The Urban Architectural Heritage of Latin America


By Ramón Gutiérrez, Director, CEDODAL 
(Centro de Documentación de Arquitectura Latinoamericana, Buenos Aires, Argentina)


LATIN AMERICA is made up of a large group of countries that possess characteristics of cultural identity in common but which at the same time are acknowledged to be very different. They grew up on the ancient pre-Columbian cultures that had developed in Mesoamerica in the north and in the Andean region in the south and were the most part unified under Spanish and Portuguese control in the 16th-19th centuries.

The architectural and urban heritage given special recognition by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention embraces examples from this colonial period, when the different countries were integrated into the organization of the Spanish Empire under several Viceroyalties, or in the case of Brazil as a dependency of Portugal. Whilst Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule until the end of the 19th century, the other countries achieved independence during the first quarter of that century.

An overall criterion that reflects the special cultural characteristics of each of the countries should not fail to consider, as UNESCO already has, the importance of this process of European and indigenous cultural integration that took place during the three centuries of Spanish and Portuguese rule.

However, in a more over-arching perspective the possibility should not be overlooked of incorporating those characteristics developed by the Latin-American countries since achieving their independence in the 19th century, when under the influence of new immigration, internal development, or integration into world commerce they received and assimilated new cultural inputs to their own heritages. This study of the importance of complementing the selection of monuments and sites already inscribed on the World Heritage List is carried out against this background, in order to include the evaluation of single groups that comply with the requirements of excellence and secure protection in the respective countries.


[Note This study was carried out by Dr Gutiérrez in 1997-98 and has been used by ICOMOS in its work as professional advisor to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee since that time.]

Historic centres

T HE CENTRALIZING CONCEPT that began with the creation of the Plaza Mayor as the urban generator from the first third of the 16th century in the creation of Spanish towns served to accumulate official functions and to establish a hierarchy for the central areas of the main towns in the Americas. This is reflected in the appearance, the variations in urban fabric, and the growth of an urban landscape that has been given basic recognition in those inscriptions made on the World Heritage List up to the present.

These historic centres are without doubt favoured heritage sites, which has resulted in their inscription. However, management of them varies between the different countries, and so it is possible to postulate certain sites within the heritage hierarchy that have not been evaluated effectively, as in the case of the historic centres of Arequipa, Trujillo, Ayacucho, and Cajamarca in Peru or Cuenca in Ecuador.

Historic centres need, moreover, a clear preservation strategy on the part of local authorities, the delineation of protection areas, and at the same time the sanction and implementation of preventive measures in order to ensure better stability for these areas. Once historic centres have been declared to be part of the World Heritage there should be a system of monitoring to confirm the continuity of such measures irrespective of periodic political changes at national or local level.

The process of increasing population density and urban decay in some of these historic centres that are already on the World Heritage List calls for social and cultural responses that permit the proper use of public open spaces and the recovery of a sizeable heritage that is menaced as a result of a lack of resources on the part of municipalities or national cultural agencies.

Strategies for functional regeneration and recycling, the generation of diversifying activities, the encouragement of cultural tourism, and other means of improving the quality of life of the people have made outstanding contributions to the resurgence of historic centres, as can be seen in the case of Quito or more recently in Lima. In other cases urban renewal policies and expulsion of inhabitants can have a serious effect on the heritage, as in the case of Salvador/Bahia (Brazil).

Historic centres that are largely made up of 19th century architecture, whether as a result of renewal of the buildings or the creation of new towns, have not so far been recognized by World Heritage inscription. However, they are very clearly typical of some towns of high heritage value, made up of architectural groups from the 18th-20th centuries, as is the case in Buenos Aires or some 19th century towns with substantial evidence of this nature, such as Valparaiso (Chile), Matanzas (Cuba), or Petrópolis (Brazil).

It is also important to rescue the urban planning ideas of the 19th century and, in the same way that 20th century thought has been recognized in Brasilia, La Plata (Argentina) should be regarded as a recent urban foundation which drew upon 19th century academic ideas for the layout of diagonal streets, urban parks, and the concept of aesthetic structure in the monumental axes, as well as in the public buildings resulting from an international competition held in 1882.


Historic towns

H ISTORIC TOWNS probably represent one of the most important heritage resources on the American continent. These are generally ancient foundations which were marginalized by urban development processes or reacted to the apogee of finite productive cycles (principally mining) and then fell into decay when their productive resources dried up.

Although UNESCO has recognized several of the towns of this type, such as Guanajuato or Zacatecas (Mexico) or Potosí (Bolivia), these are intermediate towns that have experienced historically a strong continuity for reasons that lie outside their cyclical economic phases. Other mining communities such as Zaruma (Ecuador) and Taxco (Mexico) might be worthy of recognition.

Other examples, such as Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais (Brazil), represent smaller towns that relate better to a system of towns integrated by a regional production process and which developed in the same historical period. They are all characterized by a lack of religious houses and by a wealth of parish churches or guilds that typify the mining boom of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

In this case it would be sufficient to restrict the criterion for nomination to those towns that maintain high standards of excellence with regard to the heritage and which could also be integrated into a cultural tourism circuit. For example, in the case of Ouro Preto and the Sanctuary of the Bom Jesús at Matozinhos, it would be worth while incorporating Tiradentes, Mariana, and Diamantina.

