The World Heritage Centre received today a visit from a delegation of representatives from the Arhuaco indigenous community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, included on Colombia’s Tentative List since 2012 as a potential mixed World Heritage property.

The representatives met with the Director and the team of the Latin American and Caribbean Unit of the World Heritage Centre to discuss various initiatives to reinforce the protection of their cultural and natural heritage. They provided information about the pertinence of the Sierra Nevada for World Heritage protection. In addition, they discussed the relevance of the World Heritage Convention for strengthening the existing protection mechanisms of the Sierra Nevada. Ms Mechtild Rössler, Director of the World Heritage Centre, reiterated her support for the initiative to strengthen collaboration for the benefit of the Sierra Nevada and its communities and recalled that that the World Heritage Committee has established an International Indigenous Peoples Forum on World Heritage. This forum’s aim is to elevate the role of indigenous communities in the “identification, conservation and management of World Heritage properties”, as described by the Committee Decision 41 COM 7.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range in the world, and contains samples of all existing biomes in Colombia, making it an important reservoir of fauna and flora. For thousands of years, the area has been home to indigenous groups descending from the Tayrona culture, as is the case of the Arhuacos, Kogui, Kankuamo and Malayo indigenous communities who continue to preserve their traditions and their original languages, despite the different pressures of the contemporary world.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was declared a National Natural Park of Colombia in 1964 and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1979. The “Tayrona and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Parks and their Archaeological Sites” was inscribed on Colombia’s Tentative List of World Heritage properties in 2012.