Protecting heritage in Central America

Protecting heritage in Central America

Exposed crumbling wall on the left, and a partial view of scaffolding round a collapsed structure on the right
Exposed ancient masonry at Temple IV, UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal, Guatemala, August 2022 © BSI

Dr Michael Delacruz of the Blue Shield International (BSI) Secretariat visited Guatemala from 22 to 29 August 2022to explore cultural heritage protection. He held a series of engagements with key stakeholders discuss the challenges to cultural heritage protection in the country and to explore the possibilities for broader regional cooperation in the training of heritage professionals and the sharing of best practices. In addition to consultations with representatives from UNESCO (María Fernanda Castellanos) and Blue Shield Guatemala (Rosa María Chan), Dr Delacruz met with the chief conservator at the Consejo Nacional para la Protección de La Antigua Guatemala (CNPAG), Javier Quiñónez Guzmán, to examine the heritage protection issues facing Guatemala’s colonial-period capital, Guatemala City.

Dr Delacruz also toured the Petén region in northern Guatemala, in a central area of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, to meet with staff and invigilators at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal to discuss the challenges in maintaining the integrity of the site. He visited the colonial-era town of Flores with Blue Shield Guatemala and area researchers to understand the vulnerabilities to its historic architecture and nearby archaeological sites.

Discussions have yielded initial plans for a regional conference to be held in early 2023 in Antigua, and for a Blue Shield-led framework for regional cooperation in CHP and crisis response/preparedness. It is our firm hope this will foster the development of more Blue Shield national committees throughout the region.

In addition, Dr Delacruz met with representatives from US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and the Security Cooperation Office at the US Embassy in Guatemala City. He reported on the constructive outcomes from recent BSI-supported cultural heritage protection-related security cooperation activities in Honduras. Based on the success of this work, they also discussed the possibility of including training in implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict in partner training exercises in Guatemala and the wider USSOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility.


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