By Cristina Vázquez

Some 38.5 million people of Mexican origin reside in the United States, according to demographic figures compiled by the Government of Mexico through the National Population Council, dating from 2018. Given these figures that reflect the influence and economical, political and social power of these inhabitants it is vital to address the cooperation and cultural diplomacy that Mexico practices in the US.

From the governmental sphere there is a network of more than 32 consulates with an area of culture, a task that is divided among the entire consular office, since a six-year term ago the figure of cultural attaché ceased to exist. The Mexican cultural institutes located in New York, Washington, San Antonio, New Orleans and Miami are part of this network, which work to promote and disseminate the richness and diversity of art, history, gastronomy and traditions of the country, in addition to generating collaborative actions with US agencies, institutions, projects and organizations for the development and understanding of both communities.

A fundamental role in this cultural endeavor is performed by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which in the last edition of the QS World University Rankings placed 103rd, since it has six study centers in the United States. It was in 1944, before the end of World War II, that UNAM opened its first center in San Antonio, Texas. In these spaces, also located in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Tucson and Boston, it offers not only the teaching of the Spanish language, but also academic exchange programs. It has exhibition and multipurpose rooms for talks and seminars on Mexican culture, academic but also for local artistic action. However, it lacks a specific budget for production with Mexican and American artists in the US and not even among the schools in the US does it generate artistic exchange projects.

To these two governmental examples is added a third public institution which is the University of Guadalajara, one of the most renowned in Mexico and recognized in Latin America for being the generator of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the second most important in the world and the largest in the Ibero-American universe. UDG has a study center in Los Angeles under the name University of Guadalajara Foundation US. It promotes a program of Cultural Cooperation for Development, as well as the legacy of Pyrrha Gladys Grodman, an American artist, who left a trust to the UDG to promote Mexican art in the United States, specifically through Jalisco artists, grants scholarships and works with other cultural agents in California.

Another important activity that the UDG has carried out on US soil in recent years is the LéaLA Literary Festival, which since 2011 began with the FIL Guadalajara to serve Spanish-speaking audiences. The connection that exists in the US with Latin American literature is

very deep, from the Boom to the present day. Lacking local networks, the festival did not survive and in 2015 it suspended its edition, resuming it in 2019 with a less ambitious format and with greater proximity to the community. The lesson learned is the necessity to know in depth both the public and the already existing offer, otherwise the initiative does not have the support of their own beneficiaries.

Throughout the US territory we can find houses that represent the Mexican states, some even paid for by their governments. Among them those of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Zacatecas stand out. In Illinois, where I reside, 36% of immigrants are of Mexican origin, and these state residences serve as interlocutors for immigrants between Mexican public institutions and some American public and private organizations. As is the case for Cultural Affairs and Special Events Chicago. They also create networks with the Mexican Consulate, UNAM or with associations from other Latin American countries: the Cervantes Institute, La Casa Central de Puerto Rico and the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, among others. The latter was created at the initiative of the director of the Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, a non-governmental organization that emerged in 1982, being the only Latino museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Unfortunately it is not a space for artistic meeting or reflection to generate productions, although it seeks to be a cultural center. In addition, its offer lacks balanced programming.

Some Mexican organizations maintain strong ties with the great artistic and cultural creators of Illinois, an important example is the Chicago Symphony Center and its program to promote the culture of various Latin American countries through orchestral music while interacting with the community, especially the Mexican community. The problem, once again, is that the guest artists do not address the inclusion and diversity of Latinxs.

In the artistic field, what should be prioritized are exchange residencies between American and Mexican creators, especially through universities. This would allow both communities a greater learning between the two cultures, a permanent flow between institutions, in addition to managing greater resources from foundations in the United States. Despite being neighbors, the difference in the artistic and cultural production field is enormous, it is worth sitting down to analyze it in depth and look for new routes of links and permanent actions.

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The performing arts in the face of adversity

Cristina Vázquez

Cristina Vázquez, director of Contenidos Artísticos Production and Diffusion, is a cultural manager, programmer and producer. One of her main purposes is to promote the circulation of the Performing Arts.

Mexican, from the city of León, she graduated from the Communication Sciences career and continued her training as a cultural manager with studies from the National Council for Culture and the Arts and in 17, the Institute of Critical Studies, where she obtained the Cultural Management Certificate from the Critical Entrepreneurship.

Cristina Vázquez has the strong conviction that going to meet new viewers, both in Mexico and in the United States and other countries, contributes to fighting stereotypes, opening new communication channels and forming communities.

Her quest is to create lasting relationships between audiences, artists and institutions. The expansion of audiences, she thinks, generates knowledge and understanding among the inhabitants of this global village.

In 2012 she founded Contenidos Artísticos, a firm dedicated to the programming, production and dissemination of artistic and cultural projects, based in Mexico, which is complemented, since 2015, with Contenidos Artísticos INC, based in Chicago, Illinois.

