UNESCO analyzes whether to declare the ESMA Museum as World Heritage

Facade of the former Navy Mechanics School, today the ESMA Memorial Site Museum

He Memorial Site Museum ESMA could be declared Unesco World Heritage before next Thursday by the Committee of that International organization, which has been meeting since last September 10 in its 45th Convention in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a distinction that would highlight the memory of one of the most dark not only of the country but of the region.

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) yesterday began to discuss the thematic block in which the ESMA Museum’s application to obtain this recognition is located.

Given that the block contains 72 topics to be discussed until Thursday and the ESMA Museum’s candidacy is at order number 56, the Argentine Human Rights Secretariat estimated that, although there is no stipulated time for the treatment of each topic , the definition could be given this Wednesday.

The official venue of the 45th expanded session of the World Heritage Committee is the Al-Faisaliah Hotel, located in the heart of the Saudi capital.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will give its verdict before Thursday
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will give its verdict before Thursday

The Argentine delegation traveling to Riyadh is headed by the Secretary of Human Rights, Horacio Pietragalla Corti; the executive director of the ESMA Museum, María Marcela ‘Mayki’ Gorosito and the general coordinator of the Work Plan for the candidacy of the ESMA Memory Site, Mauricio Cohen Salama.

The ESMA Museum is part of the list of 16 candidates for cultural assets to be examined by the body at this year’s Convention together with La Maison Carrée de Nimes in France; the ancient city of Si Thep in Thailand; the Sacred Complexes of the Hoysalas in India and the Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero Genocide Memorial Sites in Rwanda, among others.

The expectation is that ESMA receives World Heritage recognition, in the same way that other places of memory such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination center (Poland) have already been recognized; Robben Island in South Africa, a symbol of racial segregation; and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Japan).

“We are looking forward to the incorporation of the ESMA Memorial Site Museum as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This place was an emblem of state terrorism in our country, but also of reconstruction and memory,” he said in Pietragalla Corti.

Ex ESMA Museum is cultural heritage of Mercosur
Ex ESMA Museum is cultural heritage of Mercosur

The official said that the fact that “40 years after democratic recovery we can reach this milestone for our country fills us with pride” and that he hopes that “finally the ESMA Memory Site Museum can be incorporated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” .

The ESMA Memory Site Museum was inaugurated on May 19, 2015, after a long struggle by human rights organizations to preserve the space as judicial evidence of the crimes committed there by the last civil-military dictatorship.

Until 2004, the Navy officers’ school continued to operate there and it would take three years to finish vacating all the naval institutions, added to the recovery and enhancement work necessary for its inauguration to finally take place in 2015 in the building known as “ Officers’ Casino.

Photograph of a space in the former ESMA clandestine detention center (EFE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni)
Photograph of a space in the former ESMA clandestine detention center (EFE/Juan Ignacio Roncoroni)

In the ESMA, the largest clandestine center for detention, torture and extermination in the country, nearly five thousand men and women were detained-disappeared and held in inhumane conditions, many of them injected with sedatives to be thrown into the sea through the so-called “ flights of death.”

In this same place, babies were born in captivity who were separated from their mothers and were mostly illegally appropriated. Thanks to the enormous work of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Association, 133 grandchildren have already been found, but the tireless search continues for the hundreds who are still estimated to be missing.

Through guided or self-guided tours, visitors can tour the permanent exhibition of the ESMA Museum, which consists of 17 rooms open to the public, which contain traditional and contemporary museographic devices, plus two spaces intended for temporary exhibitions.

During 2022 alone, the ESMA Memory Site Museum received a total of 44,443 national and international visitors, with a high percentage (63%) of middle and higher level students and teachers.

Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands Museum (Romina Santarelli / Ministry of Culture of the Nation)
Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands Museum (Romina Santarelli / Ministry of Culture of the Nation)

The National Human Rights Secretariat, the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, the Casas of human rights organizations and the Malvinas and South Atlantic Islands Museum, among other spaces.

The long road traveled since 2015 when the Argentine state began negotiations with UNESCO and in 2017 informed the World Heritage Center that the ESMA Museum had been registered on its tentative list, could have a resolution before this Thursday in the 45th Session Expanded international organization.

At the end of February of this year, there was a visit from the inspector of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (Icomos), who carried out a “visualization of the property”, which consisted of an exhaustive review of the state of conservation, integrity, authenticity and management. of the Museum, from which a report was prepared that will be taken into account for the final definition of the Committee.

Argentina already has eleven properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, five of them of a natural nature – such as the Iguazú and Los Glaciares National Parks – and the other six of a cultural nature such as the Quebrada de Humahuaca, the Jesuit Missions of the Guaraníes or The Cave of the Hands, among others.

The sessions can be followed live through the website of the 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee.

Source: Télam

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