Culture in Mexico

Milenio online,
17 December 2010, Mexico

You can hear people throwing up their hands in horror. Some even cross their selves as a reaction to the results of the National Survey of Cultural Habits, Practices and Consumption 2010, an overview of the country’s culture commissioned by the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Some might say that this survey just reaffirms what many “already knew”, but what is real is that people have started talking because of its results.

The survey was carried out between July 24th and August 5th. The youngest people interviewed were 13 years old and the “face to face” methodology was used. 32 thousand questionnaires were prepared, and included questions about film, theatre, dance, music, museums, archaeological areas, literature, plastic and visual arts, among others. Some of the results show that:

* 67% of the respondents have never been to a play. 8% have been to just one play during the last year. Of those that have been to a play during their lives and that have done so during the last twelve months, 47% prefer comedy.

* In the case of literature, the scenario is worse. 43% have never visited a library; 57% have never been to a bookstore and among them 22% do not do so because they do not like to read –isn’t this obvious?–; 79% have not bought a book during the last twelve months, and during this same time span only 27% have read a book, and 13% read it in its entirety. 24% of the respondents do not have books in their houses and 38% own between one and ten books.

* Pertaining to my colleagues: 38% never read a newspaper; 23% do it once or twice a week; 49% never read a magazine and 27% read a magazine from time to time; among those who read newspapers, only 2% read news on culture, while the favourite news are national, municipal, sports, and entertainment.

* Plastic arts: 86% have never been to a plastic arts exhibition and 1% do not know if they have done so. The same numbers apply for visual arts. 87% have not been to a cultural centre and 43% have never been to a museum.

The survey also deals with subjects like visits to archaeological sites, historical buildings and there are some questions that ask about the creative habits of the respondents (if they have written a literary text, played an instrument or been part of a dance company – guitar and folkloric ballet are mostly preferred). The report can be read at Conaculta’s page ( and if you are a writer, actor, cultural promoter or member of an institution working or interested in culture you must have a handkerchief ready.

Here is what is coming next: on the one hand, Conaculta has announced that this document is a starting point to plan future cultural policies while at the same time the President announces budget cuts for culture, nationally and regionally. We are living in a time of war and it is best to invest in bullets and guns rather than in books and people’s cultural education.

These are just numbers and some people might refute them. In any case, they constitute evidence that can bring you to tears.