Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 8.COM 7.A.5

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Guatemala has nominated Paach ceremony (No. 00863) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

The Paach ceremony is a corn-veneration ritual celebrated in San Pedro Sacatepéquez. The ceremony gives thanks for good harvests in a ritual that highlights the close connection between humans and nature and features prayers in the Mam language. The participants are mostly older farmers, both men and women, with extensive ties to the community and who are recognized as its leaders. Four prayer sayers, or parlamenteros, offer prayers during the ceremony, supported by four auxiliary parlamenteros; meanwhile four godmothers dress ceremonial corncobs and coordinate the preparation and serving of food. The Paach ceremony strengthens the identity of the community of San Pedro and its knowledge and respect for nature and its conservation. The transmission process is both oral and practical, with a group leader instructing new members at workshops and children accompanying their grandparents during the ceremony. In recent years, the Paach ceremony has decreased in frequency, with some young people seeing it as irrelevant, while economic insecurity has caused some bearers to withdraw from the practice. Furthermore, the advanced age of the elders, combined with diminished transmission, might result in the disappearance of this cultural expression.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.1:   The Paach ceremony is experienced by the community of San Pedro Sacatepéquez as an integral part of its cultural heritage and identity; associated rituals, music, dance, processional and food practices are transmitted from grandparents to grandchildren who accompany them while performing different daily tasks;

U.2:   Due to the decreasing number of practitioners, their age and their economic insecurity as well as to the economic and social changes arising from the increasing urbanization of San Pedro Sacatepéquez, the viability of the Paach ceremony is seriously threatened;

U.3:   Building on efforts of community members and local authorities, safeguarding measures aim to broaden the community of practitioners, conduct an in-depth inventory, raise awareness of the social, cultural and environmental meanings of the Paach ceremony and promote recognition of its main bearers; the modality and responsibilities for their implementation should have been better explained as well as the ability to engage younger generations; furthermore, the lack of identified funding sources for a significant part of the costs puts the feasibility of the proposed measures in doubt;

U.4:   Practitioners of the Paach ceremony were involved in field research and working sessions for the elaboration of the nomination, in particular through their Ceremonial Committee and Prayer Sayers, and they gave their free, prior and informed consent to it;

U.5:   The Paach ceremony is included in the Cultural Assets Registry administered by the General Department of Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

  1. Inscribes Paach ceremony on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Takes note that the State Party has submitted the nomination of Paach ceremony to the Urgent Safeguarding List for the second time and notes with concern the persisting threats to its viability;
  3. Welcomes the efforts to involve communities more fully in the nomination process and recognizes that the new nomination better reflects their view and aspirations;
  4. Recalls that inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List in no way implies the availability of funds from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to implement the safeguarding plan proposed and that requests for International Assistance involve an independent procedure;
  5. Encourages the State Party to continue its efforts to develop safeguarding strategies that are proportionate to the financial and human resources actually available or likely to be mobilized;
  6. Invites the State Party to submit a report on the implementation of the safeguarding measures, and particularly on the mobilization of necessary resources, for examination by the Committee at its tenth session, in conformity with paragraph 161 of the Operational Directives.