Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 16.COM 8.B.47

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has nominated Festive cycle around the devotion and worship towards Saint John the Baptist (no. 01682) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Venezuelan Saint John the Baptist celebrations feature practices and knowledge that originated in the seventeenth century in Afro-Venezuelan communities associated with former colonial estates. From the beginning, the festivities have been heavily influenced by Catholicism, but they are also rich in verbal, musical and physical expressions connected to sub-Saharan Africa. For followers, called Sanjuaneros, the celebration is a symbol of cultural resistance and freedom, and a means of remembering their enslaved ancestors. In many communities, the festivities start in early May. They are characterized by joyful drumming, dancing, storytelling and singing and by processions with a statue of Saint John the Baptist. Each community has its own form of dancing and singing. The exact dates of the festivities vary from one region to the next, but the most important dates are 23 and 24 June. On 23 June, the Sanjuaneros visit with friends and go to churches and casas (houses) of Saint John the Baptist. On 24 June, the image of the saint is baptized in the local river to commemorate the biblical event. Many devotees also go into the river to be blessed by the saint. Although the end of the cycle varies, in most places the celebrations end on 16 July. The practices and knowledge are transmitted within families and through community groups and schools.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:  The element concerns a festive cycle of celebration and commemoration associated with Saint John the Baptist. Bearers are organized in cofradías (confraternities), societies, parrandas (musical processions) and brotherhoods, all of which include women. Knowledge and skills exist within families with close ties to the image of Saint John the Baptist and who have inherited the practice, as well as with persons who make positive contributions to the festivities. Community groups also help to teach about the tradition among youth, while schools have gradually been teaching about the element. The element is associated with worship, miracles and favours concerning health, prosperity and romantic love, while also promoting a sense of belonging and identity within the community. Today, the practice of the element has allowed for reflections among communities to vindicate their own history and dispel prejudice and stereotypes established by dominant classes.

R.2:  On the local and national level, inscription would increase activities geared towards safeguarding the element, such as lectures, plays and knowledge transmission. At the international level, inscription would motivate more international meetings and sharing of experiences. Inscription would allow bearers to ensure the element’s viability through dialogue with other ethnic, cultural and religious groups. The practice of the element itself fosters human creativity and promotes respect for cultural diversity.

R.3:  Past and current safeguarding measures to ensure the viability of the element include country-wide workshops, meetings, research and lectures. The State Party supported the measures by providing financial, policy and legal support. Proposed safeguarding measures are centred around the transmission of values, community research, organizational development and promotional campaigns involving bearers. A notable measure includes integrating the element into education contexts. The file sufficiently outlines the role of communities and the State in implementing the safeguarding measures.

R.4:  The nomination process was conducted over a fourteen-year period and gradually incorporated communities and organized groups. Each activity and decision had the free, prior and informed consent of the individuals and communities concerned. Input from the communities was also critical, especially in the states of Carabobo, Miranda, Vargas and Yaracuy, where they helped with logistics, operational resources, fieldwork, workshops and transportation to the places where the activities were being held. The file also demonstrates respect for customary practices associated with the element.

R.5:  The element has been included since 2019 in the Registro del Patrimonio Cultural (Cultural Heritage Register), which is administered by the Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural (Cultural Heritage Institute). The file provides sufficient information on the process of identification, definition and data collection and accounts for community participation. A six-year updating cycle is to be established, although the file does not explain the process.

  1. Decides to inscribe Festive cycle around the devotion and worship towards Saint John the Baptist on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party that it is important to develop a process for the updating of inventories that involves the concerned communities, groups and individuals;
  3. Commends the State Party for presenting a well-prepared file.