Culture in Motion

1. Context

Ciudad Juárez is the most populous city in the state of Chihuahua. It is one of Mexico’s main industrial centres, and an important commercial region located on the border of the United States. It has a high level of national and international migration, and is a place where various world views, cultures, and social expressions all converge.

The program focuses on vulnerable areas throughout the municipality that have endured a loss of public space, poverty, and socio-spatial isolation. This is coupled with a lack of urban facilities and the breakdown of the family unit, which has led to social problems and crime. Therefore, it is important to ensure access and cultural participation in spaces that allow people to be in contact with nature.

2. Ciudad Juarez and culture

The Municipal Government of Juarez has adopted public policies to extend cultural initiatives to highly marginalized areas, reviving public spaces through festivals and events. This project originated from an earlier initiative by the Institute for Culture of the Municipality of Juárez (2016-2018), adding on to this by bringing together music activities, workshops, art exhibitions, theatre, and dance, all with a social element, in parks and public areas throughout highly marginalized neighbourhoods such as Sur Poniente.

Culture in Motion addresses, and aims to resolve, limited participation in social life from different sectors along the border.

It is a creative alternative to provide entertainment to populations that do not have access to the city’s cultural activities. The initiative promotes values of harmonious social coexistence and emphasizes the role of culture in community social development. This makes it possible to rebuild the city’s social fabric, increase cultural consumption, and put culture at the heart of regional development. The latter would act as a trigger for the economy and helps spark positive habits from childhood around creativity, imagination, and development.

Culture in Motion addresses, and aims to resolve, limited participation in social life from different sectors along the border. Furthermore, it is focused on tackling insufficient cultural policies, stagnation in providing cultural infrastructure, increased degradation of the social fabric, and the lack of knowledge of technological advances that are necessary for cultural promotion and dissemination.

3. Project goals and implementation

3.1. Main and specific objectives

The main objective of the program is to promote family integration and social cohesion through interventions in public spaces in high-risk areas, offering activities relating to art, culture, and values.

Specifically, Culture in Motion aims to:

  • Host cultural festivals in parks of marginalized areas, which highlight the importance of family coexistence.
  • Promote crime prevention and a decrease in family violence.
  • Create social capital by working with children and adolescents in economically vulnerable situations, and working to increase their intellectual and emotional development.
  • Rebuilding the social fabric of the community.
  • Intervene and revive different parks with citizen participation.
  • Promote good reading habits in children and offer them tools to create a better future.

3.2. Project development

Main actions developed

The project addresses the needs of 10,000 people per year and provides comprehensive care to more than 38 colonias, or neighbourhoods, with a high level of social marginalization. It is carried out in the following phases:

  • Selection of the neighbourhood and park in need of intervention
  • Finding and contacting the Neighbourhood Social Committee
  • Information and Awareness-raising meetings relating to the program
  • Assessment of the needs of the park
  • Intervention at the various premises of the park
  • Locating material and infrastructure support
  • Working with the community to improve the park
  • Planning the arts and culture festival
  • Impact assessment.

The main objetive of the program is to promote family integration and social cohesion through interventions in public spaces in high risk areas, offering activities relating to art, culture and values. 

The initiative has a budget of $596,000 MXN per year, and revived 14 parks between 2018 and 2019, as well as host 14 cultural festivals. The lack of urban services and infrastructure, the abandonment of spaces, and their unsafe conditions have been the main obstacles to implementation. As a result, the program has used citizen participation to create urban installations and facilities with recyclable materials.

The project has been implemented transversally in collaboration with several departments, including: General Directorate of Social Development, Department of Public Services, Department of Health, Comprehensive Family Development, Department of Education, Municipal Sports Institute, and civil society organizations such as the Nómada Urban Laboratory collective, and the civil associations Juárez Limpio and the Rotary Club. All of them assisted in the call for citizen participation and engagement in neighbourhood committees with the aim of locating and managing materials and revitalizing public spaces.

4. Impact

4.1. Direct impacts

Impact on local government

Culture in Motion has become the dynamic mechanism that guarantees access to the area’s various arts events. It successfully revived and redesigned public community spaces where it intervened. It worked alongside officials from the municipal government, as well as civil society, thus laying the foundations for a municipal policy that is more inclusive and works closely with citizens.

Impact on Culture and Local Cultural Actors

The project has established close collaboration between the various municipal departments and civil associations or groups, giving local cultural stakeholders a more significant role. As a result, following the program’s intervention, public space has become a popular meeting area where community empowerment has taken place, which subsequently helps promote culture from a cross-cutting, citizen participation perspective.

Culture in Motion has become a dynamic mechanism that guarantees access to the diverse range of local artistic expression across the city, also while managing to revitalize and rededign public community spaces.

Impact on the Territory and Population

Culture in Motion has encouraged comprehensive action by citizens, with municipal services being offered to hard to reach areas in order to meet the needs of vulnerable inhabitants. Since it began, a total of 10,304 people have been guaranteed access to cultural life.

4.2. Evaluation

To carry out the project in 2020, an instrument was developed that included the following:

  • Activities of the respondent
  • Community Roots
  • Social Fabric
  • Public Space
  • Presence of Authorities
  • Cultural Consumption

Its implementation involves three steps:

  • Previous Study: To develop background knowledge strategies on the area, such as the infrastructure of the area to carry out an intervention, the participation of authorities, problems relating to the area, cultural background, identity, and security.
  • Intervention: Revive cultural spaces and events.
  • Follow-up Study: After 3 months of implementation, an exploratory visit is made to identify the state of the new infrastructure and identify whether there was an improvement in the public perception of close working relationships with authorities, problems in the area, cultural background, identity, and security. They are then compared to the initial data, and public policies are developed to revive good practices, strengthening areas of opportunity for growth in the intervened area.

4.3. Key factors

Entre los factores claves que explican el éxito del Programa, encontramos:

  • Citizen participation. The involvement and participation of the community is fundamental to the development of this policy, particularly because the objective is for the community to be empowered by its shared public space.
  • The cross-cutting actions by municipal departments. The dynamic nature of the program has allowed it to become a mechanism for accessing services and meeting citizens’ needs.
  • Acting as a means of access to local culture and art. Given the participation of artists from different genres or socio-economic backgrounds, the program has become a platform for facilitating cultural access to citizens that are far from the traditional hubs for artistic expression, and ensures their inclusion in the community.

4.4. Continuity

In order to implement the program in 2020, an assessment visit was carried out to verify the status of the infrastructure and community spaces where the project intervened. The results of this were analyzed 3 months after implementing the strategy.

5. Further information

Ciudad Juárez was a candidate for the fourth UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award (November 2019 – May 2020). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2020, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices implemented under Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Miguel Ángel Mendoza Rangel, Director General of the Institute for Culture of the Municipality of Juarez, Mexico.


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Ciudad Juárez