The Social and Cultural Impacts of the COVID-19 Crisis on Latin America
Updated: Mar 3
- Good morning and welcome. My name is Father Matthew Carnes and I'm an associate professor here at Georgetown University in our department of government. I'm glad to welcome you this morning to this latest installment in our webinar series, produced by the Center for Latin American Studies which I direct, and our Latin American Leadership Program. We've titled this series The Americas: Building the Future Together. In our recent and coming weeks, we're exploring the economic, political and social dynamics and implications of the moment in which we find ourselves in our hemisphere. As we know the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the world in unprecedented ways, is stretching thin the resources of both the public and private sectors and exposing long standing tensions and growing edges of political and economic models. In Latin America in particular, it's seen much of it's harder and recent growth and democratization called into question, and the countries in the region have responded with wildly different policy measures and social responses. This webinar series seeks to uncover trends and divergences inside the region, aiming to uncover opportunities and best practices that can foster inclusion, growth and opportunity.
Today's installment focuses on the social and cultural impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our panel brings together leaders in the fields of society culture, literature and political representation. In order to examine the social fractures that the pandemic has caused, as well as the concurrent crises in areas of racial justice and gender and sexual equality and democracy. It emphasizes the challenges that social movements and indigenous groups have faced in terms of health and economic stability of social inclusion, as well as the creative ways that groups have responded and organized themselves for democratic participation, popular mobilization and artistic expression.
So without further ado, let me turn our attention to our panelists, each of whom deserves a much longer biography than I can present here today. Let me refer you to our website for their full biographies. So first with us today Anna Deeny Morales, is a dramatist, translator of poetry, a literary critic, an adjunct professor here at Georgetown University in our Center for Latin American Studies. Her recent works include an opera in Zavala-Zavala, an opera in v cuts commissioned by the University of North Carolina in 2020, and La Paloma at the Wall commissioned in the InSeries. She's also a National Endowment of the Arts fellow for translation of Tala by Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral, and she's translated works by Alejandra Pizarnik, Nicanor Parra, Mercedes Roffe and Raul Zurita, and was a finalist for the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Her monograph Other Solitudes: essays on consciousness and poetry is forthcoming in 2022 and she received a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Anna, welcome. - Thank you. - Next up, Paula Narvaez is a Chilean psychologist and politician from Universidad Andres Bello. More than 20 years of experience in public management of policies and gender and women's participation. She holds a master's degree in economics and regional management from Universidad Austral in Chile, and a master's degree in Latin American Studies from our very own Georgetown University. She's worked in regional programming offices and as a presidential delegate and Chief of Staff advisor to former president, Michelle Bachelet, subsequently, she served as minister general secretary of the government of Chile in the second term of the former President Bachelet, and currently she's a regional advisor in governance and women's political participation at UN Women for Latin America in the Caribbean. Welcome, Paula. Next, Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli is the director of the Andes and a leading Columbia human rights advocate in the Washington Office on Latin America, WOLA. She's an expert on peace and illegal armed groups, internally displaced persons and human rights and ethnic minority rights.
Her work has shed light on the situation of Colombia's more than seven million internally displaced persons as well as helped expose the links between Columbia's government and drug-funded paramilitaries. Gimena, welcome. And finally Vivaldo Santos is an associate professor of Portuguese, Brazilian literature and culture in the department of Spanish and Portuguese here at Georgetown University. He's also the director of the Portuguese program. He teaches Portuguese language, Brazilian literature and culture including topics as diverse as film, soccer, Brazilian music and Brazilian Amazon, he's done research on representation of the body and the Brazilian avant garde, on the intersection of literature and economics, especially on topics such as money, greed, debt, wealth and the stock market. He's currently working on the debate about luxury during the enlightenment and material culture during the 17th and 18th centuries in a looser Brazilian context.
