Director of UNESCO World Heritage visits rehabilitation works at the Santa Clara Convent in Havana
On Tuesday 2 May, the Director of UNESCO World Heritage, Lazare Eloundou Assomo, accompanied by the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, Anne Lemaistre, visited the Convent of Santa Clara, the first women’s convent in Havana (founded in 1644), part of the World Heritage property “Old Havana and its Fortification System,” inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982.
Major rehabilitation works are being conducted at the site by the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana with the support of the UNESCO programme Transcultura: Integrating Cuba, the Caribbean and the European Union through Culture and Creativity, funded by the European Union.
To date, Transcultura has procured 375 tons of raw materials (corresponding to an amount of 2.3 M USD, with further 2.6 M being spent) for the recovery of the first cloister of the convent, which will become the Santa Clara College for Training in the Arts and Restoration Trades of Cuba and the Caribbean, one of the member institutions of the Caribbean Cultural Training Hub established in the context of the programme.
The College will also be the venue of training workshops in areas related to cultural heritage restoration, where young professionals aged between 18 and 35 from the Caribbean will be able to specialize in painting, sculpting, mosaics, ceramics, stained glass and carpentry, as part of the academic offer of the Caribbean Cultural Training Hub.
“It is a great satisfaction for me to witness progress in the rehabilitation of this landmark building in the history of Havana, which recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is not only the largest-scale and most ambitious World Heritage initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean, but one which reflects our belief in the multiple ways in which cultural heritage can improve the lives and future of communities. Santa Clara will be a center of excellence for research, for capacity-building and for professional development for young people from the country and the whole Region, but also a teeming heart of cultural life for the surrounding community and its residents”, said Lazare Eloundou.
The deputy director general of the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana, Perla Rosales, and her technical team welcomed Mr Eloundou and guided him through the building. "It is a great day for our office to be able to welcome the director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. We are proud to show him all the work for the restoration of the old city of Havana, especially this Convent of Santa Clara which, within the framework of the Transcultura programme, will become the training centre that the city's historian Eusebio Leal dreamed of to bring the restoration trades to the Caribbean," said Perla Rosales.
Mr Eloundou visited the most recent progress in the first cloister of the convent, related to the structure, woodwork, roof underlayment and tiling. He was also able to see first-hand the painstaking work undertaken by specialists from the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana to save and restore the building's heritage gems, such as the church's timber roof truss, one of the largest preserved in Latin America, and the oldest fountain on record in Cuba. Other partners, such as the Italian Agency for International Cooperation, the Italian-Latin American Institute and the World Monuments Fund, have supported the rehabilitation of other elements of the Convent, such as the belltower and the site museum.