The need to preserve our essence

The nation cultural heritage defines us, and reminds us every single day where our essence are, our origins, where to go, and what we are.

The National Council on Cultural Heritage checked on Tuesday the work carried out in 2019. Efforts focused mainly on the enhancement of the Cultural Development Program, key to put into effect the mission of “preserving, conserving, and promoting the cultural heritage, the protection of our identity, and the collective building of the nation.”

Debates addressed the challenges that come along with the restoration of museums and monuments, which amid the tough situation faced by our country, hit the list of risk. Five monuments were restored in 2019 and other 22 museums resumed service.

Three new National Monuments: Radio Reloj Booth, the Historical Complex Camilo Cienfuegos in Yaguajay, and Havana’s Quinta Santa Barbara were declared in the course of 2019. Indeed, the life’s work of Dr. Fernando Ortiz, EGREM music archives, and Cuban cuisine, its related practice and knowledge were also recognized as part of the nation cultural heritage.

Regarding intangible heritage, the developments in terms of regulations, the fact that some guidelines are being set to become law in the future, which helps the ruling to become effective and may be applied to protect bearers and cultural expressions, were also highlighted.

In this line, it was stressed the importance of education and sensitization, the training of art instructors, the ties with schools, and the permanent link with the community as we are referring to a living heritage, and is paramount to preserving the transmission and conservation of these traditions.

The importance of updating, renewing the museology concept in the era of new technologies, is certainly a challenge that — despite being already a real thing in some institutions — is part of future projects.

Alpidio Alonso, Cuba’s minister of culture, pointed out the need to sensitize different actors in the government in the searching for solutions to the infrastructural problems some museums and monuments still have. He also highlighted that the government has a comprehensive plan to safeguard the historical memory in the country. A series of actions has been implemented in this regard, but he also urged the entity to develop capacities for the commercialization of part of this potential, initiatives to earn money aimed at solving these problems; that is why he praised the capable and committed personnel.

This institution has a fundamental task, so the group of hard-working, elite workers covering the whole island, responsible for safeguarding all this heritage — tangible or intangible — all the treasure, a very important area in the spiritual and material creation of our people.

We need to create a closer atmosphere between the community and museums. We need to spread all the heritage values all around the country, even beyond the area they are located or where intangible heritages take place. We need to bring schools closer to our heritage and devote more spaces to the recent history of the Cuban Revolution. They are also challenges imposed by a cultural war where, safeguarding our historical memory, is actually a winning card.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / Translated by CubaSí Translation Staff

Cuban president supports proposal to defend national heritage

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel supports the call of the intellectual Graziella Pogolotti to identify, recognize and defend the heritage of the Caribbean nation.

The president showed his support for Pogolotti's proposal with the publication on Twitter of a phrase inserted in the opinion article "Habaneridad" in Sunday's edition of Juventud Rebelde newspaper.

"Graziella Pogolotti rightly summons us: The Revolution has also founded heritage. You have to identify it, recognize it and defend it," said Diaz-Canel on his official Twitter account.

Recalling the important passages of her life at the time of the triumph of the Revolution, Graziella Pogolotti addresses the history of the ceramic mural of the sculptor Amelia Peláez located on the Hotel Habana Libre, which is now undergoing restoration.

In the article, the leading intellectual recognizes that heritage values ​​are not reduced to those inherited from ancient times, but that the Revolution has also founded them, and called attention to the need to identify, recognize and defend them.

Graziella Pogolotti currently serves as president of the Advisory Council of the Minister of Culture, vice president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, and is a member of the Cuban Academy of Languages.

  • Published in Cuba

UNESCO Nominates Pakistani 'Suri Jagek' Tradition Cultural Heritage

Pakistan''s age old Kalash ''Suri Jagek'' tradition was reportedly nominated by UNESCO to be included in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The decision was taken during the 13th session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee held in Mauritius, geo.tv website posted.

'Suri Jagek' (observing the sun) is a traditional meteorological and astronomical practice based on the observation of the sun, moon and stars in reference to the local topography by the Kalasha indigenous community residing in the Chitral district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, province of Pakistan.

'Suri Jagek' plays a key role for the Kalasha community in important social events such as festivals, feasts, rituals, animal husbandry and farming practices.

