Beyond the intangible/tangible binary: an analysis of historic built environments in Valencia, Spain

Writer : Juan A. García-Esparza, PhD
Year : 2019


This paper is a theoretical reflection aiming to understand how specific assets of intangible heritage are affected by contemporary discourse. This approach focuses on understanding the protection, preservation and reenactment of the intangible heritage found in Spanish rural landscapes. By an analysis of the global, national and regional laws, the paper addresses the need to approach the intangible, understanding the peculiarities of places that shape the scenery. The places and ‘Assets of Cultural Interest’ analysed in this paper are defined as geographic areas associated with a historic event, activity, or people, which exhibit cultural and aesthetic values. Following this definition, these landscapes are experiential cultural spaces, involving a complex set of elements, fixed, semi-fixed and unfixed. The way in which these traditions are viewed and experienced by locals and foreigners plays a central role in many intangible heritage studies, as does the way in which it reflects integrity, authenticity, attachment and a sense of identity, and how it anchors collective memory. It is the intention of this paper to emphasise the need to transfer the phenomenon of intangible heritage from the realm of a lived experience to the world of living places. In doing so some questions arise: Is the intangible cultural heritage contained in rural landscapes authentic? Is it simply the materiality, the past act or the past cultural process, or is it the way the intangible cultural heritage has been managed until today? Are we applying critical considerations to inner and outer perceptions, appropriations and transmigrations when managing cultural heritage?

The intangible cultural heritage in Spanish heritage law

When compiling information that could help us understand the consideration of the intangible heritage in this discourse, it was essential to realise the consequences of regionalism, nationalism and universalism in heritage law. Firstly, it is worth noting how Spanish law affects the cultural construct of authenticity and integrity in contemporary Spanish heritage. The case of Spain focuses on analysing heritage laws, the National law (Spanish Government, 1985) and three laws from different regions, the Basque Country (Basque Government 1990, 2015), Catalonia (Catalan Government, 1993) and the Valencia Region (Valencian Government, 1998, 2007), where this study is based. The analysis of these laws is based exclusively on understanding how the discourse has evolved as regards the wider cultural heritage, tangible and intangible.

Contemporary law for the safeguarding of Historical Spanish Heritage dates back to 1985. This law aimed to regulate the most important national heritage under the umbrella of Historical Sites and Monuments, in keeping with the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) and the Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas (1976). The national law clarifies what constitutes the Historical Artistic Heritage - Patrimonio histórico artístico - in Spain: monuments, gardens, historic places and sites and archaeological sites, all of which are in need of protection as ‘Assets of Cultural Interest’. Nonetheless, the Spanish constitution established ‘Culture’ as a responsibility to be transferred to the different regional governments. Thus, in order to understand the permeability of the regional laws, attention is paid to the following specific considerations regulated individually by each region: I. What constitutes heritage?  II. Types of protection and criteria, authenticity and integrity. III. Spread and enhancement. IV. Public collaboration and participation. V. Institutional responsibilities and management.

I. What constitutes heritage?

It is important to highlight that in its ‘Preamble’ the Spanish law of 1985 specified the relevance of enhancing the material culture of the Historical Artistic Heritage with a set of goods. In the case of vernacular architecture, these were only considered when connected to a specific craft, or were a type or architectural form traditionally employed. Traditional forms of knowledge and activities were treated as minority aspects of culture to be studied and recorded (Art. 47). The Basque law (1990) introduced two innovative terms in this regard: ‘intangible’ and ‘cultural space’, as locations of activities, creations and beliefs. Place and action were then united for the first time in a space to be studied and recorded (Art. 53). The Catalan law (1993) added historical and cultural properties as regards the historic site. However, in no case is there any mention of the immaterial nature of the site (Art. 7). The only change that the Valencian law (1998) introduced was the term ‘cultural value of goods’, going beyond the mere appreciation of the materiality itself (Art. 5). It is worth noting that the updated Basque Law (2015) includes the terms ‘landscape’ and ‘cultural routes’, expressions which ICOMOS recognised in 2008. The law also considers food to be an intangible asset through which to recognise a place (Plate 1).

