» Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba Archaeological Park: National Monument
06.07.2015 - UNESCO Havana/Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba Archaeological Park: National Monument

© JV. González. Plaques indicating the condition of the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba (1898) Archaeological Park as a National Monument.

The Underwater Archaeological Park linked to the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba (1898) has been declared a National Monument of the Republic of Cuba. The ceremony took place on 3 July 2015 at the San Pedro de la Roca Castle (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and in the framework of the international event SIMPOSUB 2015, coinciding with the 117th anniversary of this historic event.

Dr. Vicente González, director of the Regional Centre for Cultural and Natural Underwater Heritage Management and Conservation and President of the Provincial Monuments Commission of the province of Santiago de Cuba, as well as coordinator of the preparation of the Park's nomination file as a National Monument, delivered the opening speech.

Gladys Collazo Usallán, President of the National Cultural Heritage Council (CNPC) of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, read a resolution of the National Monuments Commission certifying the declaration, and stated that this recognition constitutes a starting point for a more comprehensive strategy aimed at declaring these valuable sunken ships as world heritage.

In turn, Pascual Cervera de la Chica, President of the Cervera Foundation and great-grandson of Vice Admiral Cervera, who commanded the Spanish fleet in the battle, thanked the Cuban government for the honours rendered to his great-grandfather and to the victims of this naval battle.

H.E. Mr Juan Francisco Montalbán Carrasco, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Cuba, highlighted the significance of the declaration "whose purpose is to protect an emblematic heritage associated with a historic date in 1898 of great importance to both nations". He stated that the scope of Cuba's decision "transcends any concrete borders". He added that the “sunken ships of 1898 is one more element among the many ties uniting Cuban and Spanish peoples, which invite us to keep strengthening the bonds of our mutual relations”. He further expressed that “we should not forget that the ceremony being officiated today found inspiration in the enthusiasm and drive of some outstanding citizens of Santiago, such as Vicente González and Omar López, bent on preserving and disseminating its history, and constitutes an example of cooperation between Cuba and Spain in pursuit of common goals and interests".

Rear Admiral Pedro García de Paredes y Pérez de Sevilla, representative of the Spanish Armada in the ceremony, expressed his appreciation for the Cuban declaration and in heartfelt words referred to the importance of this common heritage of Cuba and Spain.

All speakers in one way or another stated their interest that the candidacy of the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba Underwater Heritage Archaeological Park be considered for the UNESCO World Heritage List at a later date.

Also present were H.E. Mr Julián González Toledo, Minister of Culture of Cuba; the great-grandsons of Vice Admiral Cervera: Ángel Luis Cervera Fantonio and Pascual Cervera de la Chia (President of the Cervera Foundation); Colonel José Pardo de Santayana, Military, Naval and Air Defence Attaché of the Spanish Embassy in Cuba and in the Dominican Republic; Raúl Fornés Valenciano, Vice president of the Municipal Assembly of the People's Power in Santiago de Cuba; Tania Fernández, Director of Culture in the province of Santiago de Cuba; Suitberto Frutos Heredia, Director of the Provincial Centre for Cultural Heritage of Santiago de Cuba; Olga Rufins Machin, representing the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Dr. Ofelia Pérez Montero, from the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies of Coastal Zones of Santiago de Cuba, among other important figures.

During the ceremony, the plaques indicating that the Underwater Archaeological Park was a National Monument were unveiled, and after taps and a solemn minute of silence, important Cuban and Spanish figures placed flowers before the commemorative plaques in honour of Cuban patriots executed by a firing squad or imprisoned in the Castle, and the hundreds of Spanish sailors who died in this naval battle.

The cultural activity included the performance of Cristina Delisle, of the Vocal Vidas group, as well as a presentation of La Tumba Francesa La Caridad de Oriente, an expression of Cuba's intangible heritage inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The La Puesta del Sol (Setting Sun) ceremony closed the show.

The Park, which covers an area of 240 km2, contains seven archaeological sites located in Playa Siboney Las Cuatro Bocas, Playa Mar Verde, Rancho Cruz-Buey Cabón, Ensenada de Juan González, Aserradero and Playa La Mula. Many archaeological remains are found scattered on the ocean floor as well as important ecosystems that should be protected as a whole. This National Monument to five Spanish ships and two U.S. ships that took part in the naval battle of 1898 underscores the historic event that put an end to the Spanish-Cuban-American War and marked the beginning of new and different relations between the three countries involved.

As part of the declaration ceremony, on the morning of 4 July, commemorative plaques were placed on the sunken ship Almirante Oquendo, at Juan González beach. Simultaneously, on the nearby shore, there was a cultural activity with the local community, featuring the Ojos Teatro company (living statues) and artists from the Farah Mena company, as well as music especially composed for the occasion by Santiago guitarist Aquiles Jorge.




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