Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spain's Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO has been keeping track of the world's tangible, or physical, patrimony through its World Heritage Site list since 1972. Then in 2003 the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was signed, which authorized UNESCO to identify non-physical cultural expressions, too. This was to include such things as music, drama, arts, crafts and more. On this 10th anniversary of the convention, the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has a total of 257 'cultural practices and expressions' on it, 13 of which are in Spain. These join the 44 physical places on the World Heritage Site list as globally recognized masterpieces of humanity.

Below are Spain's treasured thirteen:

Cant de la Sibil · la - Majorca, The Balearic Islands

The Song of the Sibyl is a musical liturgical drama with roots in Gregorian chants that was widespread in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Apocalyptic piece was banned by the 16th century Council of Trent, but continued to be performed in Majorca. It is performed during Christmas midnight masses in Catholic churches throughout the island.

Castellars - Catalonia 

These human towers, which range from six to ten 'stories' tall, from the pinya at the bottom to the l'anxeneta at the top, can be seen at events all over the region of Catalonia. Each is a collective effort of solidarity, often 'built' as part of a passionate competition among castellar groups. 

Center for Traditional Culture – a Pedagogic Project of The School Museum of Pusol - Elche, Valencia

Stared at the one-teacher rural public school of Pusol in 1968, the project has successfully integrated heritage into formal education by using teachers and external collaborators to guide children to explore, in a play atmosphere, Elche's rich heritage. The children do fieldwork data collection, museography, and they teach one another and visitors not only about heritage, but about studying and exploring heritage. The project has trained almost 500 schoolchildren and has resulted in a school museum with more than 61,000 inventory entries and 770 oral files, preserving everyday life heritage and promoting the cultural mapping of local heritage resources. Between 1968 and the mid 1980s, the project remained within the boundaries of the rural district of Pusol, where the school was based, but as knowledge of the project’s values and achievements spread, the project’s operational scope grew larger, first involving the remaining rural districts of Elche’s countryside (mid 1980s) and later the city of Elche (1990s).

Cultural Association of the Lime Kilns of Morón - Morón de la Frontera, Andalusia

The traditional practice of lime-making was a source of employment for Morón de la Frontera and a marker of its identity. When production was eclipsed by industrial lime, kilns fell into disuse and transmission of knowledge ceased. The project’s primary goals are to raise awareness of the practice and importance of lime-making and to improve living conditions for craftspeople. To this end, the Cultural Association of the Lime Kilns of Morón was established, and gave birth to an ethnographic centre and a living museum that displays the craft process in situ. Kilns have been restored and the project actively promotes transmission of techniques to new generations. Outreach activities in cooperation with lime craftspeople focus on recovering expertise and techniques for use in sustainable construction.

Festival de los Patios - Cordoba, Andalusia

Every year in May fifty-five homes located in the historic center of Cordoba opens their doors to every traveler who wishes to enjoy the floral splendor of their courtyards.

Falconry - Spain

Spain is the ideal destination to observe or participate in this traditional activity, which involves breeding and training falcons and/or other birds of prey to hunt in their natural environment.

Flamenco (Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia)

¡Flamenco! Flamenco is an artistic expression fusing song, dance and musicianship. Although Andalusia is the heartland of Flamenco, it also has roots in the regions of Murcia and Extremadura. 
  • The Badasom Festival in Badajoz (Extremadura) from 10 to 13 July, with flamenco as well as Portuguese fado.
  • Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas in La Unión (Murcia), the first week of August, .
  • And November 16th is the Day of Flamenco in Andalusia.

Irrigators' Tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean

Traditional tribunals dealing with local irrigation matters. The Council of Wise Men of the Plain of Murcia, dates back to the 9th century, while the Water Tribunal of the Plain of Valencia is the oldest institution of justice in Europe. Their oral proceedings are fast, transparent and impartial. Their decision is final. In addition to their legal roles, these courts contribute to the oral transmission of knowledge derived from centuries-old cultural exchanges. They have their own specialist vocabulary peppered with Arabic borrowings. In short, the courts are long-standing repositories of local and regional identity and are of special significance to local inhabitants -- and they are something to see.

La Patum - Berga, Catalonia

During the holy week of Corpus Christi, townspeople dress as mystical and symbolical figures and dance through the streets to the beat of a kettledrum called a tabal. Among the things to be seen are turcs i cavallets (Turks and knights), maces (hell), guites (mules), àligas (eagles) vells nans i nans nous (old dwarfs and new dwarfs), gegants (paper mache  giants) and plens (with burning fuets on). This event has origins in pre-Christian summer solstice celebrations of the, which were adapted by the Catholic Church. Today it is not religious, but rather more a bit of popular street theater. 

Mare de Deu de la Salut - Algemesi, Valencia

The Festival of Our Lady of Health dates back to the 13th century and involves theatre, dance, music and street processions. Three processions are held, one on 7 September and two on the 8th. They include Muixeranga, which are human towers similar to the Castellers but which include the performance of a dance. There are seven dance events, 63 musical compositions, street depictions of historical and biblical characters, scenes of martyrdoms, living tableaus, etc.

Mediterranean Diet - Spain

The main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet include olive oil, cereals, fruits, vegetables, a moderate amount of meat, fish and dairy products, seasoning and spices, accompanied by wine or infusions.  UNESCO mentions Soria, in Castile-León, as a prime example of a city that is committed to the Mediterranean diet, but this glorious food can be enjoyed all over Spain.

Misteri d'Elx - Elche, Valencia

A two-part liturgical drama dating from the Middle Ages commemorating the Dormition, Assumption and Heavenly Coronation of the Virgin Mary. It is sung in Valencian and Latin and performed in the Basilica de Santa María. Dress rehearsals can be seen on some days before the events, with part one performed on August 14th and part two on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th.

Whistled Language of La Gomera - La Gomera Island, Canary Islands

The Silbo Gomero replicates the islanders’ vocal language (Castilian Spanish) with whistling. Handed down over centuries from master to pupil, it is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practised by a large community -- more than 22,000 inhabitants. The whistled language replaces each vowel or consonant with a whistling sound: two distinct whistles replace the five Spanish vowels, and there are four whistles for consonants. The whistles can be distinguished according to pitch and whether they are interrupted or continuous. With practice, whistlers can convey any message. The language takes advantage of the peculiar topography of the island, reverberating across its deep ravines and narrow valleys. Messages can be heard up to five miles away.

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