Seen from all sides, what has been happening in the Ministry of Culture and the handling of the delegation of Peruvian authors that will be at the Guadalajara International Book Fair is a kind of tragedy / uncovering / spiritual justice / abuse that sooner or later it was going to happen.
In this story there are two great leaders: the Argolla del Mincul and the current minister of that sector, Ciro Gálvez.
What is being seen in the last hours is not an isolated event, but a consequence of a closed and preferential behavior of the Argolla del Mincul towards not a few relatives whose greatest merit was not the quality of the work, but the strategic flattery for with the ministerial bosses of the moment.
What this Argolla was capable of —composed broadly by representatives from the local independent publishing world—, we have several proofs, the most outstanding being its letter of introduction: the delegation of authors who participated in the Bogotá International Book Fair in the year 2014.
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From that moment, the Argolla del Mincul established the guidelines of its selective criteria: to summon the authors required by the same international fairs to give rise to the trap: to put in the relatives.
What this Ring never understood, or did not want to understand, is that despite the difficulties that Peruvian writers have to develop a career according to their literary abilities, there was and there are enough authors with whom it was possible to arm armored delegations as quality , in which names of worth could be lacking, but never surplus.
And what this Argolla has done in these years is precisely to set up delegations in which minor voices were superfluous – from my experience, recurring authors to international fair events are not the problem (namely, when the FIL in Lima receives foreign delegations to their fairs, do they not participate with the authors who request from Lima?), but the morphology of the calls with authors who did not meet minimum quality requirements, a situation that was not perceived by the Argolla, but by the Peruvian literary universe .
La Argolla was not aware of these frequent mistakes because she was already used to doing whatever she wanted with resources from the national treasury, and she was not aware of her mistakes because she had already made relations and the trafficking of favors her own. In other words, the Argolla del Mincul has always been fascinated by the little egg. This Ring does not read, does not compare, does not ask. It acts as an autonomous entity that bases its selective criteria on affinity with the relative (“I like him”, “he’s my leg”, “he’s good people” and other nonsense). In other words: the Argolla del Mincul made its fair calls as if it were organizing a tone and this practice has served as fertilizer for the configuration of a minor feeling: resentment. And it is a justified resentment because with these selections the Mincul has encouraged the scam and not the meritocracy among Peruvian writers who wish to forge a literary trajectory that leads them to recognition, a lawful end as long as there is a work that justifies it.
Last Tuesday, July 27, the presentation of the Peruvian delegation that will participate in the 2021 edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair was made. A glance at the delegation of authors and specialists revealed a certainty: the Ring was still doing its thing. The conformation of this human group had all the signs of the delegations of past international fair editions: those required – on this occasion – by Mexico, authors of recent critical success and the inevitable close friends (from here the first questions came from specialists who they did not even have a written speech that allows their authority on bookish matters to be calibrated and with editors better known for their gloss-shifting but without any relevant edited book).
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The questions to this delegation did not wait, a situation to which the Argolla minculera is already accustomed, which believed that with that official presentation the international fair stew of the year was ready. However, unlike in previous years, in this story Ciro Gálvez, the Minister of Culture, made an appearance, about whom there is not much to break down and who had asked Pedro Castillo for this ministerial portfolio to “put order.”
An extremely curious, sinuous character (Cerrón notary), demagogue and “poet”, Gálvez gathered the discontent of many sectors that were neglected and never served by the Mincul. And his first actions were immediate. On Saturday July 31 —four days after the official announcement of the delegation—, in an interview with Pedro Escribano de The Republic, the Cerrón notary announced that he would review the list of authors and specialists summoned because he was seeking greater representation.
From then on, the Peruvian literary galaxy was immersed in an expectant silence, so to speak. This silence was due to a single reason: the revision announced by Gálvez had a legitimacy: the pocket of discontent of many Peruvian authors with the Mincul. It should be noted that this discontent is not only fair, the Mincul has had a shameful, cold and distant behavior with many Peruvian authors and artists during the quarantines last year.
