Cultural Heritage – Concept, types and examples

We explain what cultural heritage is in its tangible and intangible form. Also, examples in Mexico and the rest of the world.

cultural heritage mexico chichen itza archeology pyramid
Cultural heritage includes dance, song, architecture, and other cultural forms.

What is cultural heritage?

The cultural heritage of a nation or a specific region is its particular cultural heritage, that is, the set of tangible and intangible assets that are strongly linked to their identity social and cultural, that is, they are perceived as characteristic of that country or region.

All communities treasure and maintain some type of cultural heritage, which they have received from previous generations. This heritage usually becomes a tourist attraction.

Among the cultural manifestations that make up the cultural heritage are very diverse things, ranging from places, buildings and works of architecture, to dances, songs, and of course the Fine Arts, such as painting, literature and sculpture. They are recognized by international entities such as UNESCO (attached to the United Nations Organization).

In fact, its 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage pursued the establishment of a unified international policy around the conservation and promotion of places considered emblematic or distinguished of a particular culture, region or ethnic group, or even of humanity as a whole.

Examples of cultural heritage

cultural heritage krakow christmas szopkas
Szopkas are Christmas decorations that have been made since the 19th century.

Some possible examples of cultural heritage from different countries are:

  • The Eiffel Tower. Built in Paris, France, in 1889, as an example of the engineering and materials innovations typical of the recent industrial age.
  • El Chichén-Itzá. They are the ruins of a city or ceremonial center of the ancient Mayan culture, located in the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan.
  • The Carnivals of Humahuaca. Held in the Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina, containing reminiscences of Spanish and indigenous culture, as well as the history of the region close to Bolivia and Peru.
  • The University City of Caracas. The main campus of the Central University of Venezuela and a distinguished architectural work of South American modernity, the fruit of the genius of the Venezuelan Carlos Raúl Villanueva, and endowed with murals and sculptures by artists such as Jean Arp, Fernand Léger, Victor Vasarely and Mateo Manaure.
  • Krakow’s traditional Christmas nativity scenes. Known in Poland as szopkas, are light models of Christmas nativity scenes whose manufacture dates back to the 19th century.

Cultural heritage and natural heritage

natural cultural heritage zhangjiajie national forest park
Natural heritage, such as Zhangjiajie Park, was not created by man.

Unesco differentiates in its precepts between two types of human heritage: cultural and natural.

Cultural heritage is that which comes from human history, that is, it is a memory or a remnant of ancestral activities and practices, inherited as a reminder or a symbol to the new generations. It is, therefore, a heritage manufactured by humanity itself, such as a statue, an architectural work or a group of dances.

Instead, natural heritage refers to places, living beings or other significant elements of nature that, over time, have captivated the human being with their beauty. They are reminders of the alien forces that shape our planet.

The natural heritage is received by humanity without itself participating in its preparation. It can be a particularly high waterfall, an enormously biodiverse jungle or a paradise island of unique animal species in the world.

Tangible and intangible cultural heritage

Likewise, a distinction is usually made between two main types of cultural heritage, which are:

  • Material or tangible cultural heritage. One that can be touched, that is concrete and physical, such as statues, architectural works, costumes, props, etc., whether or not they can be moved from one place to another.
  • Intangible or intangible cultural heritage. One that, on the contrary, cannot be held or displaced, as it does not consist of physical objects, but of verbal, musical or imaginary, oral or social practices, such as songs, verses, dances or choreographies.

Cultural heritage of Mexico

cultural heritage mexico day of the dead
The celebration of the Day of the Dead is part of the Mexican cultural heritage.

The particular case of the cultural heritage of Mexico is quite fertile and diverse. It is a product of the different historical periods of this nation, which date back to pre-Columbian antiquity, with its leafy and particular cultures such as the Mayas, Olmecs, Aztecs and others.

Its cultural heritage also comes from the colonial era, with its society controlled from the metropolis and forced to Christianity. The most recent examples come from the independent era, especially the revolutionary memory of the early twentieth century.

Many of the icons and traditions of this set are consumed globally as exotic or striking objects, or as archaeological evidence that enhances important anthropological investigations.

Broadly speaking, in the Mexican cultural heritage we can find:

  • Pieces, decorations and architectural ruins from the original Mesoamerican cultures.
  • Pre-Columbian languages survivors of the imposition of Spanish in colonial times, as well as the imaginary associated with them (stories, songs, dances, etc.).
  • Inherited practices of Catholic devotion syncretic (mestizo) or particular to the various Mexican regions.
  • Mariachi and its forms of singing and interpretation, both in its traditional and modern variant.
  • Culinary practices and unique gastronomy of the Mexican region, recognizable throughout the world.
  • The celebration of the day of the dead, a set of indigenous festivals assimilated with the Christian imagination that attract the attention of the whole world.