The same applies to the proposed nomination of the Sanctuary of Copacabana (Brazil), where, alongside the undeniable value of the Sanctuary itself, there is the whole policy of creating centres for indigenous converts (reducciones) around Lake Titicaca which resulted in 16th century settlements and high-quality churches, both on the Peruvian side (Juli, Pomata, Zepita, Acora, etc) and on the Bolivian side (Laja, Huaqui, Calamarca, Machaca, Tiahuanaco, etc).

It is proposed also to introduce groups of towns that represent forms of settlement connected with trade routes and with the conversion of the Indians. The Indian villages in the Humahuaca gorge and the Calchaquíes valleys (Argentina), those of Chipaya and the Oruro area (Bolivia), the doctrinero villages of Paraguay, or those founded by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga in the Michoacán area (Mexico) provide the possibility of recording these processes of territorial reorganization.

There also 19th century village systems, such as those on the Chiloé islands in the far south of Chile or in the coffee-producing area of Colombia, which might facilitate an approach to new forms of settlement, management of production, high-quality local architecture, and individual landscape characteristics.

It is necessary to move towards the systematic identification of groups of settlements, even though these may span more than one country (as was done for the Jesuit missions) and consider the possibility of nominating them as groups while at the same time expanding the 19th century base.


Integrated architectural groups

T HE MOST OUTSTANDING example of this form of territorial evaluation, connected with the encouragement of cultural tourism circuits, which would permit the integrated use of this heritage, is without doubt the fortifications of the Caribbean region.

Although many of the main architectural monuments (Havana, Cartagena de Indias, San Juan de Puerto Rico, Portobelo, etc) are already on the World Heritage List, there is no doubt that they should be visited and understood as forming part of a vast offensive/defensive system which involves not only the great urban fortifications but also places on the coasts and islands, whether under Spanish, English, French, Dutch, or Danish rule.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries the Caribbean was a region marked by the struggle for power between the great European nations, who expended vast sums of money in building these fortifications, which in many cases represent the most important heritage investments of a number of towns. For this reason the inscriptions of these architectural monuments should be made as part of a system so as to acknowledge their interaction with one another.



Final comments on methodology

T HE CENTRAL IDEA behind this new approach firmly ratifies the concepts of quality and excellence that have directed inscriptions on the World Heritage List, but it also seeks to approach these criteria in a form that is representative of the cultural property that characterizes each region, and in particular in the present case the Latin-American continent.

In this connection the absence of 19th century heritage is very apparent and has required consideration of the recognition needing to be accorded to this cultural period. It is also evident from the tentative lists that it is necessary to identify with accuracy the groups of towns and historic sites that belong to the same system and which have similar value characteristics, so that nominations may be sufficiently broad.

Finally, it is advisable that when considering works that are nominally of the 20th century there should be sufficient time elapsed for these to be evaluated in a wider context. The case of the Mexican architect Barragán, whose work has only been recognized in recent decades, illustrates the need for perspective and for not being pressurized by fashionable trends.

For this reason it is recommended that architecture inscribed on the World Heritage List should in every case be the work of deceased architects, since this honour should be seen as something other than personal homage, which belongs to another form of recognition than World Heritage listing. At least half a century should elapse after the completion of a building for it to be analysed in a proper perspective in the context of the overall product of the period.

Once again, it is necessary to stress that the identification of those ensembles that might be worthy of inscription does not preclude alternative approaches nor does it exhaust the possibilities of what might be considered to be of World Heritage quality. Nor is the presence or absence of adequate provision for legal measures or decision-making at local or national level for the protection and management of this heritage taken account of in this study, which has been based on approaches that are artistic, architectural, urban, cultural, and social, or of the potential for improvement and use of these ensembles. They need to be analysed once each country has undertaken the preparation of the proper measures.

What follows has been prepared for each of the countries where outstanding examples have been identified. Among these, various situations have been studied according to the type of heritage and their intrinsic quality. In each country examples from the colonial period are given first, leading up to 19th century cases, where these exist.

The lists below contain examples of historic centres, intermediate and small towns, groups of villages, and groups of architectural works treated as systems. Each of these groups obviously includes works from different periods and so they are attributed to the period that predominates within the group. No account is taken in this study of individual architectural monuments. It is thus a list that is indicative in character, aimed at producing a cross-section of the features that may be considered to represent the Latin- American cultural heritage.


ANNEX I Properties to which priority should be given


1 The towns of La Quebrada de Humahuaca and Puna Jujena (Province of Jujuy)

This is a group of towns which grew out of the old encomiendas (estates) of the 16th and 17th centuries and the miners' settlements of the former Tojo Marquisate. These towns, which are located in the extreme north-west part of Argentina, close to the Bolivian border, are within two clearly delineated geographical zones, the Humahuaca pass and the Jujena puna (high plateau).

