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June 2002

Cecilia García-Huidobro, Executive Vice-Pres. of Chile's Cultural Heritage Corp.:
"May culture not become mere marketing"

Cecilia García-Huidobro moves with the same passion among thought's Cartesian logic and beauty's sensory world. What guides her his her love for patrimony and the search for a cultural identity where one can find aspects as diverse as self-confidence, style and our capacity of building a nation.

By Rosario Mena

To "throw bridges between the public and private worlds" to save our patrimony, has been her daily mission for more than a decade. She is the Chilean Cultural Heritage Corporation's Executive Vice-President, the director of nuestro.cl and member of the Cultural Agents National Association's Board. This bachelor in Philosophy, married to a German businessman and mother of three children, searches daily for the supports needed to start some new heritage action.

She wants "for everybody to win". So she involves companies through the Cultural Donations Law, but also the younger generations through a group of work called "Lo nuestro" (What's ours). "It is a critical group that will soon be holding positions of power in business and the media. It is fundamental to have people that are committed to patrimony", she says.

As member of the Cultural Agents National Association's Board, she thinks it is a priority to make this whole activity more professional. "There are a lot of people that could sponsor us but who know nothing about cultural issues. You need the culture managed by people with some background so it doesn't become mere marketing".

She understands the businessperson point of view. "They have to get something back", she says. The Cultural Donations Law allows companies to discount a fifty percent of their donations in taxes. "They have to give the other fifty percent, and they only do this in return of a benefit". These are the benefits which Cecilia knows how to promote: give a contribution to the country, get some publicity, improve their corporation's image, promote tourism.

An unavoidable mission
After some time living in Houston, where she got a Master's degree in Literature, she continued with some classes about cultural administration and worked for institutions connected to Museums. While flying back to Chile, she saw her goal clearly. "It was as if I had seen the word Heritage written on the plane's window", she told a magazine. So she became the Chilean Cultural Heritage's Executive Vice-President from its foundation, in 1995, a position she holds until now.

In five years, her work made the Corporation move an average of a million dollars per year. She became President of the Friends of Museums Chilean Federation. In the year 2000, through a project done with the Cultural Donations Law, she created the first webpage of Chilean Cultural Heritage in the Entel Internet website: www.nuestro.cl. Its English version started in November, 2002.

It was her initiative to create the Bicentennial Award to distinguish annually, until the year 2010 -Chile's 200 years of Independence- ten figures to be highlighted on the areas of culture or social service. Until now, the award has gone to Eugenio Heiremans (2000), Nicanor Parra (2001) and Gabriel Valdés (2002).

Bases and projections
The Corporation has worked on solid ground, clear criteria and a vision of patrimony which is wide and updated. "It is something you build with experience", believes its Executive Vice-President. Her principles are based on a view of patrimonial work which is live and dynamic, with results that have to be long-lasting and significant. The stories written by peasants, a meeting of popular singers, an archeological investigation or the restoration of the Agustinas Church. All these are equally valuable from a heritage point of view. The Corporation also works on areas as important as education and tourism.

"It is recently being understood the potential of tourism as a way of conservation for patrimony, which generates promotion, work, resources. And, what's most important, the recognition of its value by the inhabitants of that city, village or neighborhood", she says.

This woman, classical and visionary at the same time, claimed among other things the space of decorative arts, an issue of which she is preparing a book. "I am fascinated by the way we live. It is not about having expensive things, but how the objects that surround you help your life quality. The objects reflect a person and a family's identity. It is a vital thing".

Her mother had a special interest in decoration and gardening. Parallel to this practical and aesthetical side, one finds her intellectual concerns, all from a father who was a writer and avid reader. "What most attracted me as a child was the world of ideas and theories", she remembers. "That's why I studied Philosophy. I was raised in a family that encouraged the search of a free thinking".


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