Paysandú is culture


Throughout the 20th century, Paysandú was one of the few Departments that strongly embraced industrialization in Uruguay. It was a city with a complex socio-political network, a rich social fabric, a strong sense of history, and an ability to rethink its future, which made it possible to think about the keys to that future.

However, from the systematic national deindustrialisation that occurred under the country's dictatorship to the economic crisis of 2001-2002, the country changed. An integrated and robust middle class society was partially replaced by a dual society. On the one hand, some were proud of a history doomed to repeat itself, while others abandoned their identity. As a result, Paysandú continues to have its strengths and weaknesses. Its strength is its social capital, which fosters entrepreneurial spirit and associativism. Its most apparent weaknesses are ongoing historical issues that hinder development.

Over the last decade, through various social, cultural, and economic policies, significant efforts have been made to overcome existing limitations and promote sustainable development.

Paysandú and culture

During the last scheduled meeting of congress under the Broad Front (Frente Amplio) coalition in 2008, it was noted that Uruguayan culture was emerging from a dire situation that had deepened over decades. This decline involved the abandonment of building facilities and a lack of support from various national government administrations in developing cultural policies. It was necessary to implement a series of cultural development strategies in all State actions.

The objective is to ensure the right for people to be considered creators and carriers of culture for their community, as well as the right to use and enjoy all cultural goods.


  • Promotion of access to, and use of, cultural property
  • Development of urban intervention with quality cultural infrastructure for social integration
  • Renewed emphasis on heritage policies
  • Improvement of the production, dissemination, and distribution of cultural goods
  • Protection of rights for culture workers
  • Promotion of the positive use of language for social integration

Cultural policy is led and overseen by the local government, together with civil society actors from the Department of Paysandú. The municipality plays a fundamental role in guaranteeing democratic representation and diversification, which generates the active participation of local actors through decision-making and access to culture. These new approaches to development require different forms of coordination based on regional governance, which promotes broad participation by society. The main challenge is guaranteeing cultural rights for the whole of society, which can be resolved by recognizing cultural diversity as a decisive factor in developing any socioeconomic project. Here, the local government promotes cultural policies within the framework of bolstering the region's creative industries.

Paysandú is undergoing a process of reconversion around the issue of culture, transforming the sector into one centred on creative industries that have an economic influence on the region. As a result, different traditional cultural expressions such as theatre, music, and dance are linked to the audiovisual sector, design, video games, and publishing.

The objective is to ensure the right to be considered a creator and a carrier of culture in society.

The inherent principles of Agenda 21 for culture and the cultural policy of the Paysandú Department help align the government's specific objectives with the UN's SDGs. The overall goal is to address sustainability by mainstreaming the actions of each pillar of sustainable development.

Developing different cultural heritages has been made a priority to foster cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. This has occurred alongside the promotion of artistic and cultural exchange on a national level, as well as regional integration, particularly along the Uruguayan-Argentine coast. There has also been a focus on human rights and participatory democracy by facilitating people's access to cultural products and goods, as well as by training artists and producing cultural goods.

Paysandú's cultural policy is designed mainly to contribute to social equity by promoting local cultural goods and services that help reduce inequality throughout the territory (SDG-10).

Additionally, the cultural sphere is a key part of achieving Goal 11. The policy of Paysandú's current government has been to emphasize the restoration of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, thus repositioning symbolic capital in order to redefine local identity.

Promoting the local production of cultural goods and services has a direct impact on the economic development of the city. It is also linked to cultural tourism and the potential to foster artistic endeavours and create opportunities for people in the sector. Local cultural policy has helped strengthen partnerships with civil society organizations, cultural groups, and institutions or companies striving to broaden the supply of cultural activities and initiatives. Such a comprehensive approach has therefore generated economic activity.

Paysandú has positioned itself as a cultural development hub, using high impact strategies that reflect a steady process.