Most of these villages have considerable architectural unity resulting from slow consolidation and growth. In all of them, the church is the focal point from both the urban and the architectural standpoint. The church provides the basic configuration of several of these villages, among them San Francisco de Yavi and Purmamarca, both of which were built in the 17th century and are listed national historical monuments. The same can be said of many of the 18th century churches, some of which received additions or were modified in the 19th century. Among them are Humahuaca, Uquia, Huacalera, Tilcara, Tumbaya and Tafna, along the road leading from Upper Peru (today Bolivia) to Río de la Plata.

The chapels and villages of Coranzuli, Susques, Casabindo, and Cochinoca provide an idea of the scale of the stretches of land occupied on the Jujena high plateau. All of these places of worship have unique features, ranging from their atria with posas (small chapels used during processions) to artistic treasures of paintings and religious imagery. Some of the wall paintings are of particular interest.

The entire group may be appreciated for its qualities in terms of heritage, and also in terms of its location and the way it fits in with the landscape. Nearly all these chapels are protected as a result of their status as listed historic monuments, and the majority have been restored recently.

2 The Jesuit estancias (Province of Córdoba)

The Jesuits established an effective economic system in the central region of Argentina to provide for their schools, university, and novitiate. These estancias included churches built in the 17th and 18th centuries, together with living quarters and other buildings. A number of these estancias, such as Alta Gracia, comprised a large reservoir and dwellings which later on would be occupied by Virrey Liniers. Adjacent to the Jesús María estancia is an interesting 18th century postal building known as the Sinsacate Post Office.

The most isolated and probably the oldest is the Candaleria estancia, while the Santa Catalina estancia is the largest. The Caroya estancia, which was the last one built in the 18th century, was used for the manufacture of guns during the War of Independence.

The churches and cloisters house some noteworthy examples of religious imagery. Worthy of mention are those in the Jesús María Museum, at the estancia of the same name. All the buildings referred to are listed historic monuments and as such benefit from special protective measures. As in the preceding case, the value of the entire group of estancias exceeds the individual value of each taken separately.



3 The villages of the Calchaquies Valleys (Province of Salta)

Although they were founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, a substantial number of these villages underwent further growth and changes in the first half of the 19th century. Set in a spectacular landscape, the villages were dependent upon haciendas (country estates) or encomiendas(concessions). The oldest village in the group, San Pedro Nolasco de Molinos, is no exception. The chapels at these estates and the oratories at various locations along the roads were focal points for these villages, which are characterized by geographical and functional unity.

The villages of Cachi, Seclantás, Angastaco, San Carlos, and at a later date Cafayate are the embodiment of a strategy of land acquisition to the detriment of the Calchaquí Indians, who had long been settled in the area. The bitter conflicts lasted well into the 17th century.

The value of this rich heritage of both civil and religious architecture, comprising houses, haciendas, oratories, and churches, has been recognized by the Argentine Government by designation as a National Monument. At the present time 19th century vernacular architecture plays a dominant role, a number of buildings and large houses having been restored for the purpose of tourism.

4 The town of La Plata (Province of Buenos Aires)

La Plata was laid out in 1882 when Buenos Aires became the Federal Capital of Argentina. It was seen as the model for the new administrative city. Together with his architects, the most talented of whom were Juan Martín Burgos and Pedro Benoit, the Governor, Dardo Rocha, who spearheaded this urban project, worked with the aim of building a modern city in accordance with the latest criteria of European town planning. They accordingly made use of a structure comprising wide thoroughfares, monumental buildings, and diagonal avenues leading to public open spaces and small squares of various sizes. The town planning focused on geometrical principles and urban beauty, in the form of parks, the road connecting with the port, and the peripheral avenues.

The city grew rapidly but nevertheless was able until recent years to maintain the urban qualities incorporated into its original plan. An international architectural contest was organized for the design of the public buildings, most of which were in the event designed by German and Argentine architects. The buildings most worthy of note are the Municipal Palace, the House of the Government, the Parliament Building, the Museum, the Observatory, the Railway Station, the Pasaje Rocha, and the Cathedral.

The plan of La Plata, which was considered to represent a major breakthrough, exerted a considerable influence all over the continent. Some examples are the layout of Belo Horizonte (1897) in Brazil and the opening up of diagonal avenues in large capital cities such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Montevideo. This is unquestionably the most significant 19th century urban plan anywhere in Latin America, and as such deserves the same recognition as that given by the World Heritage Committee to Brasilia for the 20th century.

5 The monumental centre of Buenos Aires

Known as the most European city in America, Buenos Aires, although founded in 1580, has only retained a handful of churches from the colonial period. It does, however, boast magnificent 19th century architecture, with buildings on a par with the most distinguished achievements of the Old World.

The construction in 1890 of the Avenida de Mayo, which opened up a wide boulevard on the same axis as the old Plaza Major of the city, was instrumental in defining the urban profile of this central part of the city, which coexists with the old colonial quarters in the southern part, now replaced by 19th century architecture which is considered to be the historic centre of Buenos Aires. It is necessary to consider the city with its 19th century monumental heritage which, though spread over a vast area, nonetheless depicts a series of large ensembles that together make up the city's image. Within this heritage one must recognize the integration of industrial architecture and that of the port. The embankments of Puerto Madero, which have been rehabilitated for use by service industries, exemplify this integration.

