Young people will say: it was the boomers’ fault. And, OK, they’re partly right. The generation born in the 50s and 60s surrendered to the United States like the victim of a spell. “We were completely devastated by their culture,” remembers writer Rosa Montero, National Literature Award winner in 2017.

This fascination was so deep that it only provoked extreme reactions: disinterest was not an option. “There was also a brutal anti-Americanism that was transmitted from parents to children and that came from before Franco’s rule,” adds the writer.

Loved and hated, American culture acquired total hegemony in Spain (and in the world): it was the canon with which any creative artifact was measured, the gold standard. That spell has lasted half a century, but just as the military imperialism of the world’s leading power has retreated to its winter quarters in the last decade, its cultural dominance has also entered into crisis. If in the past the status of living myths only seemed reserved for US stars, whether of cinema or music or thought, today any teenager idolizes with such intensity an Argentine singer, a Danish artist, a Nigerian writer or a korean director Even their icons are Spanish!

“The single story has ended,” summarizes Natalia Álvarez Simón, director of the Condeduque contemporary culture center in Madrid. “No one sets the canon anymore, no one imposes what is interesting anymore,” agrees filmmaker Isabel Coixet, director of the recently released Un amor.

It is not something that has changed overnight, and we will not see this leadership reestablished in 2024, nor in the following years.

Some experiences as an example:

María Fasce, Argentine writer and editor, currently literary director of Alfaguara, Lumen and Reservoir Books: «Today we do not have the feeling that the books we need to read come from the US. French, Korean and Japanese literature conquer many readers. I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and confirmed that feeling: good books, but themes and stories that I didn’t feel resonated with our readers; No editor or agent revealed to me that extraordinary book to come that I had hoped to find.

American movies don’t talk about today’s world. Barbie is horror and Oppenheimer is no better than any mediocre Hollywood biopic from years ago

Isabel Coixet: «If I think about the films that have been made this year in the US and Europe, there is no color! They do not have a concern to tell other things. They don’t talk about today’s world. Barbie is the horror and Oppenheimer is no better than any mediocre Hollywood biopic from years ago. European films do have the desire to tell the world, to put you in front of uncomfortable mirrors. And the same thing happens to me with books. Those who have left their mark on me this year I would tell you that they are almost all Spanish; If you had asked me 20 years ago I would surely have told you Philip Roth and a lot of authors from the US.

Jorge Martí, musician and writer, leader of the group La Cámara Roja: «My personal experience, living in Norway and having traveled a lot, is that as a country and as a culture we are much better than we think. No matter how much we flagellate ourselves with the typical memes that we are a tambourine country, in Spain there are many virtues. 30 years ago we Spaniards were less cosmopolitan and therefore more impressionable. Having gone out may have made us reflect on the local and value it more, and that makes our own a more decisive influence. We have global artists who are at the highest level and rubbing shoulders with the greatest. Surely it is obvious that I name Rosalía here.

Rosa Montero: «Now I hear all the time, when someone recommends a series or a movie, they tell you: ‘It’s just European.’ And it’s true, now what’s European feels like something good because it’s a different way of telling stories: more complex, more modern, closer, more original and more personal.”

Anik Lapointe, editor of Salamandra since 2014: «When I arrived from Montreal to Barcelona, ​​almost 30 years ago, the books I found in bookstores were mostly translations. I had the feeling of living in a society eager to discover the world, and US culture was one of the spearheads of a certain modernity: Paul Auster, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore or Susan Sontag were some of the writers who generated conversation. If I walked through the bookstores in Barcelona this weekend I would find more diversity. Above all, Spanish writers, a very dynamic cast of authors who have taken the market by storm, as well as European and Eastern writers. “They are the reflection of increasingly traveled, read and diversified readers.”

Natalia Álvarez Simón: «In the US, as in the United Kingdom, they have leaned towards a liberal model that does not protect their culture and does not support creation, but rather promotes industries like Broadway. In contemporary dance I have gone from watching their festivals and programs to going years without visiting their stages.

Although everything can be measured, it is not just that we listen to less music, read fewer books and comics, contemplate less art or see less theater and dance made in the USA, but that its influence and significance are much less. Relevance, a key value in a hyper-media society, is clearly inferior.

A perfect and paradoxical example is cinema: we continue to consume mostly Hollywood films, but as entertainment products; If the viewer is interested in artistic expression, he would not start looking for it in the US.

The US is a country with great inequalities and low quality democracy. This also affects their cultural hegemony.

“I don’t even know how many years I’ve subscribed to the New York Times,” says Coixet. «It was a kind of bible for me, but now people don’t give a damn what they or the New Yorker say. They have very little influence. Its Culture section is increasingly poor, it lurches as if trying to recover that role of arbiter of what is right and wrong.

Like lines on a graph that meet at a point, three phenomena have coincided that explain the fall of the American empire.

On the one hand, there is the crisis of the country’s own culture. Azahara Palomeque, writer and doctor in cultural studies from Princeton University, affirms that we are entering a new paradigm. «The US is a country deficient in social benefits, with a decreasing life expectancy, great inequalities and a low-quality democracy. “This also affects their cultural hegemony,” she explains, and highlights that it is awakening a “movement of rejection of predominant American values.” She asks herself: «Who wants to live in a residential complex far from everything, glorifying the car, false meritocracy, the nuclear family and massive purchases? “Fewer and fewer people.”

Rosa Montero has taught at several universities in Boston and Charlotte. In total she has spent two and a half years in the US in several semesters. «Harvard is one of the most brilliant, exquisite and expensive places in the American patriciate, but the last time I was there I found it in a state of social crisis, decrepitude and sadness that I did not expect. I didn’t see a thriving society, but rather something that was dying. Our empire, because it is our empire, is in an abysmal and dizzying crisis. They feel like they are on the brink of a civil war and they can’t stomach it. “They go through social, economic and spiritual depression.”

This intellectual recession is also keenly perceived by Isabel Coixet, who first lived in New York in the mid-80s and who knows the country well (her current partner is a New Yorker). «It is a dying democracy. “He has completely lost the savior of the world complex, and that also has its projection in the arts.”

Group political correctness, the continuous intimidation by the judges of what is correct, has fallen on us like a slab

And isn’t it that America’s own songs, novels or movies are simply worse? “American cinema invented a mythical, sublimated, glorified story, in which we all wanted to reflect ourselves,” says writer Pilar Adón, this year’s National Narrative Award winner. «We were given an aspirational product, full of stereotypes that we accepted without problem. “All that is no longer the case.” The current “atony” has a cause, in her opinion: self-censorship and “fear of the offended.” “Group political correctness, the continuous intimidation by the judges of what is correct, almost always anonymous, has fallen on us like a slab like a brand new inquisition,” says Adón, who rejects the “infantilization of what is proposed to us from over there”. “It is not in his harmless and thoughtful films where the challenges are nor where the intellect will rely on to grow and improve.”

On the other hand, Spain has changed a lot in this century. “The country has matured and the average citizen knows much more about culture,” explains Chus Martínez, one of the most important curators and art historians in our country, director of the Art Institute of the Academy of Art and Design of Basel (Switzerland). ). “It’s not that we have lost interest in the US, but that we have more capacity and our interest is more varied,” she says, and she celebrates that we have reached “a more ecological cultural state.” Something that Coixet agrees with: “We no longer allow ourselves to be easily dazzled by almost anything.” Or we are dazzled, but by other cultural industries with an enormous desire to export, such as the Asian ones and, with less financial muscle, the Latin American ones.

Related to this maturity of the Spanish public, a third trend coincides that explains North American cultural laziness: the increase in interest, and even pride, in the culture of our country. “In recent years I have seen a reflection about our roots in artists who look inward in a more sincere and unapologetic way,” says Jorge Martí. “There is a moment of contraction throughout Europe,” adds Chus Martínez. “Each country is focusing more on its own processes, which has a positive aspect: the recovery of vernacular cultures,” he believes. “We have understood that through the local we speak of the universal and that the weight of culture is in all realities, not just that of the United States, where the formulas had been exhausted,” says Álvarez Simón.

US culture is also going through its own process of localism. If decades ago he sought to define the great American novel, American art, American music or the new American cinema to a mythical dimension, today he questions himself full of doubts like a disappointed son searching for his identity. «The MoMA in New York, the MCA in Chicago or the Lacma in Los Angeles are trying to forge a debate on fundamental issues in their places that they had been avoiding. It’s not that they are less global, but they go through a period of intimacy,” thinks Martínez. María Fasce explains that, just as in the US people listen to more music sung in Spanish, more foreign books are being translated than ever. “I have pleasantly discovered that they have finally become more cosmopolitan.”

So, in short, have we killed the father? Absolutely. The eight people consulted agree that we continue to consume US culture in industrial quantities, but we have stopped seeing the world solely through its eyes. If 40 years ago there were two television channels and now there are countless, the US has lost its cultural and intellectual monopoly in a process that seems irreversible.