Mayor of Baeza, Spain (January 2014)
Mr. Leocadio Marín Rodríguez
1. The city of Baeza was registered on the World Heritage City List in 2003. What has been the impact of this nomination for your city?
Before 2003, Baeza was already a city that was recognized and outstanding for its cultural and heritage values. Proof of this is the status that it held as a historical-artistic monument between 1917 and 1931; in 1966, Baeza was declared Historico-Artistico Ensemble.
Ten years after being inscribed on the World Heritage List as MONUMENTAL ENSEMBLE OF THE RENAISSANCE, it is appropriate to emphasize first of all the awareness raising of heritage by the citizens. Since this declaration, our values have been better understood, our heritage has been recognized and the society of Baeza has identified with it; consequently, our legacy was protected and preserved more coherently, owing to everyone’s efforts.
At the same time, there was a visible economic development in Baeza, owing to the type of management of the different economic situations related to heritage, where we have always attempted to seek, as a starting point and ultimate goal, a harmonious economic structure based on the EQUILIBRIUM of all cultural strategy. All these action imply a form of efficient and coherent management, whether for the actual development of the consolidated historic landscape development or for the rest of the city from the point of view of conservation and rehabilitation, as well as the dissemination of our property.
2. In your opinion, what is the vital role of a mayor when a city has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List?
From a more personal point of view, I consider myself a lover of history and culture in all their forms and manifestations, and as the first representative of this city that owns outstanding heritage values, I feel twice as responsible and I am deeply concerned with the economic and heritage management of my city.
There is no doubt that one of the most important and difficult duty is the search for financial resources intended for the safeguard and the conservation of property, whether public or private. The fact of living up to the challenge, at all levels, of a World Heritage City, to have to account for the economy before the citizens and to ensure the safeguard and the conservation of the protected private property represents a constant concern that stands in the way of management as mayor, and this gets worst, especially in these difficult days.
It should also be taken into consideration that cultural heritage, in addition to containing its own intrinsic values, is a source of economic growth and of wealth creation and employment. There is no denying that existing studies related to heritage and economy prove that actually, well-managed heritage is a driver of development in various fields. This is why, at this time, we believe that we must promote and study new strategies related to the tourism industry and foster, with local agents, the arrival of visitors and foreign investors, as financial assistance must be based on balanced dissemination methods, according to our values.
3. Concretely, what have been your actions toward the protection and enhancement of your heritage?
First of all, we have acquired a deeper knowledge of our property in all fields, and more specifically in the field of education, through the various medias. This is how a sense of awareness is appearing among the citizens of Baeza, awareness that manifests itself through an attitude of greater willingness to preserve and restore, not only buildings, but also urban spaces.
These actions have materialized in a remarkable way through new management measures, the reduction of environmental impacts, the elimination of visual pollution in all its forms and the creation of pedestrian areas in historic spaces and axes. Other decisions had to do with the control of automobile traffic within the walls, the recovery of outstanding buildings, small and average renovations, which were coherent and carried out under the advice of multidisciplinary teams, interventions on the urban furniture and housing, studies, development of projects, as well as other achievements.
One of the concrete and more direct actions at the local level is the one regarding education. Starting from the teaching of our local heritage, we can manage to strongly stimulate the conservation and the restoration of heritage. In that sense, it is worth noting the work of the Workshop-School, which, in a city such as ours, is fundamental, as it brings an interesting experience in the conservation of the work and techniques of traditional construction, which are necessary in the intervention on historic heritage and the conservation of traditional crafts for the demand for skilled job in the region.
Another very important task that must be emphasized consisted in designating, in 2006, the historic centre of Baeza, the Concerted Area of Rehabilitation, which made it possible, for example, to make various public intervention in order to improve access and the urbanization of public spaces, the restoration of the wall and exceptional buildings, social integration programs, the restoration of lodging, or the equipment of urban furniture.
In short, during that time, there has been very important progresses to maintain the levels of protection and consideration of the outstanding nature of the city, through the various available legal instruments; this materialized in the General Urbanization Plan, approved in 2011, and which was completed by the Special Plan for the Protection of the Historic Ensemble, a catalogue and other by-laws on protection.
4. Do you hold special events to enhance the heritage in your city?
Since January 2004, and in cooperation with the nearby city of Ubeda, culture and tourism programs were implemented under the name “Ubeda and Baeza, World Heritage”, such as the “Unique destination Baeza-Ubeda, world heritage” or “Baeza-Ubeda, congress venues” disseminated in national and international fairs, as well as promotion actions. The creation of the “Ubeda and Baeza Promotion Commission”, which was done by the Tourism Sectorial Councils of the two cities, must also be pointed out.
All this joint work gave rise, in 2007, to the drafting of the document entitled “Initiative and Sustainable Tourism” and the creation of the Association for the Tourist Development of Ubeda and Baeza (ATDUB), a regrouping in charge of the development and the dissemination of the intervention program to be carried out in each of these cities (integral plan for accessibility, the creation of parking deterrents and the restriction of automobile traffic, the urbanization of public spaces, the signalling of heritage, etc.)
On the other hand, documents are published, congresses and meetings relating to World Heritage have been organized (during the month of November, Baeza and Ubeda hosted the VIIth Meeting of World Heritage Managers).
On an individual basis, our city is known as the seat of the Campus Antonio Machado, of the INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF ANDALUSIA (IUA), which has become an education and cultural advertisement having a national and international projection, and the “Permanent Seminar of Historic Heritage” brings a university and real dimension in the management and use of heritage.
Baeza is also a city that has been known throughout the year for its local historic celebrations, which have been preserved as a legacy throughout the centuries, such as the Holy Week, declared of national tourist interest, or the Festival of Early Music, which crowns the cultural panorama and the tangible and intangible heritage wealth that the city of Baoza exposes and offers to the entire world.
5. The expression ”World Heritage” involve an international aspect. In you opinion, what is the international World Heritage trademark that represents the city of Baeza? What are your strategies to establish and/or maintain that trademark?
Without a doubt, this trademark can be found in this declaration itself: Group of Monuments of the Renaissance. The distinctive nature of our Renaissance is what has transcended the boarders and is internationally recognized through its projection in Latin America, thanks to Andrés de Vandelvira, a famous architect of the XVIth century. Our true brand of global identity is to understand our monumental ensemble as an example of urbanism and historic architecture, where the monumental centre represents the most representative space of the Renaissance and is today the most complete cultural expression of the global city that has remained with us to the present day.
I think that, to consolidate this “signature”, any new strategy must focus on the reformulation of new joint commitments with the city of Udeba, so that these new initiatives will favour other actions to consolidate interventions and sustainable commitments with the various administrations and institutions.
6. In your opinion, what makes Baeza such a special place?
There are numerous aspects that were considered at the time of the evaluation of the present image of Baeza, but especially after all what has been said, it must be pointed out that Baeza is a special place thanks to its inhabitants, who are its most important agents; our declaration would be meaningless if it were not for the people who live in Baeza, take care of it, preserve it and maintain it through their efforts, in spite of the financial and technical difficulties. It is mostly the citizens who implement this conservation and this respect.
This is why, as mayor, I believe that our recognition must be understood not only with respect to the “Built City”, but also the “Inhabited City”, a concept that covers the multicultural wealth which cannot be seen and the sense of permanence of those who live in it; it is a living whole, where people work, have fun, and starting from which the marks of identity that we now show to the world are made up.
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