In just five editions, the Culture & Business Pride has become, from Tenerife, an international benchmark. This 2022, the contest has been surpassed and has managed to bring to the Island activists of the level of Chelsea Manning, Owen Jones or Pussy Riot. It is, according to its organizers, the most transversal celebration of the ‘pride’ that links the cultural, business and protest fabric of the LGTIBQ+ collective.
Olga Payar has been the director since its inception, five editions ago, of the Culture & Business Pride that was held two weeks ago in Tenerife.
The festival he directs is barely five years old but has already put the island on the international map of the LGTBIQ+ collective.
The Festival was born in 2017 as a result of a request from the Councilor for Tourism at that time from the Arona City Council, who was thinking of making a different pride. We proposed an idea based a bit on our experience, because we had already done several international projects. The truth is that it was born from the union of his particular idea and our configuration of that idea. We developed a new pride project aimed at a wider audience. I think the success has been quite great.
It combines two areas that may be what differentiates it from the more common concept of pride. It unites the world of culture and business.
Once we moved to Santa Cruz de Tenerife we left behind the initials of ARN. Yes, we are now Culture & Business Pride. Yes, it is true that we have a very wide range of proposals that go beyond what is usually given in other pride. We are very focused on highlighting the achievements that the group has and has developed throughout its history. And not only as activists – which is fundamental and even more so in the current situation – but as professionals who have made humanity advance. It is one of the proposals that we have valued and as a result of that we develop a series of business activities, conferences and training that do not occur in other pride. Fortunately, we are pioneers and our model is now being adopted elsewhere because it has worked so well. People think it’s very important. For example, in this latest edition a million songs have been played. Not only issues of the LGTBIQ+ collective but also cinema, music, technology and human rights with top-level international speakers. Also, all for free. This means that the festival is aimed at absolutely all audiences. Because that’s what it’s all about, normalizing. And we always do it claiming this scourge of rights that is still taking place in many countries and that is linked to the LGTBIQ+ collective. However, we cannot forget either the importance that the collective has had for human development throughout the history of humanity.
“This project is supported by different parties and that is because they believe in it”
Do you think that Culture & Business Pride has come to fill a gap that Tenerife had compared to other areas with more tradition in these protest celebrations, such as Gran Canaria?
Well, actually Santa Cruz de Tenerife has always had its activities linked to Pride and they have been great. There is, in addition, the activism of the associations of Tenerife that has been extraordinary. They are among the most powerful in the Canary Islands. What happens is that it is true that the pride of places like Maspalomas have had a lot of relevance. Right now, what Culture & Business Pride has done is focus on Tenerife and the Canary Islands in general, that’s how we see it. In fact, the President of the Government of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, was with us in this latest edition because precisely we move an activism that goes beyond the typical. We have paid attention to the rights of the group and the strength it has as a community. And honestly, I think we’ve done it. The good thing is that for this we have had the support of all the political forces. Keep in mind that right now this project is supported by different political parties and that is because they all believe that what we are developing has a great future and not only for the collective but for citizens in general and the Islands in particular.
The program of this latest edition reached its peak with the presence of personalities such as Chelsea Manning or the Pussy Riot. How do you get an agenda that brings together such powerful figures on a cultural level and activists from the group that are still persecuted in part of the world?
The truth is that we have a very large team of people working at the festival. It is also true that we have behind us some 26 years of experience in international recruitment. I think the key is that we got ahead of ourselves a little bit, we innovated and we took the step a little bit earlier. We are very observant and we are always aware of what is happening and where things are going. We study what is happening and who are the people who work and have achieved important things in recent years. Fortunately, these international personalities have seen the work that we are developing since the first edition of the project and have wanted to join it. This is the case this year, for example, with the activist Chelsea Manning. It was the first time that she sets foot in Spain. She is living history of humanity. Manning, as we all know, was the person who leaked the WikiLeaks that stopped the Iraq war. She denounced the abuses of supragovernmental entities and having her for the first time in Spain, specifically in Tenerife, is a historic milestone. The fact, in addition to the fact that the Pussy Riot have offered their only concert in Spain –in addition to their only public activity denouncing Putin–, hosted and supported by the political forces of Tenerife, says a lot about the political and social awareness that we have in the Island with international phenomena such as what is happening in Ukraine. We have also had Nobel Prize winners like Carlos Umaña, for example. He received the award in 2017 for her work for nuclear disarmament. So I think it is clear that the festival has a multilateral and transversal commitment. Above all, because it is also run by people who are absolutely aware of the importance of the group internationally and socially. That is what we have tried to do and do every year.
