Biocultural programme for the safeguarding of the tradition of the Blessed Palm in Venezuela
Selected in 2019 on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices
The activities associated with the biocultural programme for the safeguarding of the tradition of the Blessed Palm in Venezuela involve gathering several palm species in a specific group of mountains. After receiving a blessing during the religious ceremony, the ‘palmeros’ go up to the mountain, where they spend several nights, undertaking different activities: they tell stories, stop at specific points as if going through the Stations of the Cross, take care of the trails and plant and prune palm trees. These palm leaves – blessed as part of Holy Week – are then distributed within several communities. The tradition was close to disappearing three decades ago as the palmeros did not have reforestation plans in place, and national park authorities saw them as a threat to the environment. Aware of the need to change how the palm was collected, the palmeros started pruning the plant rather than cutting it completely. Several innovative measures were designed as part of the biocultural programme, including educational projects for young people and cultural activities for the wider community. The biocultural programme has encouraged hundreds of children and young people to get involved, and its educational component could be seen as a model for other communities engaged in gathering the Blessed Palm during Holy Week, or indeed any living heritage practices where culture and nature are closely connected.