Heritage in Haiti: Assessing the Damage

Heritage in Haiti: Assessing the Damage
  • Drum players of the lakou Dereal.
  • © UNESCO/Dieufort Deslorges

While saving lives and providing humanitarian relief remains the absolute priority of the international community in helping Haiti deal with the devastation of the earthquake, information is beginning to arrive about the state of the country’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

The National History Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers, an early 19th century complex in the north of the country, which includes the ruins of a royal palace and the largest fortress of the western hemisphere, appears to have been largely spared by the quake.

But UNESCO is still waiting for detailed information about the impact of the quake on the property which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982. Reports of extensive damage are coming in from Jacmel in the south-east, the colonial city the Haitian authorities placed on their “tentative list” in 2004 with a view to proposing its inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Many of the buildings of the French colonial town, founded in the late 17th century are reported to have collapsed.

The World Heritage Centre will be helping Haiti assess the extent of the damage and determine how to go about saving its heritage as soon as possible.

In this time of crisis, Haiti’s rich and vibrant intangible cultural heritage provides spiritual and emotional sustenance to her people. Numerous observers have witnessed how communities affected by the earthquake have turned to songs and hymns to provide solace and to help the process of recovery. Living heritage continues to play a prominent role in the survival of the Haitian people that goes beyond securing food, clothing and the essentials of daily life.

UNESCO will develop a safeguarding effort in resettlement camps to assist the Haitian people to recover their shattered cultural memory and re-establish intergenerational ties through community-based documenting and collecting of stories, songs, ritual practices and traditional handicrafts.


  • Source:UNESCO Paris
  • 20-01-2010