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11.40  Not All Stakeholders Are Equal: Local, Municipal, and National Conflict in the Public Heritage Square in Cuzco, Peru

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In keeping with the theme of the 2016 ACHS conference, “What Does Heritage Change?,” this paper argues that it can change a society very much, and not necessarily for the better. When heritage (cultural in the present example) is operationalized within the World Heritage system and heritage management is undertaken by national officials and their local representatives in unreflective adherence to international standards, significant conflicts in the public heritage square can result. I use this phrase “public heritage square” as a double entendre, for I present the case of a major conflict between the Ministry of Culture of Peru–Cusco Office and the Municipality of Cuzco over the re-installation of a 2-metre-high statue of an Inca king in the middle of the Plaza de Armas of Cuzco, its great public square and the central space of the World Heritage List-inscribed historic urban centre. This four-year conflict over which entity is empowered by national and international heritage legislation to exercise control over the built environment and what “historic preservation” means under the gaze of UNESCO shows no sign of ending. The organizing question posed by the ACHS Conference, therefore, prompts me to ask: What does participation in the UNESCO heritage-scape change in a place or society, what change is officially permitted or sanctioned, and what change and how much change does the impacted local population want or resist? What are the advantages, but also what are the disadvantages and even graver consequences of listing? Who and which sectors of a society—which stakeholders—are able to exercise discursive and actual power over the conservation, generation, display, marketing, and other exploitation of cultural heritage designated as World Heritage? And what of the intangible cultural heritage deeply emplaced in the local society that is performed in the built environment? Fundamentally, what heritage rights and cultural rights does a local population have in decisions made by authoritative bodies about the physical place in which they live? 

In this paper, I interrogate the disconnect between the goals of international heritage management among one group (the official cultural heritage sector) and the locally framed interests of another group (the municipality and residents) in Cuzco. I argue that authorized heritage discourse is contested by the lived practice of citizens/residents in Cuzco. I perceive a tyranny of historic preservation actions, as well as hypocritical official ineffectiveness in this historic urban centre. Amidst manifestly inevitable social, physical, and functional change under the imbricated domination of UNESCO and the global tourism industry, what actually is the authenticity aspect of the town’s acclaimed OUV? Heritagization of this environment changes heritage and society; it simultaneously proposes to freeze or museumify it. Yet popular support for the Inca statue demonstrates that local stakeholders—the local population descended from the Incas—perceive and live heritage as a process and create their own heritage narratives. Popular culture is produced as new heritage. Clearly, heritage policy in this historic urban environment is in need of change.

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