ISPA is preparing for its second ever Mexico congress. Igor Lozada, from host venue University Cultural Centre of Guadalajara, tells Andrew Anderson what to expect
There have been a lot of new arts venues to get excited about in recent years, from the long awaited Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg to the truly enormous National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Taiwan. But none has more potential to impact the cultural scene of an entire country than the University Cultural Centre of Guadalajara (UCCG) at the University of Guadalajara (UDG) in Mexico. A huge 52,000 square metre complex, its two largest halls can hold over 2,000 people between them, while two smaller halls have a further 600-plus capacity.
It is no surprise, then, that ISPA has chosen UCCG to host its latest mid-year congress. Running from 27-31 May, it takes the theme ‘The Strength Within Us’ and explores the multiple identities of both Mexico and the wider Latin American arts world.
“ISPA first came to Mexico 14 years ago, and it was a very exciting moment because we had a new administration and a lot of possibilities,” says Igor Lozada, director of Cultura UDG, the group that manages UCCG.
“But after that the government changed and it became a more challenging environment. Now, with the new centre, it is once more an exciting time. We want to show the new face of performing arts in Latin America, and the regeneration that is taking place here.”
“We have developed a new cultural infrastructure in the city, and Guadalajara is a very proactive producer. We are at the centre of culture in Mexico right now. You can explore any kind of art with this new building, and people are very excited because it has created a cultural district for arts and performers.
“We’re one of the most important players for connecting projects across the region, and we have a good record for that – for example, with the Guadalajara International Book Fair and the Guadalajara International Film Festival. That’s why ISPA chose us.”
As for the congress, Lozada and the team at ISPA have planned around three themes. The first is walls – and given the current politics in its Northern neighbour, the US, it could not be timelier.
“We will talk about walls, and how we can turn them into membranes rather than solid barriers,” says Lozado. “We won’t just want to talk about bringing down walls. Instead, we want to replace the walls with membranes where we have clear rules for cultural exchange. We believe that cultural expressions are the best way to talk about differences, but you have to do it in a structured way.”
“We also want to talk about what it means to be an immigrant,” continues Lozada. “One of our sessions will be led by singer La Marisoul – a Mexican American.”
Sessions that broach this topic include Translating processes from Latin America to the World, led by moderator Raquel Araujo (director, La Rendija); Cooperation within Latin America led by music manager Ana Rodriguez; and keynote speeches from director Diego Luna and UDG’s director of environmental science Eduardo Santana.
“We also want to talk about what it means to be an immigrant,” continues Lozada. “One of our sessions will be led by singer La Marisoul – a Mexican American. We want to hear her talk about what this means, to be an immigrant,” continues Lozada, “ because a Mexican American is not a Mexican and not an American – it is both at the same time, a new different thing with its own identity. It is a new way to see the world and live life, with new rules.”
For the third theme, the congress will address Indigenous culture and how it can be supported in contemporary performing arts. “We have invited people from Canada to help us with this conversation,” says Lozado. “It is something that has sometimes been ignored in Mexico, so we want to recover this original culture and make sure it is supported.”
What does Lozado hope visiting delegates – particularly those who have not been to Mexico before – will take away from the congress? “It is a huge collection of the most important players in Latin America,” he answers. “So you will get to hear our thinkers and people from Chile, Brazil, Columbia and so on. It will be an amazing conversation, and if you want to have a good map of what is going on here – the institutions, the thinkers, the creators and the festivals – then the congress is a great moment for you.
“I also think that family is one of the most important things for Latin Americans. So that’s the way we work – like a family. This family connection is a strength, and I hope visitors from the rest of the world can be inspired by this way of thinking.”