He himself is also a poet and a writer of children's literature, Vivaldo, welcome. - [Vivaldo] Thank you, Matt. - And now let's turn to our panelists. Thank you again for joining us today to cover this very broad set of topics, and first I'd like to ask each of you to comment on the reality of COVID-19, this pandemic, in the spaces in which you operate and the places and people with whom you work, how is it playing out? How is it affected organizing or cultural production? How is it affecting the individuals and actors they best? Which groups and activities have been most affected? Maybe we'll start with Gimena, you touch a broad set of topics, human rights, migration, rights of minorities indigenous peoples, how do you see the COVID-19 pandemic playing out in that realm? - Right, well, again, thank you so much for inviting me to this important panel. The end of 2019 in Latin America, we had tremendous social mobilization throughout the entire region, in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, all over. All of that was basically quieted down by the pandemic and the restrictions that were placed on peoples in their different countries to contain it.
The pandemic though has had its negative sides when it comes to social organizing, and especially social leaders and human rights defenders, especially in Colombia whereby we've seen an increase of killings of those social leaders during the pandemic and specifically because illegal armed groups have taken advantage of the restrictions to be able to get to people they weren't to able to before. And then secondly, because the government has not been able to activate all of the prevention mechanisms that it can. So we've seen basically a restriction in terms of physically for defenders and for protests, this has particularly affected Afro-descendant indigenous people and women in the more rural areas of the country that are also areas that are dealing with the pandemic asymmetrically, I would say, because of the fact that there are already vulnerable populations that have structurally dealt with racism and were vulnerable because they don't have access to medicine and access to services like other populations.
Governments have also taken advantage of this to pass through labor reforms that are particularly damaging for the informal worker economy which is precisely the group of folks that are in a situation where they need to work because they are daily survivors, they're not people who are able to work from home in their computer. So I think that the pandemic has in many ways put the kibosh on some of that visual protest that we were seeing and so groups have been creative and have come up with all sorts of virtual ways to express themselves and continue their advocacy, it's also galvanized self help efforts on the part of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities where they are basically cutting themselves off and doing their own restrictions, their own monitoring, and also marrying some of their traditional healing practices in order to prevent the spread of COVID.
- Thank you. You highlight so well there the ways that this has both exposed underlying challenges spanning ethnic and racial differences, inequality in the region and particularly, again, the plight of informal workers and those that have been left out in so many different ways, and the ways that then they have organized and undertaken new efforts and galvanized maybe in ways that then forced them to be more creative. Among those groups you mentioned women as well, so why don't we turn to Paula next? You work in UN Women, you have a deep experience with these issues inside of Latin America, could you speak about how this is particularly affecting women in the region? - Well, thank you so much, Matthew, and also thank you for having me this important, I'm great to be part of this panel. In the same line that Gimena has pointed out, I think that we know from major global and regional political and socio-economic analysis that the COVID-19 pandemic will have serious consequence on economies, increasing levels of unemployment, vulnerability in the poorest sectors, in addition to stagnation of growth that will affect the whole of society worldwide.
In Latin America, this crisis is having a devastating impact being the most unequal region in the world, we have to have that in mind, which was also shaken last year by a series of social protests of different nature and in different countries which, however, are the reflection of the social and political discontent that has been settling in the region and it is impacting the model of representative democracy. Access to quality health, education and employment services was already limited for many people so that is the background. This prices related to this pandemic could bring 15.9 million more people in the region into a situation of extreme poverty, bringing the poverty level to 34% of its total population. You can observe the figure from ECLAT and from the recent Secretary General of the United Nations report. What we have been seeing in this past month from UN Women, UN Women general office for Americas and the Caribbean, is that women and girls will be among the most affected population, especially those at risk of belonging to marginalized groups.
So not all women are the same. Considering this increase in poverty, ECLAT indicates that we could reach 100 million women in a situation of poverty in the region. The unemployment resulting from this crisis mainly and doubly affects women who are more present in informal jobs as Gimena said including domestic workers who lose their livelihood almost immediately with this pandemic without any network or possibility of replacing the daily income in general and highly feminized sectors such as trade or tourism. This is also a care crisis, women continue to be the most affected by unpaid care work which is increasing to the saturation of health systems and the closure of schools. Because of their status as informal workers, most women do not have access to social protection programs and support services for social reproduction thus also are insufficient. Latin America before the pandemic, women spent between 22 and 42 hours per week in unpaid care work, 1.7 hours more than men. In addition, restrictive movement measures to contain the pandemic increased the risk of violence against women and girls, especially domestic violence due to increased stress at home.
