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Heritage in times of crisis

Heritage in times of crisis

By Alejandra Valdesexecutive director of the Lo Barnechea Cultural Corporation

Today our country is experiencing a turning point and citizen division that will mark what we will inherit to future generations. This moment is what some call a liquid context, in constant movement, which is also conditioned by a global economic crisis and high inflation.

But beyond the conjunctures, there is something that can remain in time and whose value lies in that validity that accumulates over the years. I am referring to our cultural heritage, the legacy that all Chileans receive and that is part of our identity and with them of what unites us.

What does heritage have to do with the current situation in Chile? Some may wonder. There is a much stronger relationship than is believed, and working on a public-private plan to promote and protect it may be one of the answers to the times of crisis that we are experiencing today.

Various international studies, one of them carried out by the University of Barcelona a few years ago, identify lines where heritage can contribute substantially to improving the socioeconomic well-being of the population.

The first refers to associating heritage with tourism, given the potential that the latter has to promote an economic sector of relevance for the country and where half the road has already been traveled thanks to the international recognition that Chile has for its geographical attributes. Strengthening the heritage sector in this sense can attract new audiences and, as a consequence, attract higher income.

Another way in which heritage can contribute to the local economy is through a link with the production and marketing of crafts and products “made in Chile”, which rescue the most valuable of our culture. We need to create more local industry that maintains coherence with our heritage and offers those who visit us greater added value to their experience in the country.

A third path is to strengthen the relationship between heritage and the population in general, making it a permanent, appreciated and treasured experience, and not just something that is reactivated in May with Heritage Month. Communes, towns and cities throughout the country are living heritage per se, they can be visited at any time and can help us feel more connected to local traditions.

A fourth fundamental line to consider is all the intangible heritage that we Chileans have accumulated over time and that is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. Understanding the intangible cultural heritage of different communities contributes to dialogue between cultures and promotes respect for other lifestyles. It is inclusive and evolves in response to its environment, helping to instill in us a sense of identity and continuity, creating a link between the past and the future through the present. It contributes to social cohesion by fostering a sense of identity and responsibility that helps individuals to feel like members of one or more communities and of society in general.

If we do not take care of our heritage, we lose much more than works or buildings, we lose an essential value for the community, we let go of the possibility of belonging and generating emotional ties with what and those we see and surround us. If we don’t strengthen it today, we will be throwing away a tremendous opportunity to unite, to position Chile and to obtain a source of economic resources that are necessary to progress and improve the well-being of people.

Rather than focusing on the problems that the current crisis brings, let us review this opportunity to rethink the cultural and heritage sector and find common ground that will allow us to move forward into the future.

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