At its last meeting in June, the Governing Board of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Malaga was informed of the proposal to create the Casa América project in Malaga, presented by José Antonio Sierra Lumbreras, Hispanist, collaborator and assiduous participant in all the activities held in our city. Aware of the purpose, scope and importance of this project, the Board agreed, with a positive assessment, to promote and encourage this cultural and social initiative within the entity's annual Action Plan for the next five years.
Consequently, in order to carry forward the implementation of this new and important line of action and in accordance with article 26 of our Statutes, a Working Committee is created to proceed with the development of the functions entrusted and the first activities of the academic year 2021-2022. This Commission, chaired by the President, will include a member of the Board, two members of the Economic Society, together with the participation of Mr. José Antonio Sierra, as an advisor.
With this initiative, the Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Malaga takes up again one of its historical functions and purposes of relations with the countries of Latin America and their human and territorial reality, throughout the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century. This is attested to by its numerous contacts, some of enormous social significance, such as the creation of the Barrio América in Malaga at the beginning of the 20th century, after the floods of 1907, or intense cultural activity, such as the holding of the Mexico Exhibition at our headquarters in 1935, or the visit and lecture given by Gabriela Mistral, a decade before she received the Nobel Prize.
Recovering this rapprochement and historical relationship in this third decade of the 21st century takes on the character of a social, economic and cultural requirement for the city and province of Malaga. There are numerous new elements and challenges that make it necessary to establish this platform-bridge (Casa América) with the new realities experienced by Latin American countries and the Hispanic communities of the USA and Canada. The Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Malaga aims to be the institutional environment for this framework of relations and knowledge of what is happening today in both spheres (Malaga-America-Malaga, there and back), within the complex reality of the contemporary world. Particularly, in addition to Malaga's cultural, university and technological function, the city needs at the same time to count on - and also take advantage of - the strengths of its economy, the extensive diplomatic/consular network of Latin American countries, the value of the Spanish-language Film Festival, the young and innovative University and, above all, the thousands of Latin American residents who live and work here, who have a culture as diverse as it is enriching.
For this reason, the Casa América project in the Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Malaga and its headquarters (Casa del Consulado) finds a logical reason to develop in this space which is a place of historical memory and today one of the active cultural focal points of the city. It undoubtedly meets the conditions to develop and promote, within its Action Plan, the holding of activities (information tribune and conferences, debate forum, training and study centre), as well as exhibitions in its centenary exhibition halls, the oldest in Malaga and Spain.
La Económica aims to establish links and ties of collaboration with Casas América and other institutions in Spain and other countries in order to increase knowledge, friendship and cooperation with Latin America.
Aware of the role that Malaga and, in particular, the Economic Society of Friends of the Country played in the past with the countries of Latin America during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Board of Directors agreed to promote the Malaga America House Project, with the intention of resuming that historical relationship of friendship and, at the same time, broadening the areas of collaboration between Malaga and Spain with the American communities and States.
Since 1789, the Economic Society of Friends of the Country has been working for the economic, social and cultural development of Malaga, in the same way as the hundred or so Royal Societies of Friends of the Country in other parts of the peninsula and overseas areas of the Kingdom of Spain, based on the reformist impulse of the Enlightenment. Malaga's modern and contemporary history bears witness to its contributions to the promotion of agriculture, trade and industry, the promotion of science, culture and popular education in society.
The Economic Society shared with other royal foundations in Malaga (Montepío de Cosecheros and Consulado del Mar) the historic building in its central square, declared a national monument and today a Cultural Heritage Site. It later occupied it exclusively - by concession of the Spanish Government in 1850 - to develop its cultural initiatives, above all to create the first Public Library in Malaga, with one of the main collections of Spanish bibliographic heritage. In addition to being an agent for the dissemination of knowledge and the promotion of reading, the enlightened corporation played an important role in raising the level of popular education and improving the lives of the people of Malaga through other cultural and social activities. For this reason it is recognised as an important place of memory in Malaga.
The Economic Society of Friends of the Country of the 21st century, with identical values and founding principles, practices and develops multiple educational, scientific, civic, literary, musical, urban, etc. activities in its spaces and facilities. The centrality of its headquarters continues to be one of the main focal points of Malaga's culture, with conferences, forums, seminars, book presentations and, in particular, the artistic promotion of a large number of creators in the centenary exhibition rooms. La Económica is not only a place for the exhibition of plastic art, it is also a place for citizens to learn about contemporary art.
With this initiative, the Economic Society tries to recover the historical relationship that Malaga maintained with America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as during the first third of the 20th century. For this reason, they do not want to forget the international solidarity response of some American countries: Argentina, Honduras and the United States helped the people of Malaga in 1907, when the Guadalmedina River overflowed its banks and the floods destroyed the popular neighbourhoods of La Trinidad and El Perchel. That generous financial contribution, together with those of the Economic Society, allowed the construction of the Barrio Obrero América, whose testimony still survives in some of the houses and street names of "La Prensa" in Buenos Aires, Salta, Honduras and Tampa.
The Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País intensified cultural relations with South and North America throughout the first third of the last century. On 17th April 1934, the Chilean diplomat, writer and poet Gabriela Mistral visited Malaga, and in the assembly hall of the Economica she gave a lecture, A Brief Description of Chile, eleven years before receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. The following day she gave a talk on Mexico, a country that was dear and well known to the writer. Gabriela Mistral was involved in educational reform and in the founding and organisation of popular libraries, called upon by José Vasconcelos, Mexico's Minister of Education. The Economic Society strengthened its friendly relations with Mexico in 1935, organising the Mexican Popular Art Exhibition and a series of lectures in the Society's halls, thanks to the collaboration of the Mexican Honorary Consul Porfirio Smerdou and its president Emilio Baeza Medina.
Without forgetting the memory of the past or its founding postulates, the Economic Society has updated its lines and horizons of work in the first decades of the 21st century, with training, technology, promotion and cooperation continuing to be the main objective of Malaga's growth for its economic, social and cultural development. This is what the complex reality of the global world requires, and if we want to consolidate its international position, we must focus especially on relations between Spain and Latin America.
Without a doubt, mutual knowledge and culture constitute an essential reinforcement for creating this framework of relations. From its strategic position in the Mediterranean-Atlantic and the connectivity of its important international communication routes, Malaga has a set of conditions that favours being a cultural and knowledge meeting place: it has an outstanding leisure and tourism industry, with excellence in research.
The Economic Society of Friends of the Country is promoting the Casa América Project in Malaga with the aim of strengthening the framework of collaboration and friendship between Malaga and Spain and the countries of the Americas, and initially seeks to enlist the will and support of citizens as well as the essential commitment of public administrations in order to promote and complete in a short period of time the definitive official creation of this cultural entity, aimed at collaboration and cooperation with Latin America.
In this sense, the Project aims to strengthen the cultural and civic relations of those living on both sides of the Atlantic, based on the contributions of the "Círculo Cultural Latinoamericano de Málaga" founded in 2015 and proposals presented by Don José Antonio Sierra Lumbrera. Since the summer/autumn of 2021, the Economic Society of Friends of the Country has been working on the development of the Casa América Málaga Project, as a meeting place and socio-cultural platform, with initiatives and activities aimed at the knowledge, understanding, communication and dissemination of these multiple territorial, economic and social realities in the 21st century, in accordance with the following aims:
1. To promote cultural relations in a broad sense, within the fields of education, research and science, art, cinema, literature and cultural creation of Malaga and Andalusia with Latin America.
2. To promote spaces for meeting, knowledge, reflection and dialogue between Latin American and Spanish cultures at the present time.
3. To make known the complex territorial, human, economic, social and political reality of these countries, as well as the agreements reached between the European Union/Spain and Latin America.
4. To organise activities that contribute to the social, educational, cultural and labour integration of Latin American residents in the city and province of Malaga.
5. To contribute to the development of relations between Malaga and Andalusia and the Hispanic communities in the USA and Canada.
6. To cooperate with Latin American associations, institutions and institutes in Spain and other countries.
7. Collaborate to increase Africa's links with the European Union and Latin America.
Malaga and the urban territorial environment of the Costa del Sol have the conditions to be an excellent platform-bridge between Spain and the European Union and Latin America, together with its communication system, a centre of high service provision and promotion of the different expressions of culture.
The Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Malaga aims to promote knowledge of the languages, history and cultures of Latin America by organising in its annual programme cycles of conferences, seminars, forums and congresses.
The trajectory and cultural experience of the Economic Society will serve to foster the appropriate climate of information and debate in the Casa América Project, analysing current affairs in Latin America.
The opportunity to function as a forum and platform for opinion means that the Casa América Project facilitates the presence of personalities from the world of diplomacy, politics, business, universities, science, technology, literature, art and sport, as well as the media.
Malaga, city of museums, of the international Spanish-language film festival, of university excellence, of information technologies, constitutes a first-class platform for the promotion and dissemination of the work of professors, researchers, film directors, cultural agents from Latin American countries, who will be able to present and publicise their respective activities, projects and works in each of their specialities.
The Casa América Project in Malaga will collaborate with public administrations, associations and citizens' organisations in the organisation of activities that contribute to and facilitate the social, educational, cultural and labour integration of Latin American residents in Malaga.
In short, the main aim of the Casa América Project promoted by the Economic Society of Friends of the Country is to make Malaga the great Latin American neighbourhood of Southern Europe.
Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra