Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva paid a visit to Heliópolis, a poor neighborhood (comunidade carente) in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, where he went to symbolically inaugurate 328 Cultural Centers (Pontos de Cultura), which are part of the Cultura Viva (Live Culture) program that brings cultural, educational and citizenship activities to the poor nationwide.
The 328 new centers join an existing 210 centers around the country. "We are just establishing the world’s biggest cultural network based on community needs. We will have 500 of them up and operating by the beginning of next year," declared Celio Turino, of the Ministry of Culture.
The ministry’s budget has set aside funding that can reach up to US$ 81,000 (R$ 180,000) for each Cultural Center over a two-and-a-half-year period.
The centers started in 2004 and the idea is not for the government to set up activity areas, but rather for the community to develop its own activities plans and then seek government support.
The centers have thus been able to offer an enormous variety of activities: music, theater, dance and all kinds of workshops. Some of the centers have been set in Indian villages and even in small towns where descendants of slaves live (quilombos).
Turino reports that at least two American universities, Berkley and Columbia, have expressed interest in obtaining more information on how the program works and could participate in cooperation agreements.