The Permanent Delegate of Pakistan to UNESCO and Ambassador of Pakistan to France Mr. Moin ul Haque described the nomination of the Suri Jagek tradition by UNESCO as a historical achievement and said that this tradition will be protected as part of the shared human heritage of the entire world and will continue to serve its spiritual and utilitarian purposes.

The ambassador said that the nomination of 'Suri Jagek', being Pakistan's first ever-independent nomination at this forum, was a milestone to ensure a better visibility of the rich folklore traditions and cultural diversity of the country.

  • Published in World

Cuba Aspires Inclusion of Rumba Genre as Cultural heritage

Cuba aspires to include the local Rumba genre as part of the representative list of the Cultural immaterial Heritage of the United Nation Organization for the Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), during the meeting of the governmental Committee about that theme.

In the meeting, which is planned to be carried out from November 28th through December 2nd in Ethiopia, will be decided the insertion of that musical genre on that list which includes the Beer from Belgium and the 24 solar period, the knowledge about time in China and the related practice that is developed through the observation of the sun´s annual movement, According to the local Prensa Latina news agency.

The reports given by the UNESCO about that theme, accept the Rumba musical genre´s values as an expressive style of music and dance which mixtures tradition and the contemporary by promoting the self-esteem and the cultural identity of its practitioners.

  • Published in Culture

Black Market for Latin American Cultural Heritage Revealed

Between 2008 and 2016, the main auction houses of Europe and the U.S. sold more than 7,000 items that are part of the archeological heritage of Peru.

Five investigative journalism teams have joined forces to bring to light the trafficking of cultural heritage items from Latin America. The group includes Ojo Publico from Peru, La Nacion from Costa Rica, Plaza Publica from Guatemala, Animal Politico from Mexico, and Chequeando from Argentina.

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Through collective work, the teams published several articles showing the multi-million-dollar business of illicit trafficking of cultural goods from Latin America to the U.S. and Europe. They also found that this type of trafficking had many identifiable operators but very few were prosecuted and most avoided justice through the use of legal loopholes.

The research was done by analyzing thousands of prosecuting documents, databases, direct sources and interviews of those prosecuted. The overall picture obtained from the research showed the routes that link the countries with the largest cultural heritages to the centers of international antique markets, ultimately ending up at some of the most well-known academic institutions and research centers in the world.

According to Ojo Publico, the “struggle against the crime has failed in many countries” and “proof of it is the freedom enjoyed by almost all those accused of the biggest cases of stealing, exporting, commerce, and possession of illegal pieces of art discovered in the last decades.” Ojo Publico also found that the number of Latin American pieces sold to collectors in the main capitals of the world is larger than the 4,907 cultural objects that the International Criminal Police Organization is looking for.

The portal Chequeando documented that Interpol lists Argentina with the most cultural goods reported as stolen totaling 2,816. Argentina is followed by Peru with 1,031, Ecuador with 556, Bolivia with 449, and Mexico with 320.

All 39,000 cultural pieces reported stolen to Interpol in the last 100 years from 132 countries were compiled by Ojo Publico in a web database. However, the research demonstrated that the reported items are only a fraction of the total. The database also revealed auction houses from 14 countries where stolen pieces are frequently sold.

The investigation showed the problem is complex. The business of trafficking cultural items has an ample number of actors including people with important political connections like Matteo Goretti who is a former advisor to Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Goretti is currently under investigation because 59 archeological pieces stolen from a museum in Cordoba, Argentina, were found at his home.

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Other people involved in trafficking of cultural goods are also being investigated for drug-trafficking. Such is the case with Guatemalan Raul Contreras. The day he was arrested, police found 12 paintings from colonial times and 12 religious figures. Eleven out of those were stolen six months before from the Fine Arts Foundation of Guatemala by an armed group and two more were stolen from Honduras.

Another group of people involved in the trafficking of these goods are famous collectors like Nestor Janier Aude. In Buenos Aires, he has one of the best-known and largest antique stores in Latin America. However, he has a large judicial file for cultural trafficking. He has not served any time in prison for trafficking despite the fact that the Argentine government found 4,000 objects belonging to pre-Colombian cultures in Peru and Ecuador at two of his previous stores. The legal battle to repatriate the objects took 15 years and Janier’s crimes expired before he could be sentenced.

The five research portals published many other case studies of people involved in the trafficking of cultural heritage. However, they stated that this is just the beginning of their investigations and they will continue publishing details on how the market works. 

  • Published in Culture
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