21.06.2013 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Chile celebrates the naming of Lira Popular Chilena as part of the UNESCO Memory of the World register

© National Library. Photo: Claudio López

The 1567-page set held by the Chilean National Library and the Universidad de Chile was included in the Memory of the World list along with 53 other documentary heritage files of global importance.

On June 20, 2013, the Chilean National Library held a public act and exposition to celebrate the incorporation of the Lira Popular collections in the UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) Register.

Every year, the MoW register recognises those documentary heritage files that meet the criteria to be considered of global importance. In 2013, it included the collections of popular printed Chilean poetry, classified under the name “Lira popular”, which is safeguarded by the Chilean National Library and the Universidad de Chile.

The ceremony included the participation of Magdalena Krebs, director of Libraries, Archives and Museums (DIBAM), Sonia Montecino, Vice-rector of Outreach and Communications at the Universidad de Chile, Patricia Huenuqueo, President of MoW Chile, Victoria Uranga, specialist from OREALC/UNESCO Santiago and representatives of the institutions responsible for the custody of  “Lira Popular”, researchers and popular poets.

The president of the National Memory of the World Programme Committee, Patricia Huenuqueo, values this listing as “a fair recognition of popular Chilean poetry and the preservation work done by the National Library and the Universidad de Chile. As the National Memory of the World Committee, we understand that it is also an opportunity to encourage the identification, conservation, use and recording of documentary heritage that can transmit life experiences that are valuable not only for Chileans, but for all of humanity”.

Victoria Uranga, in her recognition speech given on the behalf of UNESCO, declared “we can continue to expand the Memory of the World registers, but above all, the most important thing is that this heritage gains daily appreciation among citizens. Is the same Lira Popular, in its original form of distribution that reminds us of the importance of going out to meet others. As you all know, the notebooks were hung between two trees or walls and their great format allowed them to be seen in the distance. Preservation and access are not only complementary but also contribute to awareness-raising, since the demand for access drives preservation work.”

The director of Dibam, Magdalena Krebs, also referred to this nomination, calling it “excellent news for the documentary heritage of Chile, and a noteworthy opportunity to raise awareness and appreciation for the traditional culture of our poets and popular artists. At the same time, it shows that the collaborative work among public institutions reinforces national strategies to preserve and diffuse our memory”.

Collaborative work

Both Soledad Abarca —head of the Oral Literature and Popular Traditions Archive of the National Library— and Alejandra Araya —director of the Andrés Bello Central Archive of the Universidad de Chile— agree on the collaborative nature of the work which culminated today with the inclusion of Lira Popular in the Memory of the World register. “We were able to incorporate perspectives that, by nature of the participating institutions, are different, and we managed to highlight how valuable this heritage is for the international community; this allows us today to show the whole world a very rich cultural creation, which belongs to a specific idiosyncrasy and production times”, comments Alejandra Araya.

On this same issue, Soledad Abarca emphasises what has been “a long process, with a lot of work behind these collections, which are unique and part of the national heritage, and are finally receiving the diffusion they deserve”. The head of the Oral Literature and Popular Traditions Archive of the National Library also highlights that the efforts made by both institutions have been able to guarantee access to these collections. In the case of the Universidad de Chile, its Lira Popular collection can be accessed through the Bello Catalogue (www.catalogo.uchile.cl), and downloaded from this same platform. The National Library, on the other hand, has done its conservation and diffusion work “first through microfilming and now by digitalisation”. Today, a large part of the material can be found on the Chilean Memory website (www.memoriachilena.cl) of Dibam and, soon all of the pages held by the Library will be made available to the public through a new digital platform. Finally, it is important to mention the support received by the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Chancellor’s Office in the diffusion of this collection around the world, making it possible to present “El Mundo en Décimas: La Lira Popular y el legado de Rodolfo Lenz” (“The World of Décimas: Lira Popular and the legacy of Rodolfo Lenz” within the framework of the International Book Fair of Leipzig in March 2012.

What is Lira Popular?

The name Lira Popular is used to refer to a <a name="_GoBack"></a>series of illustrated prints that were circulated in mass in the main urban centres of Chile between 1880 and 1920, approximately. Their most singular characteristic is that they bring together different expressions in a sole support: popular poetry and narration of current events in verses engraved on a sheet of paper. With a title at the top of the page and illustrated with engravings, these pages of variable sizes included between four and eight décima poems (composed of ten octosyllabic lines), generally accompanied by a four-line commentary, all by the same author. In addition to signing his or her name or pseudonym, the same poet or popular singer was responsible for selling copies on the street, in the market and train station. In this way, Lira Popular constitutes a valuable source for the reconstruction of popular history of Chilean society at the end of the 19th century.

There are three primary Lira Popular collections known in our country: two which are held in the Oral Literature and Popular Traditions Archive of the National Library (the Rodolfo Lenz and Alamiro de Ávila collections), and one is safeguarded by the Universidad de Chile in the Andrés Bello Central Archive (Raúl Amunátegui Johnson collection). In total, these consist of 1567 pages of poetry.

In 2010 the Department of Libraries, Archives and Museums (an entity responsible for the National Library) and the Universidad de Chile signed a collaboration agreement to work together on the valuation and conservation of this heritage. That same year, the Lira Popular collections of both institutions were recognised as Memory of Latin America and the Caribbean by UNESCO, and today it is registered by the same organisation as Memory of the World. The application to this last distinction was presented by both institutions in 2012.

<- Back to: UNESCO Office in Santiago
Back to top