II. Types of protection and criteria: the intangible and the tangible.

As regards the type of protection and the criteria for providing recognition, the National Law (1985) recognises a single category of protection, that of ‘Asset of Cultural Interest’. This recognition would eventually force municipalities to draft Special Protection Plans for affected areas, and to catalogue each property and any associated outdoor space (Art. 37). In its general dispositions, the Basque Law (1990) introduces the concept of ‘cultural space’ and establishes two levels of protection: ‘Cultural Qualified Asset’ and ‘Inventoried Asset’. The Catalan Law (1993) introduces the idea of areas of   ethnological interest and includes three categories: ‘Cultural Asset of Local Interest’, ‘Catalogued Asset’ and ‘Movable Objects and Collections of Cultural Interest’ (Art. 37). The Valencian Law (1998) introduces the terms ‘cultural park’ and ‘intangible assets’ and maintains three levels of protection as does the Catalan Law: Asset of Cultural Interest, Asset of Local Relevance and Movable Objects and Collections of Cultural Interest (Art. 26). Furthermore, the three regional laws use their own General Heritage Inventory to catalogue the assets in their territory.

International charts and documents from ICOMOS (1990, 1994 and 2008), the European Landscape Convention (Council of Europe: 2000) and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO: 2003) all made their mark on the conceptual reframing of these laws. The updated Valencian (2007) and Basque (2015) laws incorporated the potential of intangible heritage to be continually reinterpreted and ‘reconstructed’, subject to their continued intelligibility and legitimacy. The former speaks of cultural events as those which are an expression of traditions (Art. 26), while the latter specifies in the explanatory memorandum that heritage should be transmitted generationally and constantly recreated by communities, interacting with its environment and history in the form of identity, continuity, diversity and creativity.

As regards the conservation criteria for ‘Cultural Assets’, regional laws have undergone a conceptual evolution that goes slightly beyond the canonical script which intervened solely on behalf of the materiality of the asset. The Valencian Law (2007) includes the terms ‘scene’ or ‘urbanscape’, geared towards guaranteeing and enhancing the values   and perceptions of goods (Art. 39). Meanwhile, the Basque Law (2015) includes the ‘intangible dimension’ in the criteria for physical work, as regards the measures that favour maintaining, upgrading and regularly using the asset (Art. 39) (Plate 2).

III. Spread and enhancement

The National Law (1985) already made provision for spreading and enhancing the protection of cultural heritage. It does not provide any specific measures for disclosure, except in terms of financing and funding, with a 1% state contribution for the protection and conservation of heritage, albeit without specifying what budget this is to come from (Art. 69-74). The Basque Law (1990) establishes specific measures for disclosure and introduces economic benefits based on aid programmes and tax credits provided by the regional government. The law also reserves a ‘Cultural 1%’ of the budget, although the terms for this percentage are as ambiguous as those of the National Law (Art. 102-106). The Catalan Law (1993) specifies the dissemination of knowledge of Catalan cultural heritage (Art. 65), and its use and enjoyment in its compulsory education system, but it does not state clearly the form this is to take (Art. 61). The law does include the ‘Cultural 1%’ and clearly refers to it coming from the public works’ budget of the regional government.

In addition to following the same guidelines as the Catalan Law where education is concerned, the Valencian Law (1998) includes the establishment of outreach activities and training for officials responsible for managing heritage (Art. 88). The regional government highlights unspecified benefits, tax exemptions, financial credits (Art. 91, 94, 95), and the ‘Cultural 1%’ (Art. 93). The Valencian Law is the only one to include the development of an Annual Plan for the Conservation and Enhancement of Valencian Cultural Heritage, which clearly expresses its objectives, the criteria for their implementation and the grant concession included in the programme (Art. 93).