Survivors of violence may face additional obstacles in fleeing violence situation or in accessing protection orders, or essential life saving services due to factors such as movement restrictions or quarantine. Containment efforts often divert resources from regular health service and exacerbate the lack of access to services including pre and post natal care and contraceptives. Finally, all of the above can have a major impact on the exercise of women's political rights as both care responsibilities and economical constraints can be a barrier to the participation of many women in their country's electoral processes either as candidates or voters.
The coronavirus has exposed structural class, age, racial and gender inequalities. We are seeing a reformulation of the relationship between the role of the state and the market, and a reduced fiscal space. This crisis is placing the sustainability of life and care at the center of the response, but all this situation that concerns and occupies us at the UN Women as well as many other UN agencies, estate, academic, academia, public institutions, civil society organizations among others, is also an opportunity to rethink our practices and policies so that we can all emerge from this crisis and it's recovery with hope leaving no one behind. - Thank you so much. What a really powerful overview, especially building on Gimena's insights about the way this reaches deeply into society, every aspect of our economic and social lives, in particular lives of women.
Thank you for highlighting that so well. Anna, how do you see this penetrating then cultural life, cultural expression, artistic expression, how do you see, and maybe the artistic community are reacting to this? - So I wanna begin with a very detailed example of things we're working on. So I'm on the board of the InSeries, an organization, a performance organization here in DC that's about 40 years old, and then I also collaborate with the GALA Hispanic Theatre, which is an anchor theatre here in DC that's about 45 years old, and I have a family history with that theater because my mom performed with that theater in the 70s when I was a child, so I've watched this for a long time.
So on the board of the InSeries, I chair a poetry competition called the Gabriela Mistral Youth Poetry Competition that was founded by a Chilean Alcayaga Huebner 11 years ago. And so unexpectedly, this competition always interested me because it was first of all dedicated to children, and the children had the opportunity to present their poetry in any form they wanted to in any language, but particularly of the Hispanic world, so Spanish, Portuguese and any indigenous language of the Americas.
Our big challenge this year is connecting with them. So one school shut down and schools across the US particularly serving these vulnerable communities that Gimena, Paula and you have already pointed out, so vulnerable populations that are already exposed to particular challenges of unemployment, malnutrition, hunger, just getting to school. So these kids, their first challenge is how are they gonna be fed each day given that they're not going to school if public schools are giving them the opportunity to eat each day? And then in the meantime, how are we gonna get the poetry competition to them so that they can talk about what's going on? Whereas in the past we've had hundreds of entries, this year we had a very few entries relative to the past.
We did extend the competition to Baltimore because we wanted to bring those children into the fold of this possibility, it's actually the only competition of its kind that permits children to express themselves in so many languages, and the poems that have come in give us a barometer of what these children are feeling right now. So what are they feeling? They're scared. They are concerned about parents experiencing unemployment, insecurity regarding food, issues of their parents not being able to manage the problems that they themselves are facing and their communities are facing, feeling completely cut off from their peers and what may be support networks for them. So that's given us, as I said, a barometer of how children in this particular region of this particular Latinx group are doing in the D.C.
Metro area and in Baltimore. - [Matt] Thank you, Anna. - So, I can give-- - Go ahead, you can go ahead, yes. - Then so that's just outreach work we do as an organization, like just particular outreach work that helps us develop younger audiences and develop the voices of youth, of Latinx youth across this region. The challenges that theater organizations are facing, and this is across the US, so let me give you an example of GALA and I was just speaking to Abby Lopez, he's one of the producers in GALA for many, many years. So basically, GALA is a 45 year old organization. Their operating budget is about $2 million versus their counterparts whose operating budgets are about $35 million. So the challenges of these cultural performance organizations in particular is surviving and the importance of that survival is that they represent and are dedicated to these groups, right? These groups that continue to not be considered as basic to a US fabric, right? They continue, even though Latino populations have been here for several centuries, they continue to be marginalized and not considered part of the US fabric.
