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World Heritage of Portuguese origin

World Heritage of Portuguese origin

Out of UNESCO’s 962 World Heritage sites in 153 countries, 745 are cultural, 188 are natural and 29 are mixed properties. Out of the total (962), 11 sites bear testimony to the Portuguese presence in the world.

Spread across three continents – Africa, America and Asia -, these sites bear testimony to the Age of Discoveries and to the important legacy left by the Portuguese culture across the world.

Even though the first settlements had to do with strategic options for territorial occupation, exploitation of natural resources or evangelisation by the Portuguese, their long-term permanence led to application of acquired knowledge, adaptation to local realities  and assimilation of indigenous habits and solutions.

This adaptation to existing realities together with cultural interchange between the Portuguese and local populations explains the uniqueness of cultural heritage of Portuguese origin on the African, American and Asian continents.

The 11 properties chosen from UNESCO’s World Heritage list exemplify the diversity of witnesses to the presence of the Portuguese across the world. As a matter of fact, this influence is still present today in different areas such as in their urban layout, extant buildings, language, habits, and religious devotion.

Apart from these 11 sites, there are other properties that also testify to the presence of the Portuguese across the world. However, the contribution of Portuguese culture to the creation, development or visibility of such assets is similar to that of any other influences from other countries such as Spain, France, the UK or Holland. In such cases, we are not in the presence of assets of Portuguese origin. They are, instead, assets testifying to the Portuguese presence around the world.

There are other tenuous testimonies of such presence in isolated, de-characterised or ruined properties. 
The two latter cases were not included on our list for the reasons mentioned.

Finally, there are other witnesses of the Portuguese presence in the world that will include our list when they are inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list. 

 Similarly to the World Heritage sites in Portugal, the World Heritage sites of Portuguese origin follow the principles of the World Heritage Convention. This entity defines the kind of natural or cultural sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List, and sets out the duties of State parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them.

 The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and for deciding on the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List. It examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks State parties to take action when properties are not being properly managed. The Committee is also responsible for allocating World Heritage Funds to properties needing conservation or restoration, providing emergency assistance in case of immediate danger or for promotional or educational assistance.

The Operational Guidelines for Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, already available in Portuguese, aim to facilitate the implementation of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The Operational Guidelines are periodically revised to reflect the decisions of the World Heritage Committee.