IV. Public collaboration and participation

Public collaboration and participation are reflected in the National Law (1985) in reference to public interest in the expropriation of Assets of Cultural Interest in danger of destruction, damage or incompatible use(Art. 37). The Basque Law (1990) specifies the need for owners to collaborate in conserving, caring for and protecting state property (Art. 20). Expanding on this, the Catalan Law (1993) speaks of encouraging citizen participation without specifying a purpose (Art. 3). This law also calls for the cooperation of individuals as cultural supervisors able to enforce the law when situations of danger or destruction threaten any Asset of Cultural Interest (Art. 5). In addition, the Valencian Law (1998) specifies a framework for promoting collaboration with NGOs for the conservation and promotion of heritage.

According to the Valencian Law (2007), enhancement and social enjoyment are to be encouraged through the reinstatement of Assets (XVIII Art. 39), but this law also stipulates that the working groups on these properties will be made up exclusively of technical specialists, meaning that they do not yet contemplate any public participation in the process. In contrast, the Basque Law (2015) explicitly includes public participation in conservation processes, but only when facilitating access to existing information on the Assets (Art. 7).

V. Institutional responsibilities and management

The institutional responsibilities and management established in the National Law (1985) are the responsibility of the Spanish Historical Heritage Council, which is in charge of developing national plans for safeguarding and protecting heritage. Different regional laws (1990, 1993 and 1998) established the responsibilities of the regional governments, provincial governments and municipalities. In this regard, it is worth noting that, if requested by a municipality, a Heritage Asset may be eligible for funding from three different administrations. The Basque Law (2015) oversaw the creation of the Inter-institutional Body for Basque Cultural Heritage in order to coordinate the three administrations. This appears to be a major step towards the successful achievement of a unified plan of action. In this sense, the Valencian Law (2007) speaks of cultural foundations dependent on the administration of the region (XXXV Art. 79).

According to the above, the management of cultural heritage in Spain is fully dependent on policies, and the plans of action are territorially dependent. In fact, no law, whether national (1985) or regional (1990, 1993 and 1998), provides information regarding heritage management. These laws refer to their own regional inventories and catalogues. The Basque Law (2015) includes establishing mechanisms to allow greater involvement of civil society in the management of cultural heritage . Unusually, the law includes the need for collaboration with universities, associations and other specialised centres (Art. 77). In fact, heritage is expressed and understood as something that requires scientific institutional support, despite the fact that the subject has not yet been examined in a legal framework in terms of a Heritage Science.

The protection of intangible heritage in the Region of Valencia

The UNESCO General Conference established the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at its 32nd meeting, in the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003). This committee is in charge of the regulation and maintenance of the Representative List of the ICH of Humanity . Belonging to this List of ICH properties - in which Spain is the country with the fourth highest number of elements registered - is the maximum recognition an intangible asset can have on the global scale. Within Spain, the Region of Valencia has the most intangible heritage registered, including The Mystery Play of Elx – El Misteri d’Elx , The Water Tribunal of the Plain of Valencia - El Tribunal de las Aguas de la Vega de Valencia , and the Festivity in Honour of Mare de Déu in Algemesí - Festa en Honor a la Mare de Déu de la Salut de Algemesí. It was also the first Spanish region to be included within the UNESCO Register of Best Safeguarding Practices for Intangible Heritage with the Traditional Cultural Centre – the School Museum of Pusol de Elche.

The Region of Valencia exercises its responsibility for or authority with regards the protection of heritage through the Law of Cultural Heritage of Valencia, which establishes two categories for the protection of our ICH: ‘Assets of Cultural Interest’ and ‘Assets of Local Relevance’. The regional government is in charge of establishing the measures aimed at the protection, research, conservation, dissemination, promotion and transmission of ICH throughout Valencia.