So the importance of the survival of these organizations is tied to the importance of the ability of these groups to represent themselves into the future to see possibilities of representation, a recognition of their stories, and their hopes, and their dreams. So that is what is at risk across the US. So, again, organizations that were already vulnerable are experiencing even more pressure. What is striking for me is how organizations, and this is the case for even theaters in Latin America, what is striking for me is that despite the financial challenges, these individuals are still dedicated to continuing that connection with their publics as best they can through the internet. And what's tough is that if you don't have the internet, that's not possible. So that's falling through the cracks. So the question in the future will be is how to resuture these relationships, how to bring these people back into the fold who had fallen out during this period. - Thank you so much. And you highlight there both the very basic level of survival, how do we make sure that people have enough to eat and for children that may be an issue if you don't have your school provide lunch, then you're hungry.
But then there's this other aspect too of expression and so powerful the things they're writing about, and in the ways we see our artistic organizations grappling with those very same issues, how do we survive, and how do we get this important expression out there for people to hear voices that might not otherwise be heard? Vivaldo, you work on representation and I know you have among your many, many interests, a big Instagram account too where you follow a lot of expressions, contemporary expressions.
I wonder how your work either in representation or in some of these things you've seen recently might help us better understand the pandemic at this particular moment. - Thank you, Matt. I hope I can address that particular question at the end 'cause I think I focus a little bit on Brazil in general. I think to some extent, I probably would echo some of the talks already but I think you give a general view of what's going on in Brazil with the government but also particularly the culture. So we all know that about 2 million people in Brazil have been affected by the COVID-19, 70,000 people have died, and business are start open without really going through a lockdown so that's some of the challenge for the Brazilian people. Some issues that are very important to Brazil is very similar to certain extent to the US in terms of disinformation, they deny of the existence of the virus mostly by the current president, Bolsonaro, and the members of his government and recently he has been diagnosed with the virus but we all believe that he has been already diagnosed like two month ago but he's pushing for the chloroquine use as a medicine.
So these issues, and as you know, I think there are many issues, especially in the big cities and urban centers like Sao Paulo, for example, Rio, you have like more than 100,000 cases, more than 10,000 deaths in Rio. In Sao Paulo and Manaus, for example, it's like a big issue. In Manaus particularly because Manaus being the north region of Brazil in the Amazon forest, we have the indigenous population that it's a very vulnerable group of people. They have being exposed and they have five times more vulnerability in terms of being affected by a disease. This is how we can go back to 500 years of colonization and the contact between Europeans and the natives with European disease. So this is an issue that has been brought by the Pan American Health Organization, it's very delicate and the Brazilian government, they're trying to deny it, but there is a lot of focus on that too.
Also, there is the another thing in the region is because Manaus for example, Manaus is on donor because the rivers there is a lot of tourists I mean, the distance are very different because communication's by river, transportation's by river. So if you think about the problem in the cities, if you go to the Amazon regions like the distance are much longer, it's much harder to have a hospital as a health center for the indigenous population and other people in the region. In terms of the economy, and I think it's very similar to other countries, is 12.3% of unemployment so far and that is a lot of high and new hiring policy, changes in the labor legislation, especially yesterday, I think there is a push for rehiring with a lower minimum wage, or pushing for hourly wage instead of monthly wage.
So there is a lot of economic issues behind this policies that to somehow it's a reflect of the neoliberal policy implemented, or that they want to be implemented by the Brazilian government these days. When you think about problems also I mentioned Amazon but if you think about the Favelas or the slums in Rio and Sao Paulo, those are population that are really at risk in terms of density of population, and there is a lot of misinformation also because we don't know exactly the numbers. People say that it's more than for like 30 times higher than the official numbers so we won't know until I don't know when. In terms of culture, there are many challenges, I think, culture in Brazil has always been, especially for the last 10 years during the government of the Workers Party, culture has been always blamed or served as escape gate lately by the right wing of the government in terms of in Brazil as you know, Brazilian culture depend on the state.