There are in fact few cities in Latin-America with such high- quality examples of 19th century architecture together with a large number of churches, most of which are from the 18th century.

The Avenida de Mayo, which runs over the continent's first underground railway line (1913), and many more outstanding buildings in the city are protected by the historic monuments legislation or by municipal ordinances. In some cases restoration or maintenance works have been carried out.




Of the various groups of monuments on the tentative list, the Copacabana Sanctuary and the community of Chipayas are worthy of consideration. However, these properties should be integrated within regional groupings of special value.

1 The Copacabana Sanctuary and the region of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia and Peru)

This is one of the most important areas of settlement, dating back to the 16th century, where there is also evidence of the presence of indigenous cultures, such as those of Tiahuanaco and the Lupacas as well as the Incas. Despite its outstanding character, the Copacabana Sanctuary forms an integral part of a system of diocesan villages which took shape around the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The towns of Carabuco, Calamarca, Machaca, Viacha, Tiahuanaco, Huaqui, and Laja in Bolivia provide churches and other examples of vernacular architecture of outstanding architectural and artistic value. Equally, on the Peruvian side in the vicinity of Chucuito, the churches of Juli, Pomata, Paucarcolla, Llava, Acora Zepita, Puno, Ayaviri, Asillo, Lampa, Umachiri, Oruillo, and elsewhere, built between the 16th and 18th centuries, are of noteworthy quality. Their mural paintings, sculptures, furniture, and silver ornaments all bear witness to the region's heritage of exceptional expressiveness. In addition to all these elements there are also many archaeological sites, such as the Chulpas de Sillustani.

It is recommended that this entire ensemble should be considered as a whole, in so far as it reflects the historical development of the area and the common history of the various elements. It would not seem logical to designate Copacabana on its own, thus setting aside, for instance, the four splendid churches in the village of Juli.

2 Chipayas and the Oruro region

Although the Chipayas settlements possess some peculiarities in terms of the configuration of the houses and the structure of the town itself, they nonetheless have a structural relationship with other settlements in the same region of Bolivia. This applies to the towns of Caquiaviri, Corque, Curahuara de Caragas, Paria, Ancocala, Yarvicolla, Sepulturas, Totora and many others dating back to the end of the 16th century during the period of the reducción, when Indian villages were created by the Spanish missionaries to convert the Indian population to Christianity. These villages have kept their characteristic layout comprising the square, the church and its atrium, and small posa chapels.

Any nomination should include all these monuments which together give the area its special character. Special attention should be given to the quality of these various properties, which include wall paintings and religious ornamental objects.




It is considered to have been a mistake not to have included the city of Alcantara in the nomination of São Luis do Maranhão, since these two cities are located adjacent to one another.

1 All the towns of Minas Gerais

Ouro Preto and the Sanctuary of Bom Jesús de Matozinhos have already been inscribed on the World Heritage List. There is a case to be made for extending this, to include the towns of Tiradentes, Mariana, Diamantina, San João de Rey, and Sabará, which together form important ensembles from the 18th and 19th centuries that are worthy of forming part of a serial inscription, because of their specific form of land occupation and the mining activity of this region. Furthermore, these villages include monuments and outstanding architectural and artistic heritage which are the object of an in-depth maintenance and restoration campaign by the National Department for Historical and Artistic Heritage (SPHAN). There is also very well integrated architecture and the links with the surrounding landscape and environment are of high quality.

2 The city of Pétropolis

This is another interesting urban unit built in the 19th century (1840), centred on the Imperial Palace, the residence of the only European royal family to have settled in South America. The layout of the town conforms organically to the topography, reflecting the traditions of Portuguese town planning in its ability to fit in well with the landscape (even though the town was laid out by a German, Julius Koeller).

The academic architecture of Pétropolis, which includes a number of structures of historical interest, makes it a town that is of interest in terms both of its mid-19th century construction and of its specific urban functions. Pétropolis could be nominated as a further example of the type of urban layout already identified in the case of La Plata (Argentina) and also to be found in other 19th century cities, such as Valparaiso (Chile).



1 The chapel and towns of the Chiloe Islands (Southern Chile)

This is a large series of churches, most of which are of wooden construction and which the Jesuits began building in the 18th century, although the great majority were constructed in the 19th century.

The Jesuits applied the concept of itinerant missions, which on certain of the small islands of the archipelago took the form of a number of chapels around which hamlets had to be built. The centre of evangelization was the Colegio located in the town of Castro. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, most of these chapels were taken over by members of the Franciscan order of Propaganda Fide, which continued the established practice of itinerant missions.

There are several dozen of these churches, from the old church of Achao to the 19th century Castro Cathedral. They illustrate wood construction techniques and high-quality solutions for the use of space and are unique specimens within the context of architecture in the Americas. Among them, those of Rilán, Dalcahue, Nercón, Quinchao, Chonchi, and Vilipulli are particularly worthy of note.

In recent years the painstaking restoration and maintenance of the chapels by a group of architects with private backing has made it possible to improve the conservation of this heritage substantially.



