The Galician-Portuguese culture comes back to UNESCO after ten years

By Santi Veloso.


Ten years ago a group of teachers presented a candidacy for the common Galician-Portuguese heritage in the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris The first Multinational Candidacy promoted by schools in two countries of the European Union and supported by two states.  But after this presentation there was intense work conducted by the Cultural and Pedagogical Association Ponte…nas ondas!

Heritage for the future

It is time to start a new campaign for the inscription of the common Galician-Portuguese heritage on the Representative List of UNESCO.  An initiative that seeks the commitment and the strong determination of supporting and pushing institutions in this process that is necessary. The local authorities must feel the breath and the demand of the civil society, of the people that “retain” this heritage

A campaign that will have an advertising and collection means of new support in the social networks. But not everything can be online: it is necessary to rely on the people, the associations and the institutions to continue fighting together in order to achieve this goal. Also, it is necessary to rely on new allies; since this common heritage is spread all over the world and other states can feel committed with this proposal.

We are calling, in the first place, on the schools, which were the origin and engine of this initiative, and which will also be the future, so that they continue transmitting the heritage to the new generations and support the inscription. In the second place, on the people, individually or collectively, so that they join to this purpose. And in the third place, on the entities and institutions (Associations, Foundations, Local Governments, Provincial Council, Regional Governments…) so that with their support they will write a new page in the history of the Euro region once we get this recognition for a heritage that already belongs to the humanity and that must appear on the Representative List of UNESCO.

The dream that was born in the schools

We have to go back to 1994, 20 years ago, when a group of schools from the Miño region started an experience of inter-school radio Ponte…nas ondas!  This tree that was born in the “fertile shores of the peaceful Miño” soon started to bear its fruits. While the branches were growing they intertwined and new ramifications would arise in the shape of joint activities between the two edges of the boundary.

In 2001, after the first proclamations of Masterpieces of the Intangible Heritage by UNESCO, Ponte..nas ondas! decides to explain and explore the concept of “intangible or immaterial heritage”, term that was almost unknown at that time. This work was performed embracing the popular Galician-Portuguese culture that was being broadcasted in the radio.
Considering all the work carried out with the students and the schools from both edges, the dream and along with it the proposal of preparing a candidacy with this common heritage was born. There were three years of intense work involving professionals of different areas and different sectors: teachers, anthropologists, cultural associations, museums and universities… The whole community mobilised and was conscious that we all share a huge treasure.

Simultaneously, there were bureaucratic tasks and even diplomatic efforts on three fronts: in Lisbon, in Madrid and in Santiago. What for?  Simply in order to obtain the essential endorsement of the two states. Something that seemed like a utopia and that, at certain moments even was considered as a geostrategic matter, it certainly was and it still is.

In Paris, making history

After overcoming all barriers, on 18th October 2004, the Candidacy to the Galician-Portuguese Intangible Heritage was presented in the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris. For Ponte…nas ondas! the mission had been accomplished and the hope was kept alive during more than one year, until 25th November 2005, when we noticed that our project has been postponed. At the headquarters of UNESCO we were congratulated for the work that we had carried out and we were communicated that our proposal will have a future, if conveniently rephrased. This decision was also communicated to the two states that supported the candidacy.

But we didn’t remain still and in advance to the effective date of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, we decided to try to convince the local governments again of the importance of this initiative and the need to work again on it.

A “bridge” heritage

In 2007 we alerted of a new opportunity that was open with the imminent inscriptions on the Representative List, once both states ratified the Convention. We occupied the fourth bridges across the river Miño with boys and girls of schools from both edges in an initiative called “ponte nas pontes” (put yourself on the bridges) that had a great impact and appeared on the front pages of the leading newspapers.  Our efforts for preparing a new reformulation of the dossier collided at that time with the effort of the states for inscribing their own national proposals on the Representative List, setting aside our multinational initiative, which never competed and does not compete with the legitimate proposals of each country. Even UNESCO realised that and enabled an application on its website for the multinational proposals.

After 10 years, other transnational candidacies that were excluded at the beginning, like flamenco, that was presented the same year as the Galician-Portuguese one, achieved the inscription on the Representative List of Intangible Heritage.

Esta información é difundida simultaneamente nas cabeceiras da Asociación de Medios en Galego