We have the Huene law in Brazil that gives companies and business tax breaks so they can promote the culture, but since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, or before that, people had been criticizing the state for helping or investing culture. They think this is a waste of money, that cultures should be taken care of by the private sector with the tax incentives that exist, but there is a lot of misuse of the money.
But also we think about culture in Brazil, we know that in terms of economics, very important, like culture is like 2.2% of the economy in terms of the GDP, it employs like 5 million people and we are thinking about employers not just in the formal but also in the informal sector. We think we know a lot of people that work in cultural industry, many people they have part time jobs or they're informal so all these people have been affected by the Korean pandemic. So just recently there is a push, that's a positive thing, that was pushed by the Workers Party and the PCdoB, the Communist Party, they pushed for like an incentive by the government so the government has give the cultural sector about 30 billions rise that's to help the artists sector in terms of providing them with a minimum of, I think 600 per rise per month for a period of three months. So that's a good thing, but is not just the government just approved it but I think there was a lot of fight, like just here like the Democrats fought to give to the state, the government, to force the government to provide with economic support to the communities.
So that being said there's like different initiatives as Anna also mentioned, there is a lot of online musicians being, they already existed but these days they be more creative and I think somehow they're getting some incentive, financial incentive to promote to the public. Like-- - Thank you. - [Vivaldo] You all. - Yeah, that might be a nice place to sort of transition a little bit. I'm very struck by both the grounding you gave us in the Brazilian experience and Brazil sometimes can seem to be a microcosm for the rest of the region, I mean, it's just so massive with so many different currents and I especially appreciated that you highlighted at the end the way that culture and social movements can be engines of change and engines of growth and sometimes seen as a bit subversive in that, right? Because they're doing it sometimes with government support, but sometimes over against the government and makes me think a little bit too when we had our economic webinar a few weeks ago, the public private tension sometimes about how do different actors contribute to this overall social good? And so for today, I'd love if in our next round we thought a little bit about how social and cultural movements, and especially cultural expression, are engines for change, engines for sometimes a bit of subversive change or challenging long-term, long standing inequalities and maybe the ways they're starting to push us in new, hopefully positive, directions, is there a way that we might actually come out of the pandemic socially stronger than we went in, or socially more aware at least and able to see social change? And why don't we begin with Gimena again, if you'd like to maybe start there, where do you see creative change happening? What are your signs of hope in this, maybe, as you look at the region? - Sure.
So another thing that happened during this pandemic was the assassination on TV of George Floyd, and that's also been influencing factor in the region, especially in Colombia and in Brazil. Latin America has always had a very strange idea of racism and it depends which country you are talking about specifically, some countries basically it's been an all out denial, another has been sort of this idea of accepting all the different cultures as basically being one and in a sense negating those cultural identities.
And so this is not a new problem, this is a long standing problem, but one thing that I've seen amongst the Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups and also some of the Afro-Brazilian groups is taking advantage of that conversation that was started with all the media interest in what was happening in the US to bring up those long standing issues, and they've been very creative about it. So, for example, despite the fact that people are under quarantine, there has been a protest of indigenous and Afro-Columbian peoples from the Pacific all the way up to Bogota, and the way that they've done it creatively is by including people in their protests virtually. So they're virtually walking in the streets with the camera and talking to people that way. There been several virtual protests, there have also been the traditional banging of pots especially against Bolsonaro for his lack of effective response on COVID, but also in other countries. And so I think one interesting thing that we hope will come out of this pandemic is that the fact that everybody's at home and everybody's been seeing what's been going on, that is going to lead to more debates about these issues, more open conversations about what has been the structural and historical racism and discrimination in these countries, why are Afro and indigenous peoples in the rural areas in the situation they're in that they're so vulnerable to a crisis like the one that we're facing today? So it's important also to mention that for Afro-descendant indigenous communities that we work with, culture is interspersed with protests.
