Cuban institutions thank UNESCO for its contribution to the safeguarding of the country's heritage


© UNESCO Havana. Dr. Eusebio Leal speaking. He is accompanied (from left to right) by Berarda Salabarría, Herman van Hooff, and Gladys Collazo.

On the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the 30th anniversary of the declaration of Old Havana and its fortress system as World Heritage Sites, and the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Programme "Memory of the World", a press conference was held on Tuesday, November 30. It was convened by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean at its headquarters in coordination with senior representatives of the Office of the City Historian (OHC), the National Cultural Heritage Council (CNPC), and the Cuban Committee "Memory of the World" under the umbrella of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO.

In his presentation, Herman van Hooff, director of the host organization, provided an overview of the World Heritage Convention, highlighting that the major aim of this standard-setting instrument, which dates back to 1972, is to cover, in one single document, the concepts of cultural preservation and natural conservation. He also made special emphasis on the long-term commitment assumed by States and local authorities and communities to preserving World Heritage Sites.

While referring to the "Memory of the World" Programme, the official underlined that this UNESCO initiative has contributed to the preservation of the documentary heritage for two decades and has facilitated universal access to it. He recalled that hundreds of works from all over the planet have so far been inscribed on its International List, including 36 collections from 26 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

These topics were complemented with the presentations made by Gladys Collazo, CNPC president; and Berarda Salabarría, Cuban Committee chairperson. They referred to the new World Heritage Sites in Cuba and to the two works inscribed on the "Memory of World" International List (documents written by national hero and intellectual José Martí and original negatives of the Latin American Newsreel of the Cuban Film Institute / Noticiero ICAIC Latinoamericano). They also dealt with other matters of common concern related to various ways of heritage protection and preservation.

In his presentation, Havana Historian Eusebio Leal highlighted the importance of having included Old Havana and its fortress system on the World Heritage List. He recalled that this had been the first historical centre in the island Caribbean to be recognized as such. He added that he joined the celebrations without forgetting the damage caused by hurricane Sandy last Thursday in the eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín. The other speakers also made mention of this lamentable event.

Finally, Leal indicated that the Office of the City Historian and the National Cultural Heritage Council are willing to support recovery works in the historical centre of Santiago de Cuba, one of the most seriously affected areas, and to send restorers and other highly qualified personnel to help repair museum pieces damaged by the natural disaster. "Working hard is the best way to mark these anniversaries," he stressed.