UM Professor Works to Preserve Churches in Cuba

Photo credit: Carlos Domenech
By Barbara Gutierrez

Photo credit: Carlos Domenech

UM Professor Works to Preserve Churches in Cuba

By Barbara Gutierrez
Architecture Professor Jorge L. Hernández’s involvement helped get the dozen churches recognized by the World Monuments Fund.

When the World Monuments Fund (WMF) added the Colonial Churches of Santiago de Cuba to its World Monuments Watch List Thursday, it recognized that the historic structures are worth preserving for posterity.

In large part that designation was gained with the help of University of Miami Architecture Professor Jorge L. Hernández.

Jorge L. HernandezFor the past two years, Hernández, who has done extensive work in preservation in his academic and professional engagement, has been working with the Archbishop of Santiago, Monsenior Dionisio Garcia Ibañez, as an advisor and advocate to help restore a dozen churches, which include the Cathedral of Santiago, built in 1515.

Other churches include Las Iglesias de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Cristo de la Salud, and Santo Cristo. Hernández was the proponent of nominating the ensemble of eight urban and four provincial churches from Oriente for the special distinction, which could help garner much needed funding.

“Beginning in the early 1500s these 12 churches and their plazas formed the skeleton of an urban and territorial infrastructure which has served as the social, cultural, and religious vessel for the rich history of this city, region, and nation. They are treasures,” said Hernández. “Since they are now part of the World Monuments’ Watch List, the spectrum of their value is elevated to an international audience. It will be easier to raise awareness of their uniqueness and in turn raise funds to restore them and bring them back to their former glory.”

Every two years, WMF accepts nominations for sites in need of international awareness. For many historic sites, inclusion on the Watch List provides an opportunity to raise public awareness, foster local participation in preservation, leverage resources for conservation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions for global stewardship.

In its news release announcing this year's Watch List, the WMF said, "The Twelve of Santiago de Cuba’s historic churches—the vessels for the social, cultural, and religious life of the city for centuries—have suffered from the impact of natural disasters and are currently in need of preservation. WMF was launched in 1996 with support from founding sponsor American Express to call international attention to cultural heritage around the globe threatened by the forces of nature or the impact of social, political, and economic change."

For a complete list of historic structures on this year's World Monuments Watch, see: Watch Sites at a glance