Cuban heritage in 2023, dedication and pride of a country


2023 was a year of well-deserved celebrations for Cuba's heritage.From the restoration and management of sites, as well as the preservation of traditions, the period was profitable and the Offices of the Historian and the Conservator in the country played an important role.

The year began with the 27th Scientific Workshop on Afro-American Social and Cultural Anthropology, which paid tribute to the 37th anniversary of the founding of the Casa de Africa Museum and was dedicated to the defense and safeguarding of the immaterial and material heritage of that continent in the Caribbean Island.

San Cristobal Travel Agency, which has been promoting historic and heritage tourism for more than a quarter of a century, expanded its sales offices in the capital.

That entity, attached to the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana (OHCH), provides different services as a national receptive, including thematic excursions on history, culture, heritage rehabilitation and social work, architecture, religion, and the journey through the network of heritage cities that Cuba has.

2023 also marked the beginning of the school year at the "Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos" Workshop School, a center that encourages young generations to study trades and specialize in the conservation and restoration of sites of historical and cultural value in Havana.

The Historic Center hosted important events such as the premiere of the route "Havana of Jose Marti", to honor the memory of the Apostle on the 170th anniversary of his birth.

This tour, designed by historian Joseph Trujillo and carried out by the San Cristobal Travel Agency, included visits to sites in the capital linked to the life and work of the most universal Cuban, such as his birthplace on Paula Street, the San Pablo College, the Church of the Angel and the Havana Jail.

The University Museum was also opened on the occasion of the 295th anniversary of the founding of the Royal and Pontifical University of San Geronimo de La Habana to communicate the cultural legacy of higher education in Cuba.

The building has valuable pieces that show the influence of Catholicism and the Dominican friars on education in the Caribbean.
In February, the 31st International Book Fair, dedicated to Colombia, came to the streets of the Historic Center, where the OHCH made a significant contribution with the presentation of titles by Ediciones Boloña.

In order to involve the public in the rehabilitation and safeguarding of heritage, the 1st Workshop on Conservation and Restoration of Heritage Assets was held in which theoretical and demonstrative activities addressed specialties such as ceramics, glass, paper, textiles, metals, watchmaking and luthiery, among others.

The 27th edition of the Technical Conference on Vernacular Architecture in March was dedicated to the cities of Pinar del Rio and Viñales, as well as to the promotion of vernacular heritage culture.

As proof that the capital's Historic Center has a life of its own, the International Festival of Dances in Urban Landscapes "Habana Vieja Ciudad en Movimiento" (Old Havana City in Movement) returned.

The event took over the main squares and streets of the district with choreographies and parades, where the art of dance took on a special link with the architectural heritage of the city.

In April, the National Council of Cultural Heritage awarded the national prizes for Conservation and Restoration for the year 2023.

The Fidel Castro Ruz Center was the winner in the category of Restoration, since one of the most beautiful buildings in Havana's Vedado district was restored to its former splendor.

This place - which also won the Provincial Restoration Award - combines elements of its founding stage in the late 19th century with new technologies to connect with the young public and transmit knowledge.

Other important awards, such as those of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) and the National Association of Architects and Construction Engineers ( UNAICC by its Spanish acronym), were conferred on the site.

In the Restoration category, the National Award went to the "Enrique Estrada" Fire Station in Matanzas, the only facility of its kind in Cuba that treasures the history of the Fire Department and serves as a barracks.

One of the most awarded sites was the Parish Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Louis King of France, located in the Havana community of Guatao, as it won the collateral awards of the Cuban offices of Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement and Icomos, as well as the Unaicc award and a mention in the Conservation category.

Other facilities deserved awards for their contribution to Cuba's industrial, cultural, educational and domestic heritage, since they are still in their best condition despite the relentless passage of time.

With the arrival of the fifth month of the year, good news also arrived for the Antillean nation in terms of heritage.

The Chapter Acts of the Havana City Hall (1550-1898), along with the Cuban cinema posters, were inscribed in the Memory of the World Register of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Those statements evidenced the priority Cuba gives to its documentary and visual heritage, and materialized the intense work of two historians like Emilio Roig and Eusebio Leal -in the case of the records- and of an intellectual of the stature of Alfredo Guevara in terms of the 7th art.

During the summer of 2023, Havana opened its doors to the 23rd edition of Rutas y Andares(Routes and Andares), a project that involved more than 160 families in the discovery of the city's heritage.