In this new scenario, there were two options: the first, to erase the entire official list presented on Tuesday, July 27, and to make another that complies with commercial, literary and representative standards, always under the blessed shadow of quality. To do this, the Ring had to do what it has never done: read books and not people. The second, from the initial list, stay with the authors of valuable work (15) and complete the delegation with voices that do not raise questions. However, in both scenarios the mistreatment of authors and specialists was already announced, it was going to be erased more than one.
This Wednesday, September 22, the list reformulated by Gálvez was released. Seen from afar and up close, the outcome could not have been worse. All a hymn to bad taste, a praise for mistreatment and one more proof that the Government of Pedro Castillo has little or no interest in culture.
These are the nine authors removed from the initial list: Renato Cisneros, Katya Adaui Sicheri, Jorge Eslava, Cronwell Jara, Nelly Luna Amancio, Carmen McEvoy, Karina Pacheco, Marcel Velázquez and Gabriela Wiener.
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A cold review of each of their trajectories gives us an unquestionable reality: they are authors who have forged legitimacy based on persistence and critical recognition. I know that what was said did not like many, but we must refer to the evidence. A couple of examples: Adaui’s latest account, Geography of darkness, has been published in the Spanish publisher Pages de Espuma, which has a catalog that places it as the largest publisher in short stories in the Latin American field. I know its editor, Juan Casamayor, who takes care of the content of his editorial with surgical precision and in line with that principle he does not get carried away by extra-literary factors. To this, we note that the aforementioned account holder has been obtaining very good critical greetings since his appearance in May. But Gálvez did not care about that detail because it was more important that she be a “very invited” author to international literary events. The other example: the intellectual Carmen McEvoy, who has also published the extraordinary book of essays this year The Cracked Republic. Maybe they deleted it from the initial list. I do not even want to imagine what arguments the questioned Minister of Culture had to remove her from the delegation. The same concern with Jorge Eslava, Cronwell Jara, Karina Pacheco, Marcel Velázquez, Gabriela Wiener and the renowned journalist Nelly Luna (she is not an author with a published book and was in the delegation as a specialist). As for Cisneros, the question is mature and the answer to it will surely not be to the liking of some: is it perhaps their fault that they request his presence at important fair events? If they request it, it is because there is a market of readers that asks for it.
The greatest horror of the Argolla del Mincul has been the arrogance with which it did its business. This Argolla was warned of what would happen sooner or later thanks to her preferential behavior, she had been criticized about the way she made her “chocolateos”, she never took into account that her selections were so thick and unacceptable to common sense. And this Argolla underestimated Gálvez, who was more “dated” than Mario Vargas Llosa – beware, the Peruvian Nobel Prize in Literature did not want to sponsor the delegation, not even for Zoom– about who’s who in the Mincul. This little detail was not detected by La Argolla, which knows as much about books, bookstores and editions as the Blue and White Soccer Fund during 2020.
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Known the list of Wednesday 22, not a few summoned authors are resigning en bloc. In this chain of resignations, we also see – and with pain I must point out – authors who with talent, persistence and conviction have achieved a literary referential without owing anything to anyone. And of course, this party could not miss the rubber of the jokes that liven up the bailongo: even the most questioned summoned are resigning (let’s look at those who make up the specialist category). That is what La Argolla y Gálvez has generated: a circus, a clown that is born from the very entrails of the Mincul, that is to say, a disastrous show financed with the money of all Peruvians (let’s never lose this last factor from the radar).
Those who think that this tragicomedy is the fault of Gálvez are wrong (the systematic mistreatment of women is not his exclusive, it is a core part of the Pedro Castillo government), it is also the fault of the Argolla del Mincul for having encouraged the scam and not the meritocracy among Peruvian writers and artists since its creation in 2010.