With the multidisciplinary collaboration of important allies, Cristina Vázquez advised the Municipality of Zacatecas in the elaboration of its Cultural Development Plan and coordinated the National Book Fair (Fenal) from 2006 to 2009. Since 2016, she has been collaborating permanently with the Cultural Institute of León in various programming and production projects.

She was a programmer at the Teatro del Bicentenario in León, has worked with the Teatro Juárez in Guanajuato and developed and operated the urban meeting “Todo sobre Ruelas” in Zacatecas.

In addition, in 2012 and 2013 she produced and programmed the José Alfredo Jiménez International Festival, which pays tribute to the great Mexican icon and singer-songwriter, in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato.

Since 2013 she works for the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature (INBAL). She has produced and coordinated important projects with the Mexican National Ballet Company having as headquarters the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Juárez Theater, during the Cervantino Festival, as well as with the National Opera Company and the National Theater Coordination. In 2019, she began a collaboration with the National Center for the Arts (CENART) by producing the International Black and White Piano Festival.

In 2018, she made alliances with agencies in the United States for the circulation of the performing arts in Mexico. This is how she presented Fuse, a group based in Italy, with its multimedia performance Dökk and the Colombian company Sankofa Danzafro with its acclaimed show La ciudad de los otros.

Through Contenidos Artísticos INC, the production agency, for the past five years she has focused on bicultural work between Mexico and the United States. Her work has been to find spaces for Mexican artists to present themselves on the other side of the border, while contributing to the construction of an image of Mexican culture and art that transcends the folkloric.

In 2017 she introduced the Mexican poet Rojo Córdoba, who worked with Spoken Word groups, in Chicago. And the following year she promoted three Mexican bands: Troker, electronic jazz; Doble Redoble, contemporary cumbia, and Sonido Gallo Negro, a psychedelic cumbia group for which she organized a tour in the United States. This in conjunction with various Latino festivals and organizations in Chicago, such as the Mole de Mayo Festival. Thanks to these alliances, she has produced tours for artists from Chicago and other cities in the United States in Mexico.

During November 2018, she invited Mexican programmers to see, both in Chicago and New York, the work of Manual Cinema, a multidisciplinary company that combines cinematographic techniques with shadow theater, sound and music to create immersive experiences.

She co-produces the Tania Pérez-Salas Company since 2018. During 2019 she worked on the organization of their tour through Mexico, the United States and Canada, which would take place in the following year.

As of January 20, 2020, Vázquez is the first Mexican woman to be part of the Board of Directors of the Association of Professionals for the Performing Arts (APAP), which emerged in 1957 in the United States and is a world leader in this cultural field. One of their main tasks is to participate and promote REDI (Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion) policies.

The great pragmatism and permanent professionalism of Cristina Vázquez has allowed her to contribute to the artistic and cultural development of Mexico and its international projection.

Versión en español

Cristina Vázquez, directora de Contenidos Artísticos Producción y Difusión, es gestora cultural, programadora y productora. Uno de sus propósitos principales es fomentar la interculturalidad a través de la circulación de las artes.

Concibe la interculturalidad como el encuentro, la interacción y reconstrucción de las distintas culturas locales. En palabras del experto argentino Carlos Moneta, permite comparar formas de vida y establecer comunicaciones portadoras de imágenes, valores y contenidos que afectan las identidades más allá de la nacionalidad.

En 2012 fundó Contenidos Artísticos, firma dedicada a la programación, producción y difusión de proyectos artísticos y culturales, con sede en México, que se complementa, desde 2015, con Contenidos Artísticos INC, con sede en Chicago, Illinois.

A través de Contenidos Artísticos INC, la agencia productora, se ha enfocado desde hace un lustro en el trabajo bicultural entre México y Estados Unidos. Su labor ha sido la de buscar espacios para que los artistas mexicanos se presenten del otro lado de la frontera, aportando a la vez la construcción de una imagen de la cultura y el arte mexicano que trasciende lo folclórico.
Esa apertura de espacios permite visualizar, en ambos países, que las artes escénicas son una herramienta indispensable para construir un intercambio artístico de calidad permanente y atender a la diversidad de públicos.

Originaria de León, Guanajuato, Vázquez es egresada de la carrera de Ciencias de la Comunicación y
continuó su formación como gestora cultural con 17, Instituto de Estudios Críticos.

El gran pragmatismo y la permanente profesionalización de Cristina Vázquez le han permitido coadyuvar
al desarrollo artístico y cultural de México y su proyección a nivel internacional.

A partir del 20 de enero de 2020, Vázquez es la primera mujer mexicana en formar parte del Consejo Directivo de la Asociación de Profesionales de las Artes Escénicas (APAP por sus siglas en inglés), surgida en 1957 en Estados Unidos y líder a nivel mundial en este ámbito cultural.

Recientemente organizó la gira de la Compañía Tania Pérez-Salas por México, Estados Unidos y Canadá, pero debido a la pandemia derivada del coronavirus el grupo de danza contemporánea únicamente alcanzó a dar un par de funciones, el 13 y 14 de marzo, en el Teatro Juárez de Guanajuato con el apoyo de EFIDANZA.

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