Criteria for ‘Assets of Cultural Interest’ and ‘Assets of Local Relevance’

Intangible cultural productions and manifestations are in continuous transformation. Many of these have been safeguarded and survive as unique manifestations. The first task of cultural policy for protection is to outline what the object of protection is, identifying the cultural aspects that are of value and interest to society (Crookea: 2010).

The guidelines for the declarations of intangible heritage of the region of Valencia follow the 2003 Convention (UNESCO, 2003), the National Plan for Safeguarding the ICH (Ministry of Culture, Education and Sport: 2011) and the National Law (Spanish Government: 2015). They are:

  • Sustainability
  • Respect for human rights
  • Mutual respect between communities
  • Equality and non-discrimination
  • Accessibility
  • Respect for animals
There are ten criteria in place in the Region of Valencia: A) Participation. Community involvement
  1. Undeniable protagonism of the community / participant involvement
  2. Autonomy
B) Temporal factors 3\. Imminent risk of disappearance 4.Continuity

C) Intrinsic factors

5. Specificity, uniqueness
6. Forms of transmission
7. Own local organisation

D) The physical space (location): spatial and material context

8. Diversity of multi-sensory expressions
9. Individual spatial frameworks, temporal integrity and internal space
10. Relevance of the objects

Intangible assets in rural areas of the region of Valencia

The entry of bulls and horses of Segorbe

Declared an ‘Intangible Asset of Cultural Interest’ by Decree 6/2011, of 4 February, by the Consell, it is the result of the evolution of the practice of moving cattle which are to be run in a closed enclosure or bullring. In essence, this is a running of the bulls in the final section of their journey from the River Palencia to the square where the display is to be held. For the final few hundred metres, the bulls are accompanied by horses and riders who trot alongside them to prevent them from straying from their path or coming to a halt. This run is held on one of the main streets of the town, in the presence of thousands of people who restrict the route of the animals by becoming veritable human walls (Plate 3).

The baptism of animals at Forcall - La Santantonada

This was declared an ‘Asset of Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by Decree 10/2012, of 5 January by the Consell. The feast of San Antonio Abad on 17 January is celebrated in a unique fashion in Forcall, and is known as la Santantonà , the Portada del Maio , the Tallada de la llenya , the Pastada de la rolleta, the Encesa de les Tronques, l'Esquellot, the Plantada del Maio, Vestir la Barraca [Representation of the life of the Saint] and, finally, the Santantonada . This parade through the main streets of the town, following a specific order, is the culmination and apotheosis of this pagan/religious festival. Both local residents and visitors to Forcall go through the barraca while it burns, saying a prayer, and making a wish which they firmly believe will come true.

The pilgrimages to Sant Joan de Penyagolosa

This was declared an ‘Asset of ICH’ by the Resolution of 20 April 2015, from the Consellería de Educación, Cultura y Deporte [Regional Department for Education, Culture and Sport]. The calendar of feasts for Valencia includes numerous prayer ceremonies and pilgrimages, remnants of old penitence celebrations in which our ancestors prayed to God and his intercessors, the Virgin and the saints, asking for supernatural protection to ensure health, peace and sufficient rainwater for the crops. Among these it is worth noting the pilgrimages made to the sanctuary of Sant Joan de Penyagolosa, a place of great ethnological, historical and cultural value. This monastery has been a major destination for pilgrimages since medieval times, and at present pilgrimages are still made from the Castellón municipalities of Les Useres, Xodos, Vistabella and Culla, and from towns in Teruel, such as Puertomingalvo. Of these, the pilgrimages from Les Useres and Culla have the greatest heritage value. Els Pelegrins de les Useres is one of the oldest pilgrimages, and one which best preserves different aspects of its symbolism and peculiarities: a vow from the town since the Middle Ages, path and ritual, participants ( pelegrins i càrregues ), chants and prayers, food and dress, aspects of socio-religion and identity, etc. These are examples of medieval customs preserved thanks to popular fervour. They are deeply-rooted regional traditions which follow a careful and calculated procedure, possibly unchanged since the 14th century, with celebrations, rests, meals and acts established in a precise sequence (Plates 1 & 4).

