Mexican consulate stresses culture

Andres Webster Henestrosa (HNZ ’97), the Cultural Attaché and Consul of Mexico in Los Angeles, visited Carnegie Mellon to talk about his model, which is based on how much a culture contributes to the local GDP, and his plan to support the community and enhance diplomacy through culture and education.

During the speech, Henestrosa asked his audience why people should care about culture. Most audience members talked about how culture promotes a good quality of life. Also, students remarked on the preservation of endangered cultures, the interpersonal connections that culture creates, and how culture factors into education and the economy.

But cultural policy is not just about preservation and artistic education. What Henestrosa offered is a new approach that emphasizes the potential of culture to boost economic and social development, and the potential of culture in diplomacy.

Henestrosa led the discussion and asked the audience to think about culture’s relationship to development.

He introduced his belief that culture is an anchor for development. He clarified how culture could boost economy with examples of Spanish culture and French cultural tourism.
According to Henestrosa, in the year of 2007 alone, 82 million tourists went to France, 48 percent of them for a cultural visit.

Henestrosa graduated from Heinz College with a master of arts management in and a master of science in public policy and management in 1997 before going back to Mexico. In Mexico, he worked as an analyst in the Economic and Social Studies Department of Banamex, one of the most important financial groups in Mexico, which is now held by Citigroup. Shortly after that, Henestrosa was named the Deputy Secretary of Culture of the State of Oaxaca, becoming Secretary of Culture later in 2007. Henestrosa introduced his Oaxacan Model to the audience, which was based on these extensive experiences with Mexican culture.

In terms of linguistic diversity, Mexico ranks eighth as a country with its 62 indigenous languages. Among those many languages, Oaxaca alone enjoys 15 indigenous languages. Moreover, Oaxaca is a place with abundant cultural resources.

Henestrosa said Oaxaca has 3580 registered archaeological sites, 672 cataloged cultured properties, 263 artistic landmarks, and about 300,000 active artists and artisans.
With so many cultural resources to manage, Oaxaca seems to be a favorable place to develop an effective cultural policy.

Henestrosa’s model starts from a diagnostic step and works out a way for people to participate. Henestrosa said his model began with an awareness of the need for “a public policy model to manage the cultural diversity and heritage.” The next step, Henestrosa said, involved “strategic planning and participation.” All these steps would lead to a sustainable development that features economic, environmental and social development. Under this model, Oaxaca performed well in making culture work for its local GDP, receiving 6.5 percent of the GDP and 7.8 percent of employment from the cultural sector.

But to use the Oaxaca model in a greater scope, the word “strategic” should be well defined. Henestrosa said “strategic” was supported by three pillars: protection of the cultural heritage, protection and dissemination of the cultural diversity, and arts and cultural education, a three-part system that would eventually lead to a culturally sustainable development.

To put this model into work, cultural legislation is needed. Henestrosa said that the cultural development would go through the Council of Citizen Participation for the Cultural Development of the State, and that it would get funded from local projects.

Henestrosa said the Oaxaca Model was characterized with a clear definition of strategy that would be helpful in the phase of implementation and a legal form.

Henestrosa also talked about cultural diplomacy that, according to him, was connected to soft power and service to the community. Henestrosa said the strategies he is currently pursuing with the Consulate General of Mexico in L.A. was to support community and enhance diplomacy through culture and education, strategies that involved center for creative industries, business centers, a center for the preservation of Mexico visual arts, and the center for Spanish and Mexican studies.

“The culture of Mexico is everywhere,” Henestrosa said. According to him, the population of people originating from Mexico constitutes 10.3 percent of the entire population of the US. He also stated that in California, the population of people originating from Mexico constitutes 30.7 percent of the population of the state, and in Los Angeles, that number is 35.8 percent. Despite such a large population, children of Mexican origins lose their Spanish because the schools they attend only spoke English. Henestrosa said schools should “offer Hispanic classes” and offer free SAT classes to Mexican communities to encourage Mexican students to go to college and to add cultural diversity where it is lacking.