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Local management system of the Historic Town of Guanajuato (Mexico)  

In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of the World Heritage site, a new local Management Unit has been created in the historic centre of Guanajuato. Depending on the Municipality, and in close coordination with national and local institutions, the unit aims to create a central coordination office dedicated to the conservation and sustainable development of the historic centre.  

About Guanajuato

Guanajuato is a city located in central Mexico. The city is home to the World Heritage site Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines, inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1988 under criteria (i), (ii), (iv) and (vi).

Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. This past can be seen in its 'subterranean streets' and the 'Boca del Infierno', a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compañía and La Valenciana are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. Guanajuato was also witness to events which changed the history of the country.

© Historic Town of Guanajuato: Message from the Mayor on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape  © Guanajuato Capital, 2021

According to the site manager, the city presents both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, Guanajuato is rich in both tangible and intangible heritage, and remains a lively urban centre. This cultural capital has allowed the development of the tourism sector, bringing social and economic development opportunities. On the other hand, there is a general lack of awareness about the value of this cultural heritage, which translates into a lack of care and disinterest in its conservation, and sustainable financing for heritage conservation remains a challenge. 

Creating a local World Heritage management system in Guanajuato 

In order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of site management, a new local Management Unit for the Historic Centre of Guanajuato was established in 2020. The creation of the Management Unit, which acts as a central coordination unit for the safekeeping of the city’s cultural heritage, was included in the 2018 Management Plan. Its goal is to ensure the safekeeping and conservation of the historic centre while improving its habitability and promoting sustainable local economic development. The Management Unit is supported by the local office of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, INAH), the University of Guanajuato, professional colleges and civil society. While the Management Unit is in charge of the day-to-day running of the site, statutory processes such as reactive monitoring continue to be carried out through the Directorate of World Heritage in the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

The Management Unit has a strong commitment to raise awareness about the heritage values of the city and promote residents’ involvement in the management of urban heritage. To this end, it has carried out a number of initiatives, such as the public competition “Re-design your city: How would your ideal historic centre be?” and the community workshops “Neighbourhoods of Guanajuato and their cultural heritage”.

  • The public competition “Re-design your city: How would your ideal historic centre be?” was created in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the UNESCO Campaign #ShareOurHeritage. For this, the Management Unit partnered with Guanajuato’s Institute of Architects (Colegio de Arquitectos Guanajuatenses A.C.) to create a general call for children, youth and adults based in Guanajuato to express their desires and hopes for the historic centre through visual and written means. The call was published through social media and official communication channels. Of the 60 proposals received, five were chosen for further development and implementation by the Municipality. 
  • The community workshops“Neighbourhoods of Guanajuato and their cultural heritage” aim to explore the history and architecture of each neighbourhood, linking it with the living testimonials of the local communities and enhancing the sense of ownership of the residents. The project is a coordinated effort between the Management Unit, the Department of History in the University of Guanajuato, and Guanajuato’s Institute of Architects. The programme started in March 2021 and is expected to carry on until November 2021 for a total of 9 sessions. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the workshops take place both in presence and online. 

One year after the creation of the Management Unit, the site manager reports that the general level of awareness and understanding of the urban heritage of Guanajuato has increased. While the development of the Management Unit was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation motivated the team to adopt innovative strategies involving new technologies, which have increased the reach of its activities.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by developing and implementing the management plan, reconciliating urban development and heritage conservation, enhancing the liveability of the historic areas and promoting citizen participation in urban and conservation processes.   

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools Regulatory systems

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could have the potential to contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.3: the initiative aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation.  
  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage. 

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

To learn more

© UNESCO, 2022. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari. 
Cover image: Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines (Mexico) © Nathaniel C. Sheetz. Permanent URL: whc.unesco.org/en/documents/120721 

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.