2 The historic centre of Valparaiso

Valparaiso, the largest port in Chile and the present seat of the Parliament, was founded in the 16th century but only grew slowly until well into the 18th century. It is, moreover, one of the cities in which the architectural heritage of the 19th century is the best expressed anywhere on the continent.

The squares of the city (Matriz, Municipalidad, and Aduana) make up, together with the area of the port, a sequence of highly interesting spaces brimming with vitality. The urban grid is also an important element which has endured over time.

At a time when further construction seems to have reached a standstill in many countries of the American continent, due to a lack of resources arising from long wars and internal strife, Valparaiso succeeded in consolidating its position as a city of classic architectural design, built according to a model characterized by the influence of the burgeoning Anglo- Saxon population, which has left an indelible mark here. In the first place, this architecture is distinct from its counterparts, inspired by French and Italian academicism, in many of the cities of the Southern Cone, expressing itself by means of the use of wood and metal cladding in the context of very original solutions.

The situation of the city, along a narrow coastal strip, made it necessary to build on the steep topography of the cerros, resulting in a spectacular cityscape. This has given the city some breathtaking panoramas in a number of areas.

In terms of both the value of its architecture and that of its atmosphere and the cityscapes that it provides, Valparaiso, along with La Plata, Buenos Aires, and Pétropolis, composes the most significant collection of 19th century urban architecture in South America, spanning its various nuances and periods.



1 The historic town centre of Tunja

Although in recent years the centre of Tunja has fallen victim to construction work without proper control measures, this town nonetheless conserves the only surviving 16th houses in South America, as well as a very interesting Plaza Mayor (Central Town Square).

Along with a number of important churches from the 16th to 18th centuries, such as the Cathedral, the Churches of Santa Bárbara, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo (with its Chapel of the Rosario), San Ignacio, San Agustín, San Lázaro, El Topo, and San Francisco, the houses of Rendón el Fundador and that of Escribano Vargas with its magnificent mural paintings constitute an outstanding artistic heritage.

These churches and houses, which are protected as Historic Monuments, have in the past ten years undergone maintenance and restoration work (including the mural paintings) and in general are in very good condition.

2 The historic town centre of Santa Fe de Antioquoia

This is another example of an intermediate-sized city possessing a high-quality and relatively homogeneous regional architecture with buildings of a monumental character, among them the late 18th century Cathedral and the old Jesuit Church of Santa Bárbara.

Santa Fe de Antioquia was founded in 1546 and its subsequent development was very slow until the 18th century, when it became a major commercial centre in the region. The buildings constructed during these periods, which include a number of very interesting large houses, have since 1959 been protected by legislation (the Organic Law for the Colonial Monuments of Colombia). However, there is need for there to be some amendments to the urban ordinances. To this end, a number of different studies have been conducted by academic specialists.

The homogeneous nature of the city centre and the high quality of the urban landmarks are such that it is recommended that Santa Fe de Antioquia be considered for inclusion on the List.

3 Villages of the coffee-producing area (Antioquia and Caldas)

The small towns in these regions of Colombia resulted from 19th century colonization. They are characterized by domestic architecture that makes use of highly detailed carved wood.

A number of these towns, such as Jericó, have both a Franciscan and a Claretian church. Titiribi with its Girardot Circus-Theatre and the large complexes of Salamina and Aguadas have been declared National Historic Monuments.

To this list might also be added the towns of Jardín, Montenegro (with its National Coffee Museum), Venecia, Santa Rosa de Osos and Armería, whose inhabitants are fully aware of the value of the towns in which they live.

In this way it would be possible to pay tribute to one of the principal processes of colonization, based on coffee production. This would establish a very clear relationship between the respective functions of the urban and rural settlements, which bear witness to the establishment of a territory and its source of economic wealth. This architecture with its vernacular features equally reflects refinements in execution and a sense of integration which make it truly unique anywhere in the Americas.



1 The historic centre of Camagüey

Camagüey is one of the towns of the island of Cuba which in recent years has received the greatest attention from that country's agency for the Architectural and Urban Heritage.

Camagüey has undergone significant modifications on three occasions since it was founded in the 16th century under the name of Santa María del Puerto Principe. It does not conform with the traditional Hispanic quadrilateral urban layout, but rather has been more spontaneous in its formation, thereby clearly setting itself apart from other towns. An pattern of narrow streets developed here linking open spaces with the various urban landmarks, such as churches, convents, and hospitals which in turn give a structure to the quarters of this historic town centre, one of the largest in Cuba.

The historic centre comprises a series of 18th century monuments, among which of particular interest are the churches of La Matriz, San Juan de Dios (including a hospital), La Merced, La Soledad, and Santo Cristo del Buen Viaja. The church of Santa Ana dates back to the 17th century and those of San Lázaro and El Carmen were built in the 19th century. Nearly half the buildings in the central part of Camagüey date from the 18th and 19th centuries, and this accounts for the visual impact of its homogeneous cityscape, which includes high-quality colonial houses.

