17.04.2013 - UNESCO Havana/Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

Lecture in Havana on underwater cultural heritage and the 2001 UNESCO Convention

© UNESCO Havana.Address by Tatiana Villegas.

The lecture entitled "The evolution of underwater archaeology in Latin America and the Caribbean in the framework of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage" was given by the underwater archaeologist Tatiana Villegas, specialist of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean. The event took place at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a monument located in the Historic Centre of the Cuban capital with its rich history as the oldest extant colonial fortress in Cuba, which houses the museum dedicated to underwater archaeological heritage and navigation.

The presentation, which forms part of the actions conducted by the UNESCO Office in Havana to raise awareness concerning the need to protect the underwater cultural heritage and promote the 2001 Convention, is included in the cycle of lectures organized by the institution in relation to the exhibition "The Navigator frigate and its British shipment: history and archaeology", presenting the results of the excavation of the wreckage lying off the north coast of the western province of Mayabeque (Cuba). The exhibition will remain open to the public until 23 June.

For nearly two hours, the specialist gave an ample description of the history and characteristics of this heritage. She also offered a detailed explanation of the 2001 Convention highlighting the benefits it brings to the States ratifying this normative tool and the need to disseminate them. She insisted that it is imperative to "work towards awareness and a social and political conviction of the need to conserve this heritage as a public asset, an absolute requirement if we are to safeguard our identity as a people".

Participants also learned of the evolution of underwater archaeology in Latin America and the Caribbean through different examples of the research conducted and the protection of sites and remains of this submerged heritage, from the British corvette HMS Swift sunk in the waters of the Argentine Patagonia in 1770 and the pre-Hispanic canoes in different locations in the continent, to karst caves in the Yucatán Peninsula, and the city of Port Royal, in Jamaica, razed by a tidal wave in the 17th century, as well as the sunken remains off the Uruguayan city of Colonia del Sacramento, a World Heritage site.

Participating in the event were Mr. Roger Arrazcaeta, director of the Department of Archaeology of the Office of the Historian of Havana and Mr. Antonio Quevedo, Director of the Museum, and officials of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who were on a visit to Cuba, as well as researchers, underwater archaeologists, jurists, students and other persons interested in the topic.

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