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Panel 12 Rural landscapes and urban development in Latin America - Identification, conservation and management

Within the perspective opened in the last decades by the expansion of the concept of heritage, some new ideas have been playing a decisive and innovative role. One of them will be that of "cultural landscape", which, adopted by UNESCO since the early 1990s, inextricably combines the material and immaterial aspects of the concept, often thought separately, indicating the significant interactions between man and the natural environment. Thus, this concept seems to offer a rich perspective when applied also to the traditional ideas in the field of conservation, and may serve, for example, to broaden the perspective over the historical centers themselves, allowing interpretations that focus precisely on the interactions between the natural and cultural aspects, the tangible and intangible dimensions of these ensembles, often ignored. From this expanded understanding, it seems possible to propose integrated strategies of intervention that, by combining these different aspects, end up being much more complete answers to the complex challenges of urban conservation. Conserving and managing cultural landscapes are among the most complex challenges facing heritage today. If conceptualizing cultural landscape already proves to be a difficult task, this difficulty deepens when it comes to formulating strategies for the treatment of this special category of heritage. The USA National Park Service has been making a significant effort in this direction, issuing guidelines on cultural landscapes in 1992, distinguishing between various types of intervention - preservation, restoration, revitalization of landscapes. This is not an easy task, since it is not only a question of sticking to the aesthetic dimension of the landscape, and correct treatment of them must involve both the functional dimension of these landscapes and their ecological dimension. Today many of these traditional uses of land - and related products - that were widely accepted without further reflection are in danger of being destabilized and destroyed. Demographic changes, increasing land value, industrialization of agricultural production, and competition from world markets are revolutionizing traditional social and economic relations with the land. In Latin America, the pressures and threats of urban globalization represent one of the greatest risks to rural landscapes and the balance between man and nature. The speed and scope of these changes are unprecedented in our region, where the urban territory advances at an accelerated pace, absorbing cultivated lands and have significant implications for the management of cultural heritage, including the fragmentation and change of cultural landscapes, the loss of traditional product markets, and even the erosion of regional identity and distinction. Thus, preserving cultural landscapes will often be confronted with traditional forms of agriculture. In his time of globalization, knowledge, registration, and support for these traditional, highly endangered practices are even more necessary, as their disappearance would mean not only a cultural loss but also a negative contribution to the ecological impoverishment of the planet and to climate change. This session aims to explore the ample array of rural landscapes in Latin American, presenting examples of how cultural and natural dimensions combine in our rural landscape heritage, and also some possible conservation responses that aim to safeguard these dynamic systems.