Objectives and project implementation

Primary objective

Specific objectives, development and actions

  1. The region aims to facilitate people's access to cultural goods and services: hosting free workshops run by renowned domestic actors that aim to train, stimulate, strengthen, and promote local talent in singing, children's illustration, percussion groups, and carnival performance. It also seeks to highlight education programmes at the Department's museums in partnership with schools, high schools, and youth centres, as well as to work with the psychosocial rehabilitation centre to promote inclusion of psychiatric patients through pottery workshops.
  2. The region aims to decentralize access, training, promotion of cultural artists or actors, and cultural goods by working alongside teachers in more remote parts of the Department in the areas of folk dance, Latin rhythms, drawing, theatre, and aesthetics. Paysandú shall strengthen training on developing projects around culture, communication, and marketing, led by the CLAEH School of Culture along with the local government, and including the participation of 20 cultural managers from various fields.
  3. The region aims to prioritize and develop different cultural heritages, promote artistic and cultural exchange at the national level, and foster regional integration, especially along the border of Uruguay and Argentina. The goal is to restore symbolic heritage infrastructure, such as the redesign of the former zoo to transform it into an ecological park; the renovation of the former Astor movie theatre into a cultural centre for expanding the number of performing arts spaces; and updating the Florencio Sánchez Theatre with a billboard throughout the year. This strategy to emphasize the value the Department's tangible heritage is being carried out along with the Heritage Commission of the Department of Paysandú and the Friends of Florencio Sánchez Foundation. Paysandú will also restore and preserve tangible and intangible heritage, promoted from a perspective based on public-private participation made up of a group of honorary citizens. An example of one exchange is the choir meeting held in Paysandú with the participation of choirs from Montevideo, Salto, and Colón, Argentina, as well as the 1st International Poetry Contest "Aníbal Sampayo", as well as the first, second, and third Binational Ceramics Fair, with judges from both countries.
  4. It is important to establish the Paysandú Department as a cultural attraction by constructing its regional identity. For the first time, Paysandú is one of the locations for the International Festival of Performing Arts. The region's cultural agenda incorporated the River of Painted Birds tourism project that brings together six local governments from the Uruguayan coast. Another important event is the "Beer Week" festival, a traditional local celebration that hosts 52 events that help bolster cultural identity. Hosting the Cities I Forum: Culture and Tourism for Sustainable Development, with the participation of leading national and international exhibitors.

The restoration and preservation of tangible and intangible heritage has been promoted from a perspective based on public participation.

Finally, Paysandú's brand is being developed in order to establish the Department as a place focused on cultural identity and productive development. This process was carried out with citizens through consultations, forums, and collective works whose aim was to bring together shared ideas.

This cultural policy along with the revitalization of cultural events, the incorporation of innovative activities, and the recovery of heritage are notable highlights, including the following:

  • "Leave a book. Take a Book" is an innovative book swap programme at the public beach, which deserved media coverage both at the local level, national, or even Argentine levels
  • The Book Fair—unique in the metropolitan area, and deserving of the Legionnaire Prize, awarded by the Book Association (2017)
  • Night of the Museums: Third annual event that has included the municipal library since 2015
  • A bus tour
  • Community Image Space developed a city tour telling stories through theatre
  • "One child, one instrument": One level of the programme was developed in the Chaplin District’—an area that formed as an expansion to the northeast part of the city due to floods and a high risk of social exclusion The movement of many to the city of Montevideo and performance at Sodre National Auditorium had a social impact on all the families that were involved in the process
  • Libolo groups: training workshops in the neighbourhoods where groups exist, supporting the territorialization of policies, promoting recognition of areas with vulnerable socioeconomic conditions
  • Post-industrial Micro-theatre: stage creation laboratory workshop in a former industrial factory
  • Mural festival
  • Setting up the first regional meeting between the Creative Industries Market of Uruguay and participation in the Creative Industries Market of Argentina


Direct impacts

Impact on local government

The project has led to changes in perspective for both local government policy makers and local actors. It has promoted a shift in habits, democracy, and the democratization of cultural rights. The main challenge has been to change the logic of continuing demand, which should be placed on local government rather than simply local actors. Indeed, it must involve the collective creation of proposals and multilevel governance. In seeking a steady process, the goal is to turn Paysandú into national hub for cultural development that benefits all citizens.

Impact on Culture and on Local Cultural Actors

Since 2015, Paysandú has seen the consolidation of events and activities, significant increase in participation and production, growth of local, national and international exchanges, decentralization of production, and cultural events planning based on local demand.


Up until this point, evaluation has simply been quantitative, and its framework is being evaluated. The quantity and quality of actions have been assessed based on records, and on citizen participation in activities, through credentials and attendance lists.

These lists provide information on the number of participants and also on more specific information for each participant, offering a better profile of attendees. This makes it possible to evaluate the policy and monitor its implementation.

These lists provide information on the number of participants and more specific information for each participant, offering a better profile. This makes it possible to evaluate the different phases of implementing this policy.

Key factors

Implementation of comprehensive development policies promoted and led by the Department's government; implementation of specific sustainable development policies from a cross-cutting and horizontal-territorial approach

Strategic planning for the strengthening of culture, and the use of dialogue with society and different sectors for their empowerment

Recognize cultural diversity and artistic groups formerly excluded from policies, and generate social capital for those with little access to cultural institutions

Ongoing work

The successful continuation of the project will depend on emphasizing the value of cultural, artistic, and tourism activity, expanding its influence across all initiatives, and promoting citizen participation as a means for the use and enjoyment of culture. In addition, networking with groups, civil society organizations, companies, and institutions will strengthen ongoing activities that promote culture. The reassessment of the role of municipal officials is essential for establishing new strategic guidelines, empowering them in cultural activities and proposals, as well as for consolidating human capital.

To guarantee this, it is necessary to improve the levels of training, income, and access to cultural and educational goods and services, which are all part of a long-term process.

Further information

Paysandú was a candidate for the third "UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award" (November 2017 - May of 2018). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2016, and requested that the UCLG Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be included under Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by: Mr. Renzo Torres, Head of the Development Management Unit, Office of Productive Sustainable Development, Paysandú Municipal Department. Paysandú, Uruguay.

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