The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part twenty-four in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Like in many Latin American countries, culture proved to be an excellent remedy for the traumas of the military dictatorship that oppressed collective memory and the freedom of expression for years in Argentina. Today the cultural policy balances between contributing to social development and promoting cultural industries.
Argentina's national culture secretariat, the Secretaria de Cultura, accounts directly to the office of the president (Presidenica de la Nación) and has five sub-directorates: for cultural policy and international cooperation, for heritage and museums, for the arts, for cultural industries, and for legal matters. The characteristic of Argentina's institutional landscape is extensive autonomy. Cultural institutions, including the National Library and the National Theatre Institute, are virtually independent. The authorities in the 23 provinces and in the Buenos Aires metropolis all define their own cultural policy.
The National Arts Fund (El Fondo Nacional de las Artes, FNA), established in 1958,grants subsidies to artists and cultural organisations. The fund also presents annual awards, organises competitions and finances cultural missions and fellowships. The fund has its own exposition halls and libraries.
An important pillar of the national cultural policy consists of the cultural industries. The culture secretariat established the Laboratory of Cultural Industries, for example: a virtual information system that keeps sector statistics, that publishes market studies, and that shows the geographic distribution of cultural enterprises on a map of Argentina. Handicraft is an important component and also touches on the other priorities of the cultural policy: cultural diversity and social development. A special programme called Programa Federal de Desarrollo Artesenal provides technical assistance to local authorities and creative manufacturers, especially in the provinces of Pilaga and Estero, to help them improve their sales market.