Mayor of Cordoba, Spain (October 2014)
JOSÉ ANTONIO NIETO BALLESTEROS
José Antonio NIETO BALLESTEROS, born in Guadalcazar (province of Cordoba) on April 10, 1970, is married and has children. He holds a law degree from the University of Cordoba (class of 1988-1993). Candidate at the Madrid Congress for the CDS (Social Democratic Centre) party for the 1989 elections and provincial and regional secretariat of the youth wing of the CDS of Andalusia, from 1989 to 1991. Candidate of the CDS to the Parliament of Andalusia for the elections of the autonomous community of Andalusia in 1990. Secretary of the CDS for the province of Cordoba from 1991 to 1993. Member of the National and Regional Committee of the CDS from 1991 to 1993. Candidate to the Senate at the 1993 general elections. City Counsellor of the Popular Party (PP) for the city of Guadalcazar between 1995 and 1999, he worked at the Secretariat of Territorial Policy of the PP of Cordoba, where he was assistant to the Secretary General. From 1996 to 1998, he occupied the position of director of the management board of the Latin-America Popular Foundation. From 1998 to 2000, he was the regional electoral coordinator for the Andalusia Popular Party (A-PP). In 2000-2001, he was assistant secretary general for the formation and elections of the PP of Cordoba. Substitute at the Parliament of Andalusia for the election of that region, fall 1996. From 1999 to January 2005, he was councillor at the city of Cordoba and member of the provincial government. Since December 2002, further to the 10th Provincial Congress, he has been the Secretary General of the PP of Cordoba, whose president is Maria Jesus Botella. Since April 2004, he has been the spokesperson of the Popular Group at the city of Cordoba. In February 2006, he was nominated Provincial President of the Popular Party of Cordoba. He was a candidate for mayor of Cordoba at the municipal elections in May 2007, which he won, but a pact between the United Left (Izquierda Unida-IU) and the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) took over the position of mayor; he was the spokesperson of the PP Group. At the elections of the Autonomous Region of Andalusia of 2008, he was candidate No. 1 of the PP of Cordoba at the Parliament of Andalusia. He obtained his seat in Parliament, which he has kept until now. During the 17th Provincial Congress of the PP of Cordoba, he was re-elected president of the Cordouan Popular Group. He was first on the list of the PP at the Cordoba municipal elections of May 2011, which he won by an absolute majority: he is the mayor of Cordoba. At the elections at the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, which will be held on March 25, 2015, he is at the head of the list of the PP of the province of Cordoba at the Parliament of Andalusia. On September 29, 2012, he was re-elected president of the Popular Party of Cordoba at the 13th Provincial Congress.
1) The Historic Centre of Cordoba was registered on the World Heritage List in 1984. What has been the impact of this nomination for your city?
First of all, I would like to point out the recognition that the Cordouan heritage obtained internationally, which has enhanced the image of the city and contributed to the touristic and cultural promotion of Cordoba.
This has also led us, as we are responsible for its conservation and management, to continue to make heritage more and more enjoyable and accessible for the people living in the Historic Center. This recognition has produced a sense of pride among the population and gave impetus to its awareness of defense of this living heritage that inserts itself in the XXIth Century.
2) In your opinion, what is the vital role of a mayor when a site has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List?
To ensure the protection and the spreading of the outstanding universal values that have made it possible for the Historic Centre of Cordoba to deserve its inscription.
Our old city’s own and unique heritage values have survived owing to the care and the recognition of the inhabitants of Cordoba throughout the centuries. We must continue working so that these values will still remain for centuries to come.
3) Concretely, what have been your actions toward the protection and enhancement of your heritage?
In order to improve management regarding all aspects related to heritage, we created a Special Delegation of Heritage to Mankind and the historic centre, which, in 2014, was granted a specific budget of more than one million euros. This delegation focuses on four fundamental pillars for heritage: the SAFEGUARD and the ENHANCEMENT of the built heritage, the development of a CROSS-SECTORAL AND INTEGRAL PLANNING for its management, TRAINING and RESEARCH, by supporting research as a formula for economic, social and cultural development, and DISSEMINATION and AWARENESS-RAISING.
