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-two in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Mexico hosted the Unesco conference in 1982 that gave birth to international recognition for the importance of cultural policy. The country itself is primarily striving to stop the cultural influence from its neighbour to the north. McDonalds has been banned from Mexico's antique squares, and the internationally successful film Frida about the life of Mexico's cult artist was dismissed as being 'too Hollywood'.
Another area of concern is the rich cultural heritage that is partly located outside of the country's borders. In January 2006, for example, Mexico’s parliament submitted an official request to the Austrian government for the return of the headpiece of Aztec ruler Montezuma II. The headdress made of quetzal feathers was appropriated by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes in the sixteenth century and is now on display in the collection of a Viennese museum.
International cultural relations are the responsibility of Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that also awards study grants to artists. The primary government organisation for the domestic art sector is La Cultura y Consejo Nactional para las Artes - Conaculta. This council implements cultural policy and manages the art institutions, albeit that the government privatised a number of these, including the IMCINE film institute, in 2003. Conaculta coordinates the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, which supports projects in all art disciplines and was established in 1989. There appears to be no lack of inventiveness. In 2004 the government handed out 1.5 million free books at more than twenty underground stations in Mexico City to promote literature and combat crime.