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Heritage Regimes and the State

Regina F. Bendix
Aditya Eggert
Arnika Peselmann

Layers of Preservation Regimes and State Politics

Heritage Regimes and the Camino de Santiago: Gaps and Logics

Cristina Sánchez-Carretero

Texte intégral

Acknowledgements. We thank the Xunta de Galicia for their assistance to the research project “Heritagization Processes along the Camino de Santiago: Route Santiago-Fisterra-Muxía” (INCITE-09PXIB-606181PR).

1 Introduction

1The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, together with the sites along the routes, the monuments and landscape, have been rendered into heritage in a process carried out at various levels. There are thus several heritage regimes, deployed by different sets of actors. This article will explore the strategies used by actors representing these regimes and the controlling forces and logics underneath a given heritage enterprise. In the case of Galicia, two of these heritage regimes are related to nations: the Spanish national level and the Galician national level; another level is related to the church, as the Catholic church is an essential part of the heritage endeavor surrounding the pilgrimage; a fourth heritage regime is linked to municipal governance. Finally, the capacity – or lack thereof – of actors on the local level to participate in heritage decision-making processes involved in all these levels of heritage production will be explored.

2“Regimes” in the plural are particularly important in this case-study as there is no single regime controlling the governance of heritage initiatives. The lack of a heritage vocabulary at the local level, as will be explored in the second part of this article, illuminates the silences that heritage regimes produce and the gaps between institutional policies and grassroots understanding of what is valuable and deserves to be maintained. The analysis presented here seeks to illustrate these gaps and is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted along the Camino de Santiago route to Fisterra as part of the research project Procesos de patrimonialización en el Camino de Santiago: tramo Santiago-Fisterra-Muxía, a three-year research project (2010 – 2012) developed at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) that focuses on the effects that this route is having on the local populations. A central component was the inclusion of institutional as well as local actors in the research.

3Two aspects will be explored: (1) The mechanisms developed by various social actors to include other routes in the UNESCO nomination; and (2) the heritagization processes – or the heritage formation processes – that