Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.36

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has nominated Carnival of El Callao, a festive representation of a memory and cultural identity (No. 01198) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Carnival of El Callao, practised in communities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is associated with emancipation celebrations (cannes brulées) in French-speaking islands of the Caribbean. Running from January to March, the traditional practice features parades of people dressed as characters from history and of fantasy, as well as calypso music, dancing and concerts throughout town streets with up to 3,000 people taking part. The parades are led by the madamas (the pillars of Callaoense identity representing Antillean matrons considered the communicators of values, who dance and wear colourful dresses); the medio-pintos (young people who entertain audiences by smudging charcoal on people who do not give a donation); the mineros (gold miners); and the diablos (people who wear masks, dance and carry a whip to maintain order). Other adults and young people wear costumes and also join in. The carnival highlights Callaoense history and diversity honouring its Afro-Antillean links and other community influences, reinforces its cultural identity, promotes unity and encourages younger generations to discover their heritage. Intergenerational transmission of the practice occurs mainly within families and schools run by tradition bearers where children learn skills so they can participate in the carnival, such as writing tunes, playing an instrument, singing, dancing or making masks.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The submitting State has described the element and its importance for local memory, and sense of belonging and identity of communities concerned, highlighting their Afro‑Antillean legacy. The carnival brings together a variety of community members who prepare and take part in the celebrations, with specific responsibilities. The transmission mechanisms are mostly informal, within families and communities, in addition to schools used by tradition bearers. Various aspects associated with the element (calypso music, patois, Callaoense gastronomy and the open festivities) foster harmony and collective enjoyment, while showing respect for the diversity of other individuals, groups, and communities. No part of the element contradicts existing human rights instruments and it allows wide participation, irrespective of gender, age, or social background;

R.2:   The file indicates that inscription would contribute to enhancing the awareness and visibility of the significance of intangible cultural heritage in general, as the element symbolizes a living history that integrates tradition, innovation and a variety of festive events of this type in Latin America, Europe and other parts of the world. The Carnival of El Callao originates from the fusion of different cultures, encouraging understanding and dialogue, the overcoming of differences and working towards a common goal. Calypso music allows and encourages innovation. Artisan skills in music instrument making, using recycled objects, provide a good example of both innovation and of the promotion of sustainable development;

R.3:   The file describes the community’s efforts to safeguard the element, mostly through research, communication and organizing festivals, photo exhibitions, awareness raising in schools, and attempts by teachers to revive the local language. State institutions have supported these initiatives through legislation and the rehabilitation of a church used during the festivals. The bearers have developed future safeguarding measures and see themselves at the forefront of their implementation, with State support. These are related to transmission of knowledge, promotion and appraisal, and the economic sustainability of the element as a tourist resource. Measures to avoid excessive commercialization of the festivals through tourism are important to prevent the creation of mass events, as is the case with many carnival-type events elsewhere in the world;

R.4:   The nomination file adequately describes the central role played by communities concerned (bearers and practitioners; local, regional and national administrative organs; and the tourism industry) in initiating and managing the nomination process. The file indicates that these communities approved its contents and provides evidence to this effect. The community expressed a desire for certain aspects of the element not to be divulged and this has been respected;

R.5:   The Carnival of El Callao has been included in the Venezuelan Registry of Cultural Heritage, which was prepared by the Institute of Cultural Heritage between 2004 and 2010, and evidence of this has been provided. Similarly the submitting State has demonstrated the sequence of dates in which the updating of the inventory was carried out with the broad participation of the community and through strict legal procedures.

  1. Inscribes Carnival of El Callao, a festive representation of a memory and cultural identity on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Thanks the delegation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the clarifications provided to the Committee on the information included in the file concerning criterion R.5.