With 91 tours, 61 proposals in virtual mode and 81 workshops for all ages, the themes of art, literature, history, sports and architecture were explored, both in the Historic Center and other areas of the capital such as Los Pocitos in the municipality of Marianao, the Nuevo Vedado area, Miramar, East Havana and Central Havana, always in alliance with community projects and national and international cooperation institutions, said Katia Cárdenas Jiménez, director of Cultural Management of the OHCH.

The summer of 2023 was the moment chosen by Unesco's Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean for its open doors to Havana's Vedado mansions.

Visitors were able to learn first-hand about the characteristics of these buildings, the protection of their heritage values and the transformations and new uses that many of these mansions exhibit.

For the island and for those who have the noble task of preserving the national heritage, September is the time of the year to show special gratitude to its main architect: the eternal historian Eusebio Leal Spengler (1942-2020).

Just on that date when the 81st anniversary of his birth was commemorated, Alicia Garcia Santana, historian and researcher, described him as "a passionate of Cuban beauty and of the love and pride we should feel for ourselves" and said that he is "a paradigm of the nation and of the moral structure that sustains us as a country".

For the first time, the Heritage Night took place in Cuba, an event that was held simultaneously in all the heritage cities of the archipelago and together with Peru, Mexico and Spain.

The edition of the event in the Caribbean nation was the result of the coordination agreement that, since November 2022, was promoted through a declaration of intentions for joint work between the Group of World Heritage Cities of Spain and the Network of Offices of the Historian and the Curator of the Heritage Cities of Cuba.

A special moment was the visit to the Museo Colegio de Santa Clara by Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, who toured the facility that will become a center for heritage studies, a reference for the continent.

On September 28 and 29, the OHCH's Directorate of Documentary Heritage organized the II Coffee Cultural Encounter, which commemorated the 275th anniversary of the arrival of coffee in Cuba.

In October, more than 100 young people from 17 Caribbean nations joined the face-to-face courses of the Caribbean Cultural Training Pole of the Transcultura Program of the European Union and UNESCO in Havana.

The 5th Colloquium on Heritage Education "Cultural Heritage and the 2030 Agenda" was also held, which included a Scientific Fair for the management of the integral development of Havana's Historic Center.

The 504th anniversary of the Villa de San Cristobal de La Habana was celebrated in November.

The celebrations included the traditional round of the ceiba tree in El Templete and the opening of works of socio-cultural impact such as the vertical garden of Justiz Park, some rooms of the Palace of the Counts of Jaruco, the Aquarium of the Historic Center and the Vitier Garcia-Marruz House.

In addition, around 24 families from Havana benefited from the delivery of housing in the Royal Proclamation Building and in the building located at Obispo 202, where several companies from the OHCH and international cooperation agencies were involved.

In November, the 19th International Conference on Management of Heritage Cities was held, which, in addition to celebrating Havana's anniversary, commemorated the 30th anniversary of Decree-Law 143 on the OHCH, which established the guidelines for the entity to take charge of the management and conservation of the capital's heritage.

On December 5, the Network of Offices of the Historian and Conservator of Heritage Cities celebrated its 15th anniversary.

The cities that hold that status in the country are Viñales, Havana, Guanabacoa, Matanzas, Cardenas, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad, Remedios, Sagua La Grande, Camagüey, Gibara, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa, sites that enhance the national heritage for their cultural, architectural, landscape, artistic and social values.
In these last days of 2023, the declaration of the bolero as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO was received with jubilation.

Cuba and Mexico share that status, since both countries have been the creators of that genre, which, since 2021, is also Cultural Heritage of the nation on Caribbean soil.

The OHCH recently presented its 2024 calendar, whose visual campaign pays tribute to the National Capitol, which will celebrate its 95th anniversary next year and is a symbol of Havana on a worldwide scale.

Finally, it was announced that Miguel Barnet, ethnologist and writer, won the National Cultural Heritage Award for Life's Work in 2023.

Thus passed 12 months full of work and palpable results for the Cuban heritage in all its aspects.

Nowadays, many places of great historical value are recovering their splendor in spite of the lack of resources that have such an impact on a sector such as culture.

The premise will always be sensitivity, respect and care for that legacy that, tangibly or not, humanity has left with the passing of time.






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