The Alan Turing Awards, in honor of the man considered to be the father of computing and which are awarded every year to recognize the work of people in the group, are gaining international relevance…
Yes, it is true that yes. The delivery of the Alan Turing is one of the noble acts of the event We always say it. This year has been wonderful for us, especially in terms of the volume of acceptance and international reach they have had. In fact, of the ten winners I think there were at least eight international ones. That makes the project have an important international echo. In addition, very relevant personalities and entities came from Amnesty International to Chelsea Manning herself, as we mentioned before. Manning’s photograph with the Pussy Riot, who met at this event, is undoubtedly also historical. So we are managing to take important steps in the visibility of the collective, in the struggle and in its achievements. These achievements must be made visible precisely so that people are aware of the need for these demands.
“Canary Islands is a benchmark both nationally and internationally for its Trans Law”
Speaking of needs, perhaps now the challenges of trans people and those laws that continue to punish the group and violate human rights in several countries are the main challenges.
There are many challenges. Obviously, the trans community is one of those who are suffering the most from the consequences of their own self-determination. There are still people around the world who do not understand and who need to be educated in this regard. Fortunately, the Canary Islands are a benchmark both nationally and internationally because their Trans Law is one of the most advanced in the world. We feel super proud to belong to and develop the event in a place like Tenerife because it is an example. It is also true that its activists – those who have fought year after year and decade after decade – were precisely the ones who got such advanced legislation. We also want to serve as an example. We not only want to bring international examples to the Canary Islands but also go out from here to the world.
Putting ourselves practically, does the Culture & Business being held in Tenerife really serve as an investment attraction pole for the Islands?
Absolutely. She recently talked to people who did not understand the importance of the events. They are very important because they put the focus on what is being done. Obviously, the day-to-day work is absolutely fundamental, but these events manage to attract the attention of those who have not yet noticed the work that is being done. With Culture & Business Pride it is what we have wanted to do for years. I think we are achieving it, the fact that this focus is also a tourist and business attraction is the icing on the cake for a project that what it does is unite and add activities, personalities and different entities for its support. It is wrong to say it, but when a project has such high benefits not only in the media sense but also economically and fundamentally socially, the general population benefits both at a common, educational and economic level.
For the 2023 edition it will be difficult to overcome…
We are already working for next year because we feel very fortunate to have the institutional support of both the Government of the Canary Islands and, mainly, the Autonomous Organization of Culture of the City Council of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the City Council itself and of course the Cabildo of Tenerife through Tourism of Tenerife. Without them it could not develop. Let us remember that it is a free event that is designed for everyone and so that everyone has access to knowledge, work and networking that the festival is developing for everyone in the group and not just for them, but for the entire population in general of all the Islands. I think it will not be difficult to overcome because the world is full of personalities from the group who have managed, year after year, to overcome many obstacles. They have reconfigured the course of humanity, like Alan Turing himself. I think there will be big surprises. This has only started. The role of the Canary Islands and Tenerife is essential for the group. The fact that the Islands host a project of these characteristics, where the businesses of the LGTBIQ+ collective also have a great role, is undoubtedly a mirror where other projects and places must look to develop the freedoms of all human beings.
“I am nobody without my team”
Olga Payar has been the director of Culture & Business Pride since its inception, just five years ago. When she is asked about the keys to her success, she does not hesitate to take credit away and attribute it directly to her team, to the professionals who surround her every year in a job that does not stop between editions. It is, as they appear in the photo above these lines, Julián Corro, Alfonso Herrero, Olga Payar herself, Marcos Fernández and Txema Martín. Culture and Business Pride is conceived with the idea of developing a platform for analysis and vindication of advances in sexual diversity and human rights, combining culture, business, tourism and the rights of the LGTBIQ+ collective in a pioneering way.