Recently, two events have been relevant to the public opinion in the country. First, in March 2017, the National Theatre (declared as a cultural heritage of the country), celebrated one century of existence, hosting dancing, classical music, poetry sessions, theatre plays and even social events. In that regard, an important Salvadoran actor, Roberto Carvajal wondered: “What if by using this centre of artistic expression, we could change the number of 14 daily murders into 14 scenic spectacles presented, 14 books published, 14 paintings and 14 poems recited daily, so we can move from being the most violent country to the most cultured?”
The second event is that on 19 April, 2018 the President of the Republic, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, officially created the Ministry of Culture, substituting the Secretary of Culture of the Presidency, in an effort to strengthen the public institutionality related with cultural expressions in El Salvador. This Ministry is constituted by the General Direction of Arts, the General Direction of Territorial Networks, the General Direction of Cultural and Nature Patrimony and the General Direction of Investigations, Documentary Acquisitions and Editions.
El Salvador has an incipient offer in artistic formation at a professional level. Although artistic education is part of the integral development of students according to the National Direction of Higher Education (MINED in Spanish) and is established as compulsory, currently only three out of a total of 523 trainers in all specialties are specialising in artistic education within the system of formation of teachers. This field is under responsibility of educators from other fields of study. This is explained partially by the few undergraduate courses in art that exist. There is only a Bachelor’s Degree in Plastic Arts at El Salvador University and a Bachelor’s in Music founded in 2018 by the University José Matías Delgado. In addition, the government has not done significative efforts to wide the offer on these fields, focusing their interests in technical and instrumental fields.
Only in the last 8 years a major concern by the Salvadoran government to promote culture and artistic expressions such as dancing, music and theatre can be registered. This has not traditionally been a major issue of concern for different governments; for that reason, the public investment has been scarce. Among the recent cultural exchanges that stand out for promoting cultural expression in El Salvador is the Interinstitutional Agreement on Cultural Exchange with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Cuba. It consists in the development of the cultural project La Colmenita (The Little Hive) implemented in nine municipalities prioritised by the Public Safety Plan El Salvador Seguro (A Safe El Salvador) which focuses on youth violence prevention. This project will benefit more than 430 children and youths between 5 and 17 years of age, with an approximate investment of US$271,000. It is a program with 25 years of experience, which has allowed to establish a particular methodology to promote the human development of children and youths through theatre. It is not a school of artistic formation, but an initiative that promotes values through art.
One public voice with resonance and influence within the decision makers in the country is Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez. He was appointed from the Vatican City on 29 June, 2018 from his position as Auxiliary Bishop from the San Salvador Archdiocese. He was strongly linked to the dialogue and negotiation process that led to the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, which ended the conflict in El Salvador. He was also close to the martyred Bishop Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was canonised and made a saint by the Catholic Church on 14 October, 2018. There are also other historical churches such as Lutheran, Episcopalian and Baptist. His influence goes beyond the Roman Catholic community and he is constantly requested for interviews by mass media to provide his opinion about topics related with social issues, migration and policy topics.
The Central American University stands out to prove the persistent level of influence on the academia by priests from the Society of Jesus, known as Jesuits. Also, beyond the academic scope, the University has some think tanks focused on human rights and public opinion; the Institute for Human Rights Defense provide free legal and psychosocial assistance in cases of human rights violations, educational services, research and a observatory for human rights.
The other think tank is the University Institute for Public Opinion which gather and analyse information through polls and research, about the state of public opinion, providing studies and working papers about this issue.