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Posts Tagged ‘XII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities’

Monte Alban and the historic center of Oaxaca are coming up on the twenty-sixth anniversary of being designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.  And, as I write, the city is hosting the XII World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, with delegations from 230 other World Heritage cities in town for the 4-day conference.

It is to be expected that any host city would get out the spit and polish to show itself in the best light and Oaxaca is no exception.  The city is being cleaned to the nth degree and, much to driver and passenger delight and relief, the ubiquitous baches (potholes) throughout the city have been patched.

And graffiti?  It’s history, as soon as it appears.

Besides the much-welcome repair of treacherous streets, squeaky clean sidewalks, and pristine building facades, there is something else missing.  Where have all the ambulantes (street vendors) gone?  If you have ever been to Oaxaca, you will no doubt remember the indigenous vendor puestos (across from the Cathedral) that line the Alameda de León from the Post Office to the Hotel Monte Alban.  They are gone, along with the ambulantes in the plaza alongside Carmen Alto.  Even the lovely women from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, who sell their beautiful, intricately hand-embroidered wedding dresses and blouses along Macedonio Alcalá, have been removed from the street.

I later discovered, the latter have been temporarily relocated to the courtyard of the Biblioteca Pública Central.

But what of the other vendors?  Where are they?  Are they being compensated for lost revenue?  According to this article in Proceso, market trader organizations, “agreed to withdraw for six days without compensation.”  Hmmm….

I have to ask, why?  Is it just colonial buildings and archeological sites that warrant a World Heritage site designation?  I don’t think so.  Oaxaca is an incredibly vibrant, living breathing city whose primary value and cultural heritage lies not in her buildings, but with her people, especially her indigenous citizens, who have given and continue to give much of what makes Oaxaca so special — their food, music, artistry, and kind, strong, and gentle presence.  In 2007, on my first visit, it’s what had me at, hola!

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website, regarding Oaxaca and Monte Alban, criterion IV states, “Among some 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological sites inventoried in the valley of Oaxaca, the Monte Alban complex best represents the singular evolution of a region inhabited by a succession of peoples: the Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The City of Oaxaca, with its design as a check board and its iconic architecture, has developed over more than four centuries as evidence of the fusion of two cultures Indian and Spanish.”  [my emphasis]

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