cultural experience is continuously enriched and strengthened, but let’s not ignore opportunities to make it more accessible.
Since 2000, the year in which Mérida first obtained the designation of “American Capital of Culture,” artistic life has skyrocketed in the Yucatecan capital. This growth has been continually maintained thanks to the efforts of devoted artists and cultural promoters, as well as municipal governments who have implemented programs that are now even regarded as being national models.
In 2015, Mérida was the first city in the country to sign a letter of Cultural Rights under the protection of UNESCO’s Agenda 21 for Culture. And in 2017, it was named the Capital Culture of the Americas on a second occasion.
In 2019, two institutions that are living proof of this cultural evolution had their 15th anniversaries: The Symphony Orchestra of Yucatán (OSY) and the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán (ESAY).
In an entity where so many different contemporary artistic expressions coexist with regional theater and renown folcloric institutions such as the Orquesta Típica Yukalpetén, it is paramount to recognize what artistic and cultural diversity brings to our state. Art in Yucatán doesn’t just have intangible value, it is also an important economic force that contributes to tourism and has monetary value around each of its activities. This aspect of worth often goes unrecognized.
In the communities of the state’s interior, interest to promote art and culture has grown resolutely for many years. It’s so important to guarantee access to cultural goods and services to all the residents of our state, but also, provide the opportunities to make their own creative wealth visible, and let the multitude of artistic expressions be seen. It’s essential to put mechanisms into place that will motivate creative industries throughout the state as a strategy for economic and social growth.
It’s impossible to talk about art and culture these days, without addressing the world health crisis we face and that has made us reconsider that which just a few months ago was the norm. We don’t know exactly how long it will take us to adapt to the “new normal,” which we are obliged to design between all members of society, or when we will be able to fill our theaters and cultural centers without fear. However, it’s important that we recognize, that while we’ve been riddled with uncertainty, the one thing we have been able to count on during confinement, is the possibility of taking refuge in books, in music, in dance, in the vast collections of the world’s museums that we must take advantage of and solace in…Art has united us, and has given us the sensibility to learn from others: art and artist’s generosity has given us the wings we needed to escape severe confinement.
If you ask me, the ability, not to appreciate art, but at least to react emotionally to it, is at the very heart of what defines us as human beings. And what often sets apart charismatic and capable world leaders, from those who are not quite that, is often found in their inherent sensibility and exposure to knowledge and art.
Governments’ obligation is to try and reach those who have not had access to cultural services through artistic education, social programs, and economic stimulus for creators. Parents’ of privileged social economic sectors have a duty to bring books and music into their homes, and to provide their children with the possibility to develop an artistic endeavor if they wish to do so, and if they do not, to at least make art a part of their daily lives. Businesses’ responsibility is to strengthen their social commitment to culture – as well as the environment – and when the economy allows for it, and normalcy resumes to some extent, patronage of cultural and artistic projects must become a priority for our society once again. Why? Because we can’t go forward without looking back at our history, nor can we have tourism without art and culture. There is no future without memory, nor glory without the appreciation of what’s ours, and what gives us substance.
The good news is, that while in Yucatán, if you want to experience art you only have to open your eyes, look around, and give it a chance.
Editorial by Erica Millet Corona
Secretariat of Culture and the Arts of the State of Yucatán (SEDECULTA)
Photography by various sources for its use in Yucatán Today
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