It's negative in the sense that the collective gathering in music, dance and other forms of expressions are really sort of psychosocial support for everyone there and a way for people communicating. So the being closed in has been very difficult in terms of psychological impacts, and very isolating, but also that we're seeing that within that protest and expression, it includes the arts, it includes music, it includes dance, and so hopefully when things open up more, we will see a different way of relating amongst those populations and also a bigger, more open debate about the structural racism in the region. - Thank you. And I appreciate the way you pivot us to race, which is such a fundamental issue, one that, as you mentioned, is long standing in the region but it has been galvanized in particular right now during the pandemic, almost surprisingly. So you had broad social movements in the streets prior to the pandemic around general economic issues, and then this really highlight or we gave it a focus on race in a particular way, and that's something that is generating lots of new expression and really, I think, forcing us throughout the region to confront issues of race that, as you say, too long been denied or papered over, hugely important.
Paula, how are you seeing this play out both for women, and I know you're also Chilean, and Chile, of course, being one of the places of greatest social protest immediately prior to a pandemic and continuing protests going onward, yeah, how are you seeing this play out? - Okay, well, I think that I can share with you some perspective from a public policy point of view, I think I can share with you four ideas from this perspective. So I think first, they're differentiated impact of the pandemic on women and the situation of vulnerability for different sectors of the population have been brought into focus and thus also into discussion, and I think that is a very important point.
Today's public debate makes it possible to revalue and propose the expansion of rights for those who perform care work, pointed out how they impact on the different areas of labor and on women's public and political life. There is a debate about unpaid care work and the need to create public systems to protect it. In addition, there is a need to professionalize paperwork, guarantee better conditions for workers and integrate them into the discussion table while strengthening public health systems. In this context, the identification in different countries that these essential tasks are and have been carried out by, for example, migrant women, also points out the urgency of the recognition of rights. Secondly, the accelerated visualization of different aspects of life, of family and social interaction, work, education, and instances of public and political participation implies the possibility for broader, plural and democratic participation and exchange among network of women and activists in different areas and from different countries, that's very important issue now.
The challenge is to address the region's digital gap which especially affects women, and to generate tools for the eradication of violence against women, and specifically cyber violence. The potential of these tools, which we have all learned very, very quickly in the face of the pandemic, can be increased by democratizing access for and indigenous women, persons with disabilities, communities without connectivity and sectors that are not yet educationally or digitally literate. Sadly, the COVID-19 also highlighted the management of women in the executive branches of different countries and cities, as well as the value of the community leadership of women who across the region attend the needs of food, care, violence among other issues. Women are in the front line of response to the crises and even though they aren't represented at decision making tables, they have shown what they are incorporate and do so with a management approach based on human rights, gender and intersectionality.
They can provide responses that better contain the pandemic situation phases and recovery. Even though it should not be in the news, the fact that it is implies that the belief that assume that women could not take charge of public service has been broken down entirely, so that's very good news. This must invite us to redouble our efforts to build, not only a mechanism for productive democracies, but also generate tools that truly make substantive equality possible based on intersectionality. Finally, this crisis has called into question the role of the state, not only in terms of its public health system, but also in terms of the possibilities of responding with social, economic and political policies in their entirety and from citizenship that demands listening, dialogue, participation and effective, rapid and comprehensive policies. In this scenario, debates such as universal income, debt restructuring in Latin American countries, among other measures promoted by example by ECLAT and other organizations, call into question the sustainability of lives and the responsibility of the state in this regard. This new role of public leadership also present challenge that must be addressed to ensure that the response is inclusive, and strength democratic systems.
Once again, the need to incorporate women into decision making spaces go with the need to generate participative practices that include civil society organization, experts, academics, and scientists among others to design inclusive policies. The strengthening of institution and citizen oversight is a priority in the face of the responsibility to eradicate corruption and strength transparency. Here again, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, these responses must consider the differentiated impact on women and address humans trafficking, sextortion practices and anti-corruption policies that enable the proper and the responsible use of public resources. Undoubtedly, this can contribute to the strengthening of democracy which is an urgent need in the region as another part of the world as well. And another side, the growing of the use of ICTs in public administration has been accelerated by the pandemic which constitute the transformation opportunity never seen before.