2 The historic centre of Matanzas

The city of Matanzas has one of the most interesting 19th century historic centres anywhere in the region. It should be pointed out that Cuba remained under Spanish control until 1898, and so the buildings here reflect a neo-classicism directly linked with the buildings constructed in Spain until the end of the 19th century.

The Teatro Sauto, the various residences, the churches, and the notable 19th century Botica (Pharmacy), along with the streets and small squares, give Matanzas a unique urban expression which is a living tribute to the romantic iconography of the 19th century.

The social and economic reality of the island is nevertheless such that new types of solution must be found to protect this town. Its architectural heritage is of a rare quality, finding expression both in the typology of the houses with stained glass windows and the adjoining grillwork and in the environmental improvement of the part of the town built facing the river.

Matanzas is yet another example of a 19th century historic town centre deserving of this distinction in order to secure the continuity of a strategy for preservation and environmental control, the various social measures for which still remain pending.

3 The group of fortifications in the Caribbean region

Although this proposal has already been put forward at the meeting held in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) in 1996, a number of separate nominations have also been made by States Parties to the Convention for individual components of this system. It is repeated here under the heading of Cuba because some of the fortifications in Havana are already on the List and those in Santiago de Cuba are currently under consideration.

It would be advisable to adopt an overall approach to these defensive/offensive systems, which include a number of sites already on the List (Portobelo, Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, etc). Such an approach would include properties in a number of former Spanish colonies and also English, French, and Dutch colonies. To this end, the studies compiled by CARIMOS and the OAS, as well as Ramón Paolini's book Fortificaciones del Caribe, illustrate the location and the quality of these fortifications dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries.



1 The town of Zaruma

Zaruma came into being as a mining town in the 16th century and grew considerably as a result of the production of the mines. It is located on rugged terrain and has grown in an organic way, resulting in high-quality townscapes. The greater part of the town was renovated in the 19th century. The growth of agriculture in the region in the 17th century consolidated this mining town and gave rise to a boom period which drew to a close in the 18th century. However, this changed in the late 19th century, when Zaruma Gold and later the South American Development Company established operations here, initiating the renewal of the town.

The relationship between the town and the surrounding landscape, coupled with its isolation, have enabled the town to retain its homogeneous appearance and to be recognized for its historic and cultural expression. In view of the continuous mining activity, now in decline, and a 16th century urban fabric and townscape that were modified in the 19th century, Zaruma can justly be considered as an important example of historical events viewed within the broader Latin American context.

2 The historic centre of Cuenca

Cuenca was founded in 1557 on the former site of the Inca settlement of Tomebamba and is today a good-sized town in the mountains of Ecuador. The Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de San Francisco are public spaces which still contain important architectural monuments such as the old Matrizand a number of churches. The enclosed Conception Monastery has preserved a rich artistic heritage, including 18th century wall paintings. Cuenca has retained its homogeneous vernacular architecture, making use of indigenous materials and the techniques appropriate to them.

These factors resulted in 1982 in the National Institute for Cultural Heritage in Ecuador protecting the historic centre of Cuenca by establishing the concept of archaeological areas (Todos Santos), the special area, with primary protection areas and buffer zones.

The conservation of the magnificent area of natural landscape of the Barranco (steep valley) of the Tomebamba River and the restoration of the Casa de Chaguarchimbana undertaken recently provide evidence of this growing concern for the heritage of Cuenca.




1 The town of Chichicastenango

Amongst the many indigenous towns of Guatemala which reflect the process of organization of colonial space, Chichicastenango additionally embodies a number of specific factors, such as traditions which have endured, a large Sunday market, the lively character of the sanctuary, and an incomparable architectural and urban heritage.

The 18th century church of Chichicastenango century has retained its elevated atrium and the posas (small chapels) in the corners of the open square, ie the pristine structure of the Indian village. The popular architecture here consists of homogeneous spaces where the vitality of the indigenous people reflects both a strong feeling of the present and a deeply rooted historical and cultural heritage.



1 Patzcuaro and the villages of Michoacan

The villages founded in the 16th century by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga in the Michoacan region together make up one of the most important social and cultural experiments anywhere in the Spanish colonies of the Americas. Taking his inspiration from the principles set out by Thomas More in his Utopia, Vasco de Quiroga created a series of hospital-villages (guataperas) to protect the indigenous people from the greed of his own compatriots, making sure that the various communities specialized in different manual trades.

From his episcopal see in Patzcuaro, the Bishop laid out a noteworthy urban design that integrated small squares and public spaces, and sought to build his Cathedral at the centre along the lines of the ideal cities of Renaissance humanism.

Other towns such as Tzin-Tzun-Tzan ("Place of the Humming Birds") still have their 16th century churches with open chapels, accommodation for converts undergoing instruction, and other open spaces which bear witness to the extent of this experiment. Uruapan and Tiripetío, with their churches covered with wall paintings, Chapitiro, Tócuaro, Uricho, Santa Fe de la Laguna, Paracho, Santa Clara, Jaracuiro, etc provide a significant understanding of the regional breadth of this unique project, comparable with the Jesuit missions of Paraguay in their social and cultural aspects.

