TO Javier Solana (Madrid, 1942), Prime Minister of Culture of the democratic history of Spain, he is now more concerned with the democratic culture than the culture proper, of which he occupied himself when Felipe González placed him in that ministry, in 1982. Of the first thing he did then, to throw off the Francoist legacy of the institutions, was to free the Circle of Fine Arts from the ultras waste of the past. And that is why this entity, more than a hundred years old, gave him his Gold Medal. This interview with him was also Mr. Pesc, in charge of the EU's global relations, and NATO chief, revolves around his experience as the minister who came to his charge when the move was booming.
Question. How did you find the culture you put in charge?
Answer. The death of Franco and the first elections generated the use of public space. It was the years of the move, that when I arrived it was in its splendor. I thought then that cultural infrastructures had to be promoted. And I tackled some symbols. Before the appointment I went to visit our only living Nobel, Vicente AleixandreIt was a moment of respect for culture at its best, and he interpreted it that way. EL PAÍS must have valued it that way too, since he took out that visit on the cover: I was surprised that he stood out so much.
The parliamentary debate is deplorable. I am saddened by many such behaviors. Democratic culture is falling in Spain
P. You said then that the government considered culture "the fundamental instrument of change".
R. And that's why he understood that culture was not an excessive expense, like a highway or an aqueduct. In these forty years there have been cuts, transfers, mainly in Culture, and today the ministry has only supervision. And communities are aware that attachment to culture is good for governments and for people. There have been times when it has been exaggerated, museums have been made to see who made it bigger, but then the museum was not so much.
P. Did you carry a plan to that first government?
R. I did not know I was going to be a minister. Things were coming out. For example, with respect to the Prado Museum. We decided, for example, to clean The meninas of Velázquez. And we did not want to show them to the public without knowing what people like Rafael Alberti and Antonio Buero Vallejo thought of their colors, who saw the painting in its former splendor. Alberti had tears in his eyes. "It's that these are the blues, these are the reds, these are the colors that I remember!" Alfonso Guerra had told me: "Javier, governments fall for many things, but as you make mistakes with Las Meninas the Socialists lose the Government and we also lose it for life! " He authorized me, I put the blanket on my head and it went well. How did the cleaning of The Marquise of Santa Cruz, from Goya… We did not do the move, we approached infrastructures to give this country more public spaces for culture.
It must be taken into account, for example, that the Prado Museum has a budget that does not come only from the State, most of it is paid by society
P. Alberti received the Cervantes, other authors of the exile returned, you worried about recovering symbols of democratic recovery …
R. Is that the policy has a very significant symbolic component. This was the first socialist government in the history of Spain. And this corresponded to us, to recover metaphors of the exile that produced the Civil War.
P. And what footprint should politics leave on culture?
R. I had my doubts about whether the Ministry of Culture should exist or not, if the culture should be led by the Government or should be the society that led it. We decided that it was the Government because we believe that the change did not mean only the move. And many things were done, in Madrid and throughout Spain. We made the change, for example, in the Círculo de Bellas Artes.
P. That's why he rewards it.
R. It started in June 1983. The first director was Martín Chirino, that was full of people of culture, like Rafael Canogar and Juan Genovés, and Martín did a great job. We recovered it, but soon it was the world of culture that took it into their hands, until it was an entity not only from Madrid but, I would say, of international status.
P. Among his successors there was a friend of his, of particular European political history, Jorge Semprún …
I had the opportunity to represent the Spanish culture at a time when everything we did abroad was looked at with great affection
R. A great friend who had dedicated much of his life to politics, clandestine as well. He was a very cultured man, on all subjects he had a particular opinion. In the Council of Ministers, his contribution was very important: he knew where he was and interpreted that as an experience he could not dream of.
P. What footprint did you leave this step for the management of culture?
R. He left me, above all, many friends. I started trying the idea of patronage, which allowed me to open the way to the culture of many people who had resources to help. The patronage is still pending as a law because this is not a country of patrons, but those that do not have to be like the Medici. But we must bear in mind, for example, that the Prado Museum has a budget that does not come only from the State, most of it is paid for by society. And I had the opportunity to represent the Spanish culture at a time when everything we did abroad, in the Transition and immediately afterwards, looked with great affection …
I had my doubts about whether the Ministry of Culture should exist or not, if the Culture should be led by the Government
P. And now how do they see us?
R. I think that esteem has not decreased much, but it is that when something like the Transition happens, the soufflé goes up. Then it goes down a little and there it stays, more or less, it does not go down to zero.
P. And what is your own perception? Did you transfer too much?
R. The transfers were made to recognize the cultural particularities of the communities of Spain. I think they have not hurt; Maybe there has been some exaggeration of spending, but Culture is not like Autopistas or Puentes, so if you make a mistake it does not happen that much … In the cultural field almost everything has been done peacefully and I think there is almost nothing left to transfer. In that I think we have found a great balance.
P. Do you think that this country now has the cultural power that you dreamed of when leading the official culture?
R. Here there is a good cultural level. What worries me the most is that the democratic culture falls of quality. I care about the bad use or poor quality of democratic culture. There we have lost a bit of quality.
P. What happened?
R. It is a sin that has happened in many places; In this last time it has been revealed by the economic crisis. Here we have poor democratic debates, from pure rhetoric, from the very way of speaking. The level of parliamentary debate is deplorable. I am saddened by these behaviors. The democratic culture is falling in Spain.
P. How to defend it?
R. In school, in college, in the education system, in the media, where mistakes and errors abound … Kenneth Clark says in his book Civilization (Alianza Editorial, 1979) that Spain would be in a book of cultural genius, but that there was never an important cultural break here, Baroque or Gothic was not invented here, we were not the breakers of cultural history … And that It demands effort, reading and time, in addition to genius.