THE OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE OF THE HISTORIC COLONIAL CENTRE OF THE CITY OF GRACIAS (HONDURAS)
Keywords: Heritage, Tentative List, Spanish Colonial City, Historic centre, Gracias (Lempira, Honduras)
Abstract. This paper analyses the outstanding universal values, integrity, and authenticity of the city of Gracias (Honduras), as well as its protection and heritage management tools. The main objective is to demonstrate that Gracias meets the UNESCO requirements to qualify as a candidate for inclusion in the International List of the World Heritage Convention (1971). Gracias is a colonial Spanish city, founded in 1536, in the region of Lempira. It had great productive, strategic and administrative importance in Central America, demonstrated in part by its hosting of the ‘Audiencia de los Confines’. The ‘Audiencia’ was the highest court of the Spanish Crown with jurisdiction over the current republics of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the region of Chiapas. The aim of this court was to represent the interests of the indigenous people in these areas. An on-site analysis, diagnosis and assessment of the heritage elements was carried out from architectural, urban planning, historical, and intangible heritage perspectives. Additionally, other similar sites in Central America have been analysed for comparison. Results show that this city meets criterion iv of the World Heritage Convention: ‘an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history’. Furthermore, the city´s heritage assets are well-preserved and most of them remain functional; the indigenous culture is alive; and planning, conservation and managing tools are in use. Currently, Gracias maintains its harmony and life and its respect for the natural environment, creating a cultural landscape that has been maintained for almost 500 years.