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The tradition of the Palma Bendita (Blessed palm)

Venezuela (République bolivarienne du)
Centro de la Diversidad Cultural (Cultural Diversity Center)

In the context of the Venezuelan ICH, the heritage bearers have been greatly affected by social isolation, a necessary measure that the State has led, in order to attend the emergency that has arisen, since the arrival of COVID-19. Given the complexity for the protagonists of our ICH, to leave their homes to get food and cover other basic needs; dealing with the anguish over the ravages of the pandemic and the uncertainty about its consequences, the emotional component is affecting them in a very profound dimension, because it is related to their lives, and to the spiritual, creative and social motives of their ICH.

Because of the beginning of the quarantine coincided with the preparation of various cultural expressions that has a very important collective character, and that, under normal conditions, brings together a large number of participants, the active cultural heritage faces an unprecedented crisis at least in the last 150 years. We refer, for example, to the celebrations coupled with Holy Week.

This is the case of the tradition of the Palma Bendita (Blessed palm). In this sense, many bearers, especially of elements inscribed on the lists of the Convention, have told us, the pain and anguish that it has caused them, not being able to experience in the usual way, the practices, characteristics of the local ICH.

Despite the dramatic references express, resilience has also played a very significant role. We have received with satisfaction, good news about how various bearers, communities and government institutions have devised alternatives to adapt to the adverse conditions of the pandemic, in such a way that it is possible to give continuity to some practices of the ICH.
In the case of Caracas, the will and synergy achieved between the national executive; local governments; the Catholic Church; some public and private media; and substantially, members of the different communities, made possible the procession in mobile units ―specially equipped― of the image of the Nazareno de San Pablo throughout the city.

This effort was a relevant act of faith, due this particularly image has been celebrated uninterruptedly, since 1696, due to a plague that was unleashed in the city, and which was only appeased thanks to the goodness of the Nazarene, according to the believers.

A valuable initiative has been promoted by the Palmeros de Chacao, who, in the face of the pandemic, decided to reinvent themselves and develop their tradition in new contexts. In this sense, the traditional search for the palm that for more than two hundred years has been carried out on the Waraira Repano mountain, was replaced this year, by a search close to the homes of the bearers.

This initiative included the selection of other types of more accessible plant species, as a way to alleviate the availability of plant raw material, necessary for the preparation of the blessed crosses. In terms of respect for quarantine in the face of the pandemic, only a few palmeros participated in this search, also achieving that the priest of the parish blessed them.
Subsequently, some carriers handed the palms to the different families in the area, so that the palmeritos (children) wove the palm crosses inside their houses.

On the other hand, the recent repatriation from Germany of the Piedra Kueka, an ancestral symbol of the worldview and orality of the pemón indigenous community of Santa Cruz de Mapaurí, from the Bolívar state, is a very valuable example of the vocation and commitment that the Venezuelan State it maintains the safeguarding of the expressions and values constituting its ICH, even in times of a pandemic such as the one that currently affects us so much.

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