The current bets in favor of the tangible and intangible heritage of peoples make possible legal and political instruments aimed at giving meaning to their existence. In particular, a framework for action aimed at protecting historical memory through its anchoring in the present has been built. In this sense, citizen appropriation and the social uses that may derive from cultural assets constitute an important challenge. Remarkable efforts are being made in Manizales in this regard.
Since July 2017, CRECE has been part of the team in charge of building the Special Management and Protection Plan (PEMP) of the Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) for the Old Aerial Cable Station and Herveo Tower. Specifically, it is in charge of the socioeconomic diagnosis of the urban environment of the BIC, as well as the institutional and financial analysis of its administration. This study is led by the School of Architecture and Urbanism, of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture of the National University, Manizales headquarters.
The Old Aerial Cable Station – today the headquarters of the National University School of Architecture – and the Herveo Tower, known as Torre del Cable, were declared BIC of the nation through Decree 1543 of August 28, 1996. The first is a real estate property owned by the National University of Colombia, and the second is a movable property, owned by the municipality of Manizales. In 1997, the General Law of Culture declared the National Monuments as BICs at the national level and created the figure of the PEMP as a planning and management instrument for the protection and conservation of the declared BICs. This plan must be integrated into the Territorial Ordering Plan and the Development Plan of the municipality as regulations of a higher hierarchy. The Ministry of Culture is in charge of monitoring the PEMP.
The location of the Old Aerial Cable Station and the Herveo Tower in a sector of Manizales constituted in a new urban centrality, in which an enormous diversity of economic, social and cultural dynamics converges, can represent advantages and threats at the same time for its preservation. Hence, it is essential to identify the current social uses and meanings attributed to these BICs, which, although they have become icons of the city, face the danger of being reduced to aesthetic and landscape values, emptying them of their historical and cultural content. It is true that Manizaleños are generally proud of the existence of these assets and that they go to their surroundings as a place of leisure and meeting, but it is also true that when asked about the role they played in economic and social life of the region, during its period of operation as a transport solution, declare little knowledge about it.
The work carried out by CRECE to date around this PEMP demonstrates the need to revitalize the city’s cultural heritage, represented in a special way by the Cable BICs. At a time that urgently demands creative and intelligent initiatives that contribute to regional and national development, it would be well worth learning from the ingenuity of those who almost 100 years ago conceived of a transportation solution in a territory characterized by mountainous and rugged terrain, lacking in carriageable land routes. Thus, what was at the time the longest aerial cable system in the world, officially inaugurated in 1922, became a powerful engineering adventure that transformed the local economy and connected Caldas with the world, through access to the river Magdalena and from there to the Atlantic Ocean, allowing it to export its agricultural products, especially coffee, and import resources necessary for the local economy.
In short, the city needs to appropriate these assets again and appreciate not only their physical presence, but also the cultural values they represent. Nurturing regional identity with these values requires a serious exercise of dissemination and resignification of its history by citizens. The PEMP will soon contribute proposals aimed at articulating the Cable BICs in the life of the city; It will depend on Manizales to take advantage of it as a tool for the construction of a shared memory about the historically evidenced capacity of transformation of the territory. Perhaps in this way Manizales can continue to be an example of creativity and ingenuity for the world.
By: Carolina Villada Narvaez.
CRECE consultant in education.