Biocultural programme for the safeguarding of the tradition of the Blessed Palm in Venezuela

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Selected in 2019 on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices

© Centro de la Diversidad Cultural, 2018

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.

Palmeros de Chacao
Peoneros: guardians of the mountain and the Blessed Palm
Peonero and Palmeros de Chacao: 'walkers, descendants of a tradition'
Pruning of the palm tree: 'one team, one palmero'
Palmeros de Chacao: happiness, inclusion and equal opportunities
Palmeros de Chacao being received by the community after coming downhill, aka 'la bajada' 
Children from the educational project: The palmero goes to school
Children participating in activities to safeguard the tradition of the Blessed Palm and protect the mountain
Blessing of the palm fronds at the lesser basilica 'Nuestra Señora de El Valle'
Environmental course: Palmeritos from El Valle del Espíritu Santo being trained by firefighters and members of civil defense to go hiking on the mountain
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