Mexico will propose that silver mines in San Luis Potosi become a World Heritage Site at a UNESCO meeting scheduled for June 22-30 in Spanish city Sevilla, a culture official said on Wednesday.
San Luis Potosi, capital of the central state of the same name, forms part of a cultural route linked to Almaden and Idria, mining cities in Spain and Slovenia which supplied the mercury shipped to the America and used to extract silver in the 15th century.
In an interview with Xinhua, Alejandro Alcaraz Torrez, director of World Culture at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), said the route was chosen "because of the cultural exchange implied in the flow of money, trade and knowledge between the three cities."
The cultural route is a concept that the World Heritage Committee, an affiliated agency of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has been promoting since the early 1990s, when Spain's Santiago de Compostela Culture Route became the first of its kind named as a World Heritage Site.
Over the same period, UNESCO has been trying to add a great variety of cultural sites to the World Heritage Site list, seeking more modern industrial landmarks and cultural routes from Latin America, Africa and Asia, Alcaraz said.
According to the INAH documents, Mexico has 29 world heritage sites: 25 are historical sites and four with outstanding natural beauty. The first two, both listed in 1987, were Mexico City's historical center and Sian Ka'an ('Origin of the Sky' in Maya language), a biosphere reserve on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula in southeastern Mexico.
"When a site is named a World Heritage Site, it becomes the property of the world," said Alcaraz.
"UNESCO monitors a site to ensure it is conserved well and can help by sending technicians and equipment."
Joining the World Heritage Site list represents both prestige and risk for a new member, he added. "The site automatically becomes a major tourism site. There is a risk if they don't have a plan to face the increase of visitors," he said.
According to Alcarez, to become a World Heritage Site, a cultural site must first be proposed to the nation's World Heritage Consultative Council by experts, local government or citizens. Then it needs approval by the INAH or the National Institute of Fine Arts and receives a detailed technical plan from a local government.
It also needs approval by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which may send inspectors. Finally, it awaits the approval by the World Heritage Committee.