2 The historic centre of Tlaxcala and the Sanctuary of Ocotlan

Tlaxcala is a town in which a number of important 16th century monuments, including the Casas Reales, the Cathedral, and the Church of San Francisco with its distinctive mudéjar wooden ceiling, have survived. Its public spaces and other groups of monuments, such as the Palacio de Justicia (courthouse), make this town near Puebla a reference point in terms of Mexican architectural and urban heritage.

The Sanctuary of Ocotlan, located near Tlaxcala, is a masterpiece of the Mexican Baroque style. It was built in the 18th century and its red ceramic-covered towers stand out in stark contrast to the well proportioned white facade. Inside, the alcove of the Virgin is one of the finest examples of Baroque anywhere in the region.

The town and the Sanctuary are outstanding representatives of two great periods of Mexican architecture, the 16th and 18th centuries.

3 San Miguel de Allende

This historic centre is composed of high-quality buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries equal to those in Zacatecas or Guanajuato. Of particular note is the siting of this city, founded in 1542, in relation to its surrounding landscape. Many of the superb houses in this town are now in use for tourism. Among the most distinguished monuments are the homes of Ignacio Allende and the Counts of the Canal. Among the outstanding churches are those of San Francisco, Nuestra Señora de la Salud, the Oratory of San Felipe Neri, and the Santa Casa de Loreto, all built in the 18th century, and the 19th century Iglesia Parroquial (Parish Church).

4 Taxco

The mining town of Taxco, which was founded in the 16th century, nowadays receives many tourists. Its location on uneven, rugged terrain and the spontaneous nature of the layout of the city has resulted in a highly picturesque settlement, even though in some areas of the town the houses are more often "seen from the rear." Among its monuments are the Church of Santa Prisca (1748-54), one of the foremost examples of Mexican Baroque architecture, which overlooks the town from its site perched on top of a hill in the centre of the town, making it a prominent monumental landmark.

The narrow streets of Taxco, its market places and its streets with stairways or ramps are all elements which, with their different spaces, contribute to the making of an urban atmosphere which is both pleasant and full of surprises and discovery. The residences of José de la Borda (Palacio Municipal) and the house of the painter Figueroa (now a museum) both date from the 18th century. Their interest is comparable with that of the house where Humbodlt lived in 1803, at present a store where local art and craftwork are sold.




Although Paraguay has begun taking steps to nominate the Carlos Antonio Railway Line to the World Heritage List, this is considered to be of far less interest than the groups of doctrinero villages. It is also felt that several more of the Jesuit mission villages should be added to the List.

1 The Jesuit missions

The missions of Trinidad and Jesús have already been included on the World Heritage List. In spite of some unfortunate work that has been carried out on it, the whole of San Cosme and Damián, which has kept its Colegio, should be included, as well as a part of what the Jesuits were able to complete before being expelled in 1767.

The villages of Santa Rosa should also be included. Here, with some minor modifications, the houses of the Indians, the Chapel of Loreto, and the remains of the tower as well as retablos and high-quality religious images still remain. The finest collections of Jesuit religious imagery are to be found in the villages of San Ignacio Guazú and Santa María de Fe; the Museum of the Missions is in the former. These missions should be included on the List in virtue of the fact that they form a unit.

2 The doctrinero villages

Not long after the city of Asunción was founded in 1537, a series of villages was created where the Christian doctrine was taught to the Indians of the estate by the Franciscans, who began evangelizing in the region. These villages, which were later handed over to secular clerics, are highly interesting examples of wooden architecture. A unique aspect of these settlements is that their churches are set in the middle of the main squares and not on one of the sides.

Most of the churches were rebuilt in the course of the 18th century using the same techniques of construction, and so in the villages there is a series of colonnaded churches and in some cases houses with wooden galleries in front, which deserve to be considered as a unique regional architectural solution. Among the most noteworthy churches are those of Yaguarón, Capiatá, Piribebuy, Valenzuela, Paraguarí, and Emboscada, the last-named founded in 1740 by former black slaves who were freed to serve as a defence militia against the warlike threats of the indigenous peoples. The architectural features of these various buildings are not simply limited to the internal (the church as a place of assembly) or external use of space, but also include artistic creation in the form of exceptional retablos and polychrome religious images.



1 The historic centre of Arequipa

Located in the southern part of Peru and founded in 1540, Arequipa is one of the most interesting examples of architecture and urban planning in Latin America. It is possible here to identify the site of the ancient indigenous settlement, the grid of the Spanish town, and the reducciones(townships established subsequently for Indians converted to Christianity) of Yanahuara and Cayma which, though located on the other side of the river, now form part of the town itself.

The architecture of Arequipa displays some of the earliest examples of the mestizo Baroque style, to be found on the facade of the Compañia de Jesús (1698) and in the churches of Santo Domingo, La Merced, Santa Teresa, Santa Rosa, the Third Order of San Francisco, and other 18th century buildings. The monastery of Santa Catalina of Siena, which was opened to the public some ten years ago, is a prime example of a town within a town where the nuns lived in small "houses" or cells laid out along narrow inner streets behind a high wall.

