Museums Across Mexico, Central America Face Financial Peril, Survey Finds

Dozens of museums across Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean are at risk of permanent closure as a result of pandemic-related financial losses, a recent report by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has found. The report’s findings were first reported this week by the Spanish-language publication El País.

While museums across the world struggled to survive last year, this region appears to have been impacted more extensively than others. Within the U.S., for example, fears about institutional shutterings turned out to have been misplaced. In 2020, the American Alliance of Museums predicted that one-third of all institutions in the country would close, but most wound up staying open. The UNAM report presents a more dire picture with potentially farther-reaching effects for institutions in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

UNAM surveyed 285 institutions, many of which said said they are facing a budget crisis that has left their outlook for the future uncertain. More than 75 percent of respondents said they are facing financial insecurity; 63 percent said that due to a budget shortfall, they are at risk of not being able to properly maintain their facilities.

The survey represents the ongoing challenges cultural institutions across the region face in staying afloat during the crisis. Graciela de la Torre, an art historian and UNAM chair, who organized the survey in conjunction with the Institute of Leadership in Museums, told El País, “Many countries have put in place mechanisms for the recovery of the sector, but here there has been absolutely no rescue.”

The report also stated that nearly a third of the museums have been forced to reduce their staff and that around 14 percent of employees working in the cultural sector have lost jobs since the start of the pandemic. And while the costs of providing in-person programming are down, the expenses associated with digital projects have only risen for these events, leaving some institutions scrambling to make ends meet, according to the UNAM survey.

Government budget cutbacks issued between 2019 to 2021 have also threatened public museums that rely heavily on federal funding. Earlier this year, 75 percent of the Mexican Ministry of Culture’s funding was redirected to other federally backed projects, including the development of a cultural complex in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest.

Some museums in Mexico have already begun to shutter. In July, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Ateneo de Yucatán in Mérida said it would close its doors permanently after the state government failed to meet a deadline to allocate funding to the museum. Monterrey’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and the Papalote Museo del Niño in Mexico City were recently on the brink of closing, but they recovered after completing donation campaigns.

According to UNAM, the José Luis Cuevas Museum, the Antique Toy Museum and the Caricature Museum in Mexico City, and the Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Art are in danger of closure.

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