Central America promotes its underwater cultural heritage through a virtual exhibition

The UNESCO Office in San José has collaborated with the Central American Integration System (SICA) and its Educational and Cultural Coordination (CECC/SICA) in the organization of a virtual exhibition on the underwater cultural heritage of the eight countries of the SICA Region: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The launch of this exhibition, which is hosted on the cultural promotion platform of the SICA website, took place virtually on Monday, November 22, through an event open to the public.

The event included the presentation “Preserving humanity’s submerged past, heritage transforming societies towards a sustainable future” by Dr. Arturo Rey da Silva, from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology of the University of Edinburgh, member of ICOMOS-ICUCH, as well as the presentation “Challenges and challenges for the protection and dissemination of submerged heritage” by Ms. Andrea Rojas, Ph. Andrea Rojas, PhD student of the Archaeology and Maritime History Program of the University of Cadiz.

The exhibition has been elaborated with photographic contributions from cultural institutions of the eight countries of the SICA Region, as well as other neighboring countries such as Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. The objectives of this exhibition are to raise awareness of the diversity and richness of the cultural heritage found in submerged contexts, as well as the challenges faced for its protection and, above all, to show its potential to promote the fulfillment of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The initiative also seeks to make visible the contribution of culture to the regional integration process, positioning cultural heritage as a tool in favor of cooperation and dialogue between countries that share a common cultural legacy.

Underwater cultural heritage invites us to reflect on the vital relationship of human societies with bodies of water, and the importance they have had for the development of our cultural identities and ways of life. Indeed, from ancient times to the present, the link with seas, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water has been crucial for food, trade and communication of the peoples of the world. Just as waters are related to social, economic and environmental development, the protection of underwater cultural heritage is directly related to the protection of the natural marine and aquatic environment.

This initiative is part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, known as the 2001 Convention, which at the international level constitutes the main normative framework for the protection of underwater cultural property and from which ethical and technical guidelines for the sustainable management of this heritage are derived. This exhibition seeks to support UNESCO’s efforts to promote the adoption and full implementation of this Convention in the SICA Region.