4) Do you hold special events to enhance your city?
In 2014 only, there will be more than 100 events related to the recognition and the dissemination of our heritage; most of them go beyond the local context, both for the quality of the participants and the dissemination done through the international and national heritage networks in which our city takes part: the Organization of World Heritage Cities, the League of Historical Cities, the European Association for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage, the Group of cities that are heritage of mankind in Spain (GCPHE), the Network of Jewish Quarters “Roads of Sepharad”, the Network of cities having a cathedral, the Network of cities served by a TGV, the Road of Betica and Rome (RUBERO), etc.
We must point out that we are celebrating this year two major events: the 20th anniversary of the inscription of the Historic Centre and the 700th anniversary of the Cordoba synagogue. The opening ceremony of the 700th anniversary was held on Sunday, September 21, with a recital of the signer Jasmin Levy.
The city of Cordoba is, in addition, an international reference point for two major festivals: the Cordoba Guitar Festival, which takes places in the first weeks of July, and is currently in its 35th edition, and Cosmopoetic which, from September 22 to October 5, 2014, will host one again the best poets from all over the world.
On the other hand, the International Sephardic Music Festival, which presents in June its thirteen edition, enjoys an important representativeness, together with the cultural activities organized for the European Day of Jewish Culture, known in our city as the “Sephardic Fall”. In addition, during the All-Night Flamenco Event, with its eighth edition in the summer of 2015, the places of the historic centre of Cordoba will once again be invaded by demonstrations of the flamenco art.
The Holy Week of Cordoba should also be mentioned; it is a Fiesta of tourist interest that is well known for its meditation, as well as the celebrations of the fairs Our Lady of Good Health, in May, and those of the Virgin of Fuensanta, in September. These are two celebrations of coexistence and exaltation of our culture.
5) Since 1996, Cordoba is a loyal member of the OWHC. You have been involved at different levels of the Organization (Board of Directors, regional Conferences, Youth programs, etc.) and throughout the years, you have participated at numerous activities, up to even receive the Regional Secretariat of Southern Europe/Mediterranean. Among all those experiences, is their one in particular that have leave its mark on Cordoba City?
I believe that it is important to note the two periods during which Cordoba was a member of the Board of Directors and participated in the preparation of the Strategic Plan of the OWHC, in 2005, and during the last stage, the process of reflection initiated on the operation and the objectives of the Organization. And, of course, the experience of being, since 2001, the seat of the Regional Secretariat for Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
It is rewarding to note the strong drawing power that all the meetings and activities of our Regional Secretariat has had and in which it took part, as well as the human and technical quality of all the people who have cooperated and given us new lessons at each meeting. We have shared experiences that encourage us to make further progress in the huge responsibility we have to take care of our heritage.
In addition, the 14th Regional Conference will be held in Cordoba this year, from November 25 to 28; this will enable us to greet once more the representatives of the 32 cities that are part of this Regional Secretariat and to work on the cross-cutting aspects of heritage management, such as access and mobility, youth, local handicrafts and visual pollution.
6) In your opinion, what makes Cordoba such a special place?
Our historical complex, in addition to being one of the most appealing in the world, is inhabited; Cordoba is a city of more than two thousand years of history where the coexistence of the cultures is still very present and that enjoys great vitality. Evidence of this vitality and intermingling cultures is the CORDOBA PATIO FESTIVAL, inscribed since December 2012 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; it is held during the first weeks of the month of May, at the time when the explosion of the spring further contributes to making the Cordoba Historic Centre a unique ensemble.
Cordoba is an ancient city where one can find five major recognitions of UNESCO: in addition to the Cordoba Mosque, its Historic Center and the Patio Festival, which I have already mentioned, it is a city that must also be visited to savour and to learn the values of the Mediterranean diet, and to get acquainted with the flamenco art.
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