09.07.2013 - UNESCO Havana/Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

Safeguarding of underwater cultural heritage promoted in Santiago de Cuba

© UNESCO Havana.The exhibition in the majestic scenery of the Morro Castle of Santiago de Cuba, overlooking the bay

Last 3 July the photographic exhibition on underwater cultural heritage "Dive into History" was inaugurated with the enthusiastic participation of experts and the general public at the Morro Castle of Santiago de Cuba, as part of the 33rd Caribbean Festival and in the framework of the 115th Anniversary of the Spanish-Cuban-American War. Gladys Collazo, president of the National Council for Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), and underwater archaeologist Tatiana Villegas, specialist of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, cut the tape to the exhibition in the presence of Vicente González Díaz, Vice-president of the Provincial Administration Council, Ms. Tania Fernández Chaveco, Provincial Director of Culture, and other local authorities. Also present were delegations from different Caribbean countries that arrived in Santiago de Cuba for the 33rd Festival. During the opening ceremony, a fitting tribute was paid to the more than 370 sailors who died in the naval battle of 1898.

A series of lectures also formed part of the activities commemorating this singularly transcendental event in Ibero-American history, which ended with the naval battle and the sinking of the fleet under the command of the Spanish admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete off the coast of Santiago de Cuba. Its remains constitute today the underwater archaeological park of this important city in eastern Cuba. The speakers included, among other personalities, Omar López Rodrígue, Conserver of the City; Olga Portuondo, Historian of the City; Teodoro Rubio Castaño, researcher in maritime history; and Gladys Collazo, who delivered the closing speech after the presentation of the documentary Una inmersión en la historia, by Omelio Borroto Leiseca, from Mundo Latino. Tatiana Villegas gave a lecture on the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The programme of the commemoration included a visit and diving sessions in several sites where the wreckage of ships from Admiral Cervera’s fleet sunk during the battle that took place in the bay and off the coast of Santiago de Cuba on 3 July 1898 are located.

The exhibiton "Dive into History" consists of more than 30 large format, high resolution photographs of emblematic sites of the underwater cultural heritage in different parts of the world, among them, a group of impressive images of the remains of Cervera's fleet. It forms part of a group of actions promoting the 2001 UNESCO Convention, financed by the government of Spain, through the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID). Its presence in Santiago was organized by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, in collaboration with the Provincial Administration Council of the People's Power in Santiago de Cuba, the Office of the Conserver of the city, the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO, the CNPC and the Morro Castle of Santiago.

In November 2012 and February 2013 the collection was put on display for the first time on the outer railings surrounding the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, in the Historic Centre of Havana, and it was inaugurated on occasion of the visit made by the Ms. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General. It is expected that the exhibition will be shown in different places throughout the island.

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