This digitalization however it demands that the state consider the gaps and guarantee responses by digital mechanisms in the opportunity to extend its practices. Finally, the growing conflict caused by the crisis unemployment and post-pandemic poverty challenge states to provide democratic responses that respect human rights. Faced with the postponement of elections in six countries in the region, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay and Dominican Republic withheld its elections few days ago, the need to take measures that consider the impact on women such as inclusion and conduct of campaigns that do not affect the right of rural indigenous, more remote and or displaced groups.
And just a last thing, I think that the invitation is to dialogue and think about this great opportunity that we can have to do the things differently in the end, and the new realities will be those that we can develop together. Thank you. - Thank you so much, thank you, and especially that last point about connectivity is so important and the ways that we build dialogue in new ways. And both the technology facilitates that in some ways and prevents it in others because we know access to technology is not universal, in fact, it's quite complicated especially for a number of marginalized groups, rural groups.
So this is one of the great challenges, something each of you has already highlighted a bit. But I wonder if actually, before I forget, to all our observers, we'd be happy to take some questions if you wanna to use the Q&A function and we're collecting those questions so feel free to type them into the Q&A box, and I'm being fed those and can then give them to our participants in just a few moments. But I wanna turn next to Anna Deeny and say, Anna, how are you seeing creative responses and maybe some of that is about building dialogue or building this kind of connection among peoples, getting voices out there that maybe haven't been heard or new ideas? Where are you seeing signs of hope or opportunity? - I mean, to get back to some of the topics Gimena and Paula and Vivaldo were pointing out before, just for example Black Lives Matter in the Latinx performance of infrastructures students like theaters, performance spaces, publishing houses, boards, the deep difference that we see now is that there's a distinction between saying I am an ally and I'm doing something about this at a structural level.
So, Black Lives Matter has incited a sense of reckoning that is long overdue, and the sense that organizations are gonna be held publicly responsible for this reckoning and internet actually allows that, right? As much as sometimes we're concerned about the proliferation of voices, it also has this capacity to hold people responsible. So back to one of the points Vivaldo was bringing up in Brazil where are we allocating funds? The US has a pretty robust sense of allocating private and public funds to the arts, but historically Latinx and black organizations are historically underfunded vis a vis their counterparts.
So I think that that is a very important opportunity that's coming up as far as this crisis is concerned. Shifting to the Southern Cone, Chile right now has their national prize in literature which is pending, so the list of finalists have come out and recently one of the universities there held a Zoom event in which about 25 of the women finalists were asked to read some of the poetry they were working on, so first of all, I got to watch that from here, people were on the call from all over Europe, all over Latin America and the United States. It permitted us again to have a sense of a barometer of what people are experiencing. So some of the issues that these women brought up were for example, Veronica Zondek who's a writer who's in her 70s. So she experienced the Chilean dictatorship and this is a concern I've seen not only Zondek's work but in other writers and it's that the strategies of governmental restriction are similar to the, so in other words the way you limit the spread of the virus is the same way you limit the spread of ideas, the same way you limit the proliferation of concepts that have the ability to go against the government, right? So what was interesting and painful to hear there is first of all, a remembrance of the trauma, it's triggering a traumatic reaction from people who have that memory, that historical memory.
Second of all, it reflects individuals who still do not completely trust their government and its purpose in these restrictions. And third, it reflects individuals who don't trust the government into the future, in the sense that if the government has this ability now to restrict movement and the spread of a virus, in the future there also still exists this ability to restrict the development of cultural ideas. Deeny, you asked this question of what is the importance of culture? And the importance is that when you want to control a population, the first thing you do is you control their ability to tell a story. The first thing you do is control their ability to tell a joke, because they're always those on the inside and the outside of a joke.
