Portal de la Cultura de América Latina y el Caribe
Cuba: Promoting actions to implement the 2001 Convention
16 July 2015/ UNESCO Havana

The declaration of the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba Archaeological Park as a National Monument by the National Cultural Heritage Council (CNCP) gives proof of the country's firm commitment to the protection of underwater cultural heritage, stated the Officer in charge of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Fernando Brugman, at a press conference given by the Council at the National Museum of Fine Arts of the Cuban capital on Tuesday, 14 July.

Brugman stressed the significance of the CNPC's initiative, for it will make it possible to protect the important cultural legacy lying off the coast of one of Cuba's eastern provinces, which corresponds to a transcendental event in Cuban history: the end of the Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898.

The Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba put an end to Spain's rule over its last colony in America, opened the way for the emergence of the Republic of Cuba, and forever reshaped the relations between Europe and the United States with regards to the Caribbean island. We are able to learn all the symbolism behind the details of this battle thanks to the archaeological remains protected by the park, which has been declared a national heritage, added Brugman.

The President of the Council, Gladys Collazo, pointed out that Cuba has taken direct institutional actions in favour of safeguarding this type of heritage for over 30 years. She mentioned, for example, that the Navigator frigate, sunk off the coast of the province of Mayabeque, was declared a Local Monument, protecting it from the plunder to which it was being subjected.

She went on to say that at present the Council has a department dedicated to this line of work, and it recently created a Regional Centre for Underwater Cultural and Natural Heritage Management and Conservation in the province of Santiago de Cuba.

Dr. Vicente González Díaz, director of the Centre, as well as President of the Provincial Monuments Commission in Santiago de Cuba, explained that the goals of the institution include an inventory of the hundreds of sunken wrecks lying off the coasts of Cuba, the training of specialists and decision-makers, as well as community work with the population that lives on archaeological sites so that they may become protectors of this underwater cultural heritage.

To illustrate the ongoing initiatives designed to sensitize communities on the cultural and economic value of underwater heritage, Fernando Brugman gave the press detailed information on the project "Protection and Management of Underwater and Coastal Cultural Heritage for the Creation of Jobs in Santiago de Cuba", implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, the National Cultural Heritage Council (CNPC) and other local institutions with the financial support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

The goals of the project include capacity-building for youths, women and less favoured communities, aimed at developing economic activities linked to the sustainable management of these cultural resources.

The ceremony whereby the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba National Park was declared a National Monument took place in the framework of the Symposium on Underwater Activity for the Conservation of the Underwater Natural and Cultural Heritage (SIMPOSUB), the main theoretical and scientific event of its kind in the country, which recently held its eighth edition from 1 to 4 July.

The ceremony, which formed part of the activities in honour of the 500th anniversary of the city of Santiago de Cuba, was attended by the grandsons of Vice Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, who commanded the fleet that lies in Cuban waters.

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