San Miguel celebrates its sixth year as a World Heritage site
By Sandra Rios
On July 8, San Miguel de Allende celebrated its the sixth anniversary as World Heritage site with a performance by the children’s choir from the Valley of Nañu singing the national anthem in the Otomi language. Mayor Mauricio Trejo announced that the Nañu children have been holders of scholarships from the Education and Culture Department since last year. The intention is for them to preserve cultural traditions. He also named ten children from San Miguel as “Heritage Guardians,” urging them to transmit the culture of conservation of our heritage and he recognized Eleazar Romero for his participation in helping to achieve World Heritage recognition for the city.
Atención interviewed Cristobal Franyuti, who was commissioned in 2003 by then mayor, Luis Alberto Villarreal, to do procedural work for obtaining the World Heritage nomination. Franyuti contacted Dr. Francisco López Morales, director of the INAH’s World Heritage Department and lobbied with him and INAH during the first year to give proof that San Miguel deserved the nomination. They registered San Miguel and the Shrine of Atotonilco in the Lista Tentativa (list presented by the Mexican government each year to UNESCO about the likely properties for World Heritage designation). Then they began producing a nine-chapter technical dossier to boost the candidacy. It was developed by archeologist Luis Felipe Nieto and Donald Patterson who were advised by the World Heritage Department of INAH. This file contains the description of the site location, historical background and justification for why San Miguel should be considered and why it is unique and distinctive among other World Heritage sites. They nominated San Miguel based on the premise that it was a “mixed soul of the Americas” with the Spaniards and Chichimecas living together. Today this synergy continues with the coexistence of different cultures in the same space, allowing the city to generate a culture, environment and unique lifestyle that is a contribution to human development.
The group continued with a comparative analysis of why San Miguel is different from other World Heritage sites. They found that the urban layout is totally atypical, very different from other colonial cities, and noted that the city has retained its historical architectural type. Finally, they sought to get the Estado Separado (letter that the Mexican State presents to UNESCO for the nomination as World Heritage facing to the international community) signed, receiving acceptance in 2006. With this, it was possible to go Paris to register the candidacy.
Franyuti told us that Mexico is number one in the Americas with 32 World Heritage declarations (26 for cultural heritage, five for natural heritage and one more for mixed heritage). According to him, Villarreal and Dr. López Morales were the ones who really promoted this interesting project by allowing both officials and specialists to work together on it. “It was a combination of efforts and wills,” he said. With UNESCO’s declaration of San Miguel as World Heritage site, the state acquired a number of obligations to the international community: to improve the environment and quality of life of the inhabitants of Atotonilco; to do studies of the tourist load capacity for the declared area, the number of hotels, houses, restaurants and other tourist facilities that the area can support; and to determine methods for providing urban mobility. Concerning this. Franyuti said, “Certain areas must be pedestrianized, streets and their directions must be improved, (and) parking places must be built on the outskirts so that residents can walk in the downtown area and take public transportation. These may be solutions to the problems of urban mobility.” He added, “The Mexican State has the commitment with all the inhabitants of the whole world to preserve our World Heritage sites whose owners they are. The Mexican State is only the guardian.”