So cultural forms and that connection, stories, poetry, jokes, having a glass of wine together or coffee, or whatever it is, a cafesito, that is the ground zero of a fabric, of connections in a society. And so you will always see across societies that for example in enslaved populations, what's the number one thing you wanna do? Don't allow them to bond with one another either through familial stories, stories passed on, jokes in a community, community stories, cultural forms of dance, of theater, whatever it is, so that is the importance of culture in a community and when you take that away what you have is a deep sense of solitude which is actually dangerous because that takes away people's sense of hope and their attachment to the past and their movement into the future. So I think what's striking is that across, let me give you an example of El Teatro Colon which is an important theater in Buenos Aires in Argentina. Despite the fact that they had been shut down, they basically asked their patrons if they could hold the subscription funds.
So even though the patrons would no longer be able to go to the theater for that season because they're closed, they asked for the patrons that they could hold those funds. So, instead of just holding those funds, what the theater did was they decided to provide free lessons online for people between the ages of 14 and 24, and so that's where I have found like the innovation and the hope in the sense that the number one goal is to maintain the lines of communication open, to not allow people to feel alone because that's the true tragedy, right? To feel that you're alone, to feel that there's no hope, to feel that your voice isn't heard, that your community is broken and that's what we in the cultural field have to guard against, it's salvaging the human spirit in what is truly a catastrophe. - Yeah, and one of the cruelest and most challenging aspects of the pandemic is the need to sometimes isolate, right? And so the ways you can build these creative bridges and the example of the Teatro Colon wonderful in that regard, right? So we can't congregate but we can connect and we can do lessons, and we can actually learn this idiom, if you will, this language, this way of expression, and still stay connected that's the moral-- - And many organizations, I mean, I gave you a theater example, the example also exists in publishing houses who are providing free works online, something they had never done before because, anyway.
- Yes, I wanna make sure we also get a chance for Vivaldo to chime in, it's been such robust conversation, I wanna make sure we have a chance for Vivaldo to also jump in and weigh in a little bit on this in terms of science of hope that you're seeing, and ways that you're seeing expression play out whether in Brazil or in your broader exploration to the region. - Thank you, Matt. I've tried to make it short so people have time for question. Just two things. One is related to the D.C., for example the Black Lives Matter movement and it's interesting, I follow street art and it's amazing to see how when they start the demonstration, the looting, Aldi stores, the men of the building in D.C., they boarded this store and so what happened in the city, a lot of artists they start painting on those boards.
It's amazing, they just a whole narratives about the Black Lives Matter Movement in D.C., for example. Also in terms of their own D.C. city, also with the DC 51, there was a movement to make D.C. the 51st state so that is a lot of commissioned art and murals going on here in the Washington DC area, it's fascinating, not just Black Lives Matter, but the black women's lives matter. There is a lot of going on there. Going back to Brazil, I think echoing a little bit of I think it's what has been said already in here. Going back to the three billion incentive by the Brazilian government I think one issue, not issue but I think one policy that has become and will become very important for Latin America and Brazil, for example, we have already boast of a media but there is a push for the need and urgency of the creation of a program minimum income to everyone because given the situation like now, so this is gonna be a challenge and also it's gonna be very important for all the government, including the US as we've seen.
So, going back to technology and education inequality, that's another issue that we hope and the issue is gonna come up with the inequality between public schools and private school. So I'll stop here because I think I'm gonna echo some of what my colleagues have said, but I'm open for questions after. - Wonderful, thank you. Now we've had some questions come in but I actually feel like our time is limited enough that I think we're going to just proceed to our final round here, if you will.
And it's mainly to ask you Georgetown is a university, we have undergraduate and graduate programs, thank goodness international students make up a significant portion of our student community and they will be very prominently represented on our campus this year in spite of the government ruling and now rescinded, thank goodness. I wonder if you were speaking to one of our students and was saying to them in light of the pandemic, here's the one thing I'd encourage you to study, or the one thing I encourage you to think about, what would you say to students today at a place like Georgetown that might be thinking about serving in the region in the future? So I'll just turn it to each of you for just one brief comment if I could maybe I'll start again Gimena.