Sunday, 4 December 2016


Rumba in Cuba, the beer culture in Belgium and merengue in the Dominican Republic are among 33 new elements inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, from a total of 37 nominations.

The selection was made during the 11th session of an Intergovernmental Committee that met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 (see previous SWAN article).

The inscription of rumba came shortly after the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Nov. 25, giving the timing added significance. The music and its related dance have been an important aspect of Cuban culture since the late 1800s, growing out of African traditions, and later supported by Castro's revolutionary government.

A group of "rumbers" in Cuba. (Photo: M. Hernandez)
According to UNESCO, Intangible cultural heritage includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and various practices concerning nature and the universe, and the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

Community involvement is an important aspect of all this, and Belgian political representatives expressed delight at the inclusion of the country’s beer-drinking tradition, alongside the other elements on the List.

Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, said: “The beer culture is something Belgians are proud of, something that has been a part of our society since time immemorial, and which has garnered international appreciation. I hope that this recognition will contribute to encouraging Belgians to share our beer culture throughout the world with even more pride.”

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity now numbers 366 elements and “shows the diversity of this heritage and raises awareness of its importance,” UNESCO stated after the meeting.