Chile/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

Chilean cultural policy draws from existing international discussions and definitions in terms of heritage, in particular the distinction between tangible cultural heritage, corresponding to monuments and sites of universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view (UNESCO, 1972), and intangible cultural heritage, corresponding to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that are constantly recreated in the communities and which provide them with a sense of identity (UNESCO, 2003). This distinction is reflected in the Chilean institutions, as they nominally assign the responsibility for protection of tangible heritage to the National Monuments Council and the DIBAM, whilst intangible heritage corresponds de facto to CNCA; without prejudice to the general management tasks which by law correspond to the latter authority. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to strengthen the definition of what constitutes tangible and intangible cultural heritage under Chilean law, facilitating coordination with similar institutions dedicated to issues such as the native peoples (Montecino, 2008).

In relation to the area of cultural heritage, the relevant discussions are those referring to the coordination of CNCA with other public authorities (such as the National Monuments Council, DIBAM and SERNATUR) for the identification, increase, conservation and dissemination of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Protection of cultural heritage is advancing towards the recognition of community multiculturalism, supporting the permanent reconfiguration of our identities. In the same fashion, tangible and intangible cultural heritage is considered as an element relevant to the creation of strategies of development on the basis of the relationships between culture and economics, promoting investment under criteria of sustainability that allow to overcome poverty and situations of isolation (CNCA, 2011a and 2011b).

The main initiatives of the National Council for Culture and the Arts on the issue of protection of the nation’s cultural heritage include:

-        Contestable Funding for Cultural Heritage: in general terms, it constitutes a line of the National Fund for the Development of Culture and the Arts at the regional level. It draws from important findings of the Heritage Reconstruction Programme, created within the framework of the reconstruction process in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Chile on 27 February 2010. Its elements include the articulation between private and public funding for submitted projects, and the participation of a committee formed by representatives of the DIBAM, Subsecretariat of Tourism of the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Housing and Urbanism, a representative of CNCA and experts in heritage and architecture appointed by the institution itself.

-        Cultural tourism programme: presents the recommendations of the document on cultural policy created for the period 2005-2010 (CNCA, 2005c), in relation to the development of a National Plan for Sustainable Cultural Tourism, oriented towards the appreciation of sites of significant historical, archaeological or natural interest, surveying the natural identities. It is based on a definition of cultural tourism that understands the history of humanity through the knowledge of its tangible and intangible heritage, enhancing the value of local culture. Its actions include supporting the relevant public and private initiatives such as conventions and seminars, in addition to the declaration of a national day of cultural heritage, to support the heritage of the nation and promote access for the citizens.

-        Multiculturality: promotes the recognition of our cultural diversity, fundamentally through the development of research and support to local initiatives mainly directed to the cultural universe of the native peoples of the national territory, especially the Aymara, Colla, Mapuche and Rapa Nui peoples, in addition to communities of African descent. An important element is the promotion of a programmatic adoption of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, on indigenous and tribal peoples (ILO, 1989), ratified by Chile in 2008. Likewise, the contribution of heritage cultures is recognised and promoted in the education system through the Bearers of Tradition programme.

-        Heritage Management System (SIGPA): seeks to identify and safeguard manifestations and expressions of intangible cultural heritage, generating processes of management of knowledge, social appropriation and the dissemination of cultural heritage. Consists in the identification and characterisation at the national level, of bearers of traditional practices, manifestations, knowledge and/or wisdom within the national territory, facilitating the construction of a cultural repertoire which can be studied and mobilised towards the citizens, national institutions and international organisations such as UNESCO.

-        Living Human Treasures: corresponds to the application at the national level of a programme designed by UNESCO pursuant to the text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2003). Its objective is to safeguard intangible heritage through support and recognition for the bearers and practitioners, promoting transmission to younger generations. Living Human Treasures are persons or communities who possess to a high degree the knowledge and skills required for performing or re-creating specific elements of the intangible cultural heritage. CNCA delivers economic resources to the persons or communities who receive the Living Human Treasures denomination.

-        National Folkloric Ballet of Chile (BAFONA): created in 1969 under the auspices of the University of Chile based on the experience of the Aucamán National Ballet (itself created in 1965), it consists of a group that seeks to professionalise a process of research and promotion of different manifestations of traditional and popular culture in Chile, especially by staging music and dance performances. Its choreography work is based on anthropological studies and is directed by prominent dancers specialising in folkloric dance at the national level. It offers free education for new interpreters and admits sixty new students per year. Lastly, BAFONA develops presentations and tours at the national and international levels, with an estimated audience of over 250,000 spectators per year.

-        Chamber Orchestra: interestingly, the Chamber Orchestra of Chile, created in 1950 and administrated by the CNCA, is considered as a heritage project. Although it certainly constitutes a space of re-creation and reproduction of national and international works that form a part of universal cultural heritage, its management has been subject to continuous redefinitions and dependencies, especially related to the Council for the Promotion of National Music.

Chapter published: 28-12-2013