The Valencian pilota, play and tradition

This was declared an ‘Intangible Asset of Cultural Interest’ by Decree 142/2014, of 5 September, by the Consell. It is the autochthonous sport par excellence in the region of Valencia, both for its widespread presence in the territory and because it has long been practised. Valencia is one of the few European regions where the joc a llargues , which for many centuries was found across most of the continent of Europe, has been faithfully maintained. This primitive form of the game has evolved into different types currently practised in the Valencian territory: raspall, escala i corda, galotxa, rebot or perxa , which alongside the joc a llargues , constitute what is now known as pilota valenciana . In addition, a series of cultural, social, ethnographic and linguistic aspects converge around the game, making it an example of the wealth and diversity of our society and its traditions.

The dancing feasts of Sant Mateu or La Todolella –El ball pla o las danzas guerreras

The Ball pla is in the process of being declared an ‘Intangible Asset of Cultural Interest’, 2018, by Order of the Conselleria de Turismo, Cultura y Deporte. The Ball pla is a folk dance that is deeply rooted in the town and is passed on from parents to children. It is a sort of couples’ dance, most typical of Valencian towns, where it was extremely widespread, especially in the 19th century, but known since the 17th century. It is a traditional dance, a simple dance with a ternary rhythm, characterised - as the name suggests - by a soft shuffle, with the feet sliding on the ground.

Musical societies

These were declared ‘Intangible Assets of Local Relevance’ by Order 1/2011, of 12 July, of the Conselleria de Turismo, Cultura y Deporte. Protection applies to activities carried out in the field of the musical culture of Valencia by musical societies, through the bands, their associated choirs, music schools for the training of future members of bands and string orchestras. This is, above all, music produced by the community and played in spaces and at times which have the utmost significance for them.

Special attention to the place; the sensory, spatial and material context

These celebrations involve a large number of sensory factors (images, sounds, smells, tastes and touch). Particular value is attached to those vividly containing and interacting with the greatest number of different senses, and not solely with images. In traditional culture, images were not the only, nor the most important, aspect of these expressions. Sound is equally important and it is in danger of being lost. Taste and smell are also relevant.

The living manifestations have contributed to the conservation of spatial frameworks, natural elements and traditional landscapes of celebration, conceived as symbolic locations associated with individual identity. Particular value is attached to manifestations using these frameworks and trajectories found in the collective memory, as these are considered a major and very relevant part of cultural productions and shared symbolism. Value is also attached to the scenic representations which do not alter the original order or distort the traditional mobility of participants. Respect for the tone or intensity of original lighting is valued, as are the acoustics of the environment, especially as regards interference from noises from outside the celebration.

Intangible elements tend to be found in historic town centres, in locations classed as ‘Assets of Cultural Interest’, protected by their architectural nature and historic evolution. Main squares act as settings where fires were originally lit, but the invention of electricity transformed them into something different but still appealing. The tiny old windows of the houses were transformed into large balconies. Short wooden lintels were replaced by newer and larger ones. That made room for new wooden balconies from which feasts could be observed, and which also acted as adornments for the public stage (Plate 5).

The perception of the intangible cultural heritage

It has been said that the relationship between man and the cultural environment refers to a society of great socio-cultural value. It is worth noting that sociocultural, artistic, historical and even spiritual values are contained in the perception of the intangible cultural heritage (De Groot: 2006). These values are equally present in sociology and anthropology, where identity is placed on a common ground, making culture and identity social as well as spatial (Stephenson: 2008). The importance of the urban landscape in maintaining cultural diversity was stressed by the Council of Europe (2000). Specific urban landscapes and the intangible cultural manifestations contained in them contribute to enriching the cultural biodiversity of heritage worldwide. Although these biodiverse historic environments are not necessarily exotic or remote, they require a specific approach, knowledge and negotiation, as well as space for alternative perceptions about what constitutes alternative culture and authenticity (Waitt: 2000).