The 18th century houses that remain in Arequipa are unique in their use of a local volcanic stone for construction. The indigenous character of these houses is shown by their large doors and windows. The houses of Tristán del Pozo, Moral, Iriberri, La Moneda (the Mint), etc embody first-class civil architecture.

The earthquakes of 1784 and 1868 had an effect upon the heritage of Arequipa in that they led to the birth of a classical architecture of high quality that integrated with the earlier Baroque buildings. The Cathedral, rebuilt following destruction by fire in 1844, is another important monument, the location of which on the arcaded Plaza de Armas is significant from a scenic point of view.

In Peru, historic monuments are protected by national legislation, and at present efforts are being made to improve the provisions for the protection of the historic part of Arequipa.


2 The historic part of Trujillo

Located in the northern coastal region of Peru, near the pre- Inca citadel of Chan Chan, which is one of the most interesting archaeological sites anywhere in the country and is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the town of Trujillo, founded in 1534, developed in a somewhat curious way owing to the oval layout of its late 17th century walls, the work of the Italian engineer Formento.

Trujillo has retained a large part of its colonial architectural heritage, especially that created during its apogee in the 18th century, when the Cathedral and the churches of San Francisco, El Carmen, Santo Domingo, La Merced, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Belén, and the interior of the Church of San Agustín were built. On a par are the handsome 18th and 19th century mansions, which contribute to the homogeneity of the historic town centre of Trujillo. Large doors and patios, remarkable windows with extensive iron grilles, and buttresses and vestibules with mural paintings (which can also be seen here and there on the facades) make a number of houses stand out, among them those of Ganoza, the Marquis of Herrera and Valle, Urquiaga, and Marshal Orbegoso.

In recent years the historic centre has been the focus of restoration and improvement work, which has included the extensive use of colour in the area of the Plaza Mayor and on a number of the monuments.

Any proposal for the inscription of Trujillo on the World Heritage List should include the archaeological sites nearby.

3 The historic centre of Ayacucho

Ayacucho was founded around 1540 under the name of Huamanga; its present-day name comes from the battle that took place at a place nearby with this name, which gave Peru its independence and brought Spanish rule in South America to an end.

One of the peculiarities of the colonial architecture of Ayacucho, where 18th century buildings predominate, is undoubtedly the spacious nature of its houses and patios, along with the highly varied styles of its churches. The main residences - those of Garcia del Barco, the Marquis of Totora, the so-called "La Tres Máscaras" (The Three Masks), Ruiz de Ochoa, and the Marquis of Cabrera - are all of high quality. Among the religious buildings, the church of Santo Domingo with its open chapel in front, the late 17th century Cathedral, the Church of the Jesuits and its Colegio (the seat of the University), the churches of Buena Muerte, San Francisco de Paula, San Francisco de Asís, Santa Ana and Santa Clara, Santa Teresa with its magnificent mudéjar retablo, and the church of La Merced are all highly prized elements of the heritage which deserve to be given similar recognition to that accorded to those historic centres that are already on the List.

4 The historic centre of Cajamarca

The historic conquest of Peru which marked the fall of Atahualpa and the triumph of Francisco Pizarro was completed at the Inca city of Cajamarca. It was here that the Spaniards founded their new city, establishing a new urban profile but still keeping the historic centre, known as the Cuarto de Rescate (the Redemption Quarter).

The main buildings in this historical centre date from the 17th and 18th centuries, with churches rising above a series of sober and homogeneous houses with remarkable facades and craftsmanship in wood by local artisans. The Cathedral, with its interesting stone bosses, the Church of San Francisco, which is purported to be the oldest in the town, and the hospitals of Belén and La Recoleta give an idea of the high quality of the monumental works here, which deserve recognition as exceptional heritage in an intermediate-sized town.



ANNEX II Analysis of the World Heritage List and national tentative lists

As a preparatory step in preparing the main report above, an analysis was made of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, those included in tentative lists submitted by Latin-American States Parties to the Convention, and others considered to be worthy of consideration. This is presented below in tabular form.




Two points needs to be emphasized with regard to this table. First, it represents the initial approach to the study, the definitive recommendations of which are given in the main text above. Secondly, in general terms the properties in the tentative lists are adjudged to be acceptable for nomination to the World Heritage List.




Country Inscribed Tentative list Possible candidates
Argentina Jesuit Missions
Bolivia Sucre
Chiquitos Missions
Chipayas Totora
Brazil Olinda
Ouro Preto
Jesuit Missions
São Luis do Maranhão
Conjunto minero (Diamantina, Tiradentes, Mariana)
Chile Chiloe group (churches only)
Colombia Cartagena
Popayan Tunja
Santa Fe de Antiquoia
Villa de Leiva
Cuba La Habana
Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Concepción Vega
Ecuador Quito Zaruma
Guatemala Antigua Chichecastenango
Mexico Mexico City
San Cristobal Casas
San Luis Potosí
San Miguel Allende
Nicaragua León Viejo
Panama Panamá Viejo
Peru Lima
Trujillo Huanavelica
Uruguay Colonia de Sacramento
Venezuela Coro Ciudad Bolivar
La Guaira
Nueva Cadiz (ruins)


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