Cultural identity and diversity in built environments are reflected in spatial vectors (UNESCO: 1976; ICOMOS: 1987). These vectors are determined by constantly reviewing heritage theory and reinterpreting their cultural significance and interactions. In fact, the term ‘cultural significance’ is widely referenced in the Burra Charter (ICOMOS: 1999) when defining compatible uses, related places and objects, and interpretation (Art. 1). In connection with this, Harrison (2012) spoke of new agencies and dialogues with the place or space which made room for new assemblages to eventually challenge the conventional perceptions, assessments and classifications of authenticity. It directly contests how the intangible is able to transform the tangible, the physical appearance of scenery, and their mutual interactions.

Any attempt to clarify the exact meaning of different conservation actions in given cultural or geographical areas highlights the importance of sensitising what represents an intellectual and political space, understanding that the intellectual exploration of the present policies on intangible cultural heritage is dependent on contemporary discourses founded in the globalisation of the heritage science (Kenway and Fahey: 2009). Nonetheless, what this paper aims to highlight is the independence of regions to rethink how the global affects - or does not affect - the local socio-cultural particularities of their heritage (Daly: 2012). Therefore, rethinking hermeneutics in cultural contexts is very important in order to identify clear ideas to explain the subtle differences that make up the particular; in this case the rural heritage. Perhaps it is all about critically investigating the local ethnographic heritage, how both the intangible and the tangible affect one another (Plate 6).

Harvey (2015) recently explained that, in the practice of patrimonial policies, the national often triumphs over the local, both legally and discursively. This may be true, and therefore justifies the previous normative analysis. Therefore, divergences may arise between regions within a country, regardless of whether a national vision on heritage management predominates. That is why we analyse different norms and discourses of heritage, regional and national, to try to understand how our rural heritage is positioned in the global sphere.

The authenticity of heritage in rural places

It has been said recently that rural societies encourage recreation: they use, dramatise and revitalise specific events (Daugbjerg and Fibiger: 2011; Daugbjerg et al.: 2014). It poses several challenges to the conventional understanding of intangible heritage and its authenticity. Classen and Howes (2006) maintained that objects in the material world have sensory as well as social biographies ; Schorch (2014) saw this as the complex grammar of embodied culture and cultural embodiment. Furthermore, when highlighting the diverging attitudes of different societies in engaging with cultural heritage, Nagaoka (2015) stated that authenticity is culturally dependent. Most authors emphasise the critical divergences and local particularities of cultural heritage, and in turn, the scalar uncertainty in enhancing contemporary cultural processes (Harvey: 2001, 2015). The understanding of place (García-Esparza: 2015) is a complex grammar that can only be explained by heterodox approaches to cultural heritage (Lixinski: 2015) where recreation and forgetting can refer to beauty contained in reinterpretation or abandonment (DeSilvey: 2017).

In an attempt to preserve the interactions between the intangible and the tangible, regulations have tended to paralyse an innate evolutionary process in built environments. Hence, norms and laws, and rural society, face the task of finding the most appropriate conservation and evolutionary processes in order not to distort the evolution of the place. It is not a welldeveloped task, since in many cases the search for authenticity and integrity within urban landscapes has diminished the reinterpretation of tradition and the interaction between the intangible and the tangible. Studies on the integrity of rural landscapes showed that the interaction between people and their environment was considered as an exceptional value. Gilmore and Pine (2007) established five genres of authenticity:  natural, original, exceptional, referential and influential.

It is important, therefore, to note that the search for authenticity within specific cultures, imbues built environments with idiosyncratic meanings and beliefs. In such places, the intangible can acquire greater significance than fixed or semi-fixed elements (Lennon: 2012; Lennon and Taylor: 2012). Harvey (2015) mentioned the need to offer proactive and positive socio-cultural opportunities to develop contemporary cultural processes, perhaps to be reconsidered within theories of the different scales of heritage, not only under the binary tangible/intangible, but also as a wider social and cultural process (Plate 7).

Bortoloto (2015) referred to authenticity as an extrinsic process, while Kristensen (2015) chose to emphasise its social connotations. Recent literature has linked the term ‘value’ to the social valuation of heritage at a given time and place. This implies that value involves understanding the nature of the valued object, also referred to as the intrinsic values – shape, textures, materials - of the original creation, or what we call ‘static authenticity’; the one once acquired by an object. What this paper wants to ascertain is that ‘static’ cultural heritage is affected by continuous manifestations that not only evolve over time, but also depend on different actors and contexts. Those manifestations of heritage are hereby referred to as ‘dynamic authenticity’ (García-Esparza 2018a, 2018b).

As stated by Holtorf and Kristensen (2015), current societies must allow for future ‘Nows’ to create their own space in which they can act. This seems to pose a double challenge for the present generation, which is required to make the wisest decision it can for its own ‘Now’, while also considering almost aseptic actions towards future ‘Nows’. Therefore, regardless of the critical analysis, the time factor, the norm and the moral space occupied by the future become constraints. This means that any actions taken or decisions made in the past ‘Now’ or the current ‘Now’ are catalysts for the future-making of intangible heritage. This is why conscious and subconscious interactions between the tangible and intangible in cultural habitats should not be discarded, but approached thoughtfully.


Values of, and orientations to heritage authenticity and integrity worldwide, have to be seen to establish clear ways to confront all aspects currently affecting the dynamics of specific cultural landscapes. This cannot be achieved without applying a holistic view of heritage. A new paradigm must be applied to each region or geographical zone. In fact, researchers and institutions should increase societal awareness to each cultural, educational and socio-economic reality by using managerial tools to improve the way each cultural landscape is critically conceived and assessed.

The different scales outlined by previous authors and analysed in this study reflect the importance of cultural hermeneutical transmigrations in helping to create lasting structures, institutional and economic architecture for the proper reinforcement of governance, management and action plans from national to local. In the case of Spain, many regions have lacked the technical and managerial skills to chart a path towards the preservation and sustainability of intangible cultural heritage. It is possible that coordinated plans for cultural heritage management, considering intersections between the intangible and the tangible, may help enhance the authentic meaning of each cultural context.

Another aspect of heritage management to be introduced, particularly in the case of Spain, is the maximisation of participation by developing a newer, more open and smoother approach to the wider cultural heritage. A sense of community, regional or local, and a sense of common ownership not only need to be integrated into the assessment tool, they are also cultural steps forward to be developed by society in order to reclaim improved cultural capital and values in the rural scenery. In short, social awareness in terms of culture and science, is something still lacking when evaluating social sustainability and cultural heritage.

The wider built cultural heritage is highly affected by dynamism. The dynamics of authenticity and integrity need to be understood as dependent on cultural context immersed in a complete historical process up to the present, not just as a past process or context. Being aware of this, the cultural heritage of each region is necessarily responding dynamically and authentically to the current process in which each society is involved. Thus, as cultural heritage is an ‘Asset’ to be maintained for future generations, the discourse needs to be understood as an essential part of the management process. Giving the discourse, norms and laws the relevance they deserve in the preservation process of intangible cultural heritage, they should be incorporated into wider conservation programmes where they can be merged and interact with the tangible.


I would like to thank my colleagues from the Regional Committee on Intangible Heritage at Valencia Region, Spain for all their support.


This research has been developed with funding from the project ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage in Penyagolosa’ from the Ministry of Culture, Education and Sports and the Institute of Cultural Heritage in Spain, CUL/1. A4/2018, and the project ‘Crafts and Artisans’ evaluation of small municipalities to develop a Patrimonial Territorial Action Plan’ from the Regional Government of Valencia, Spain. GV/2017/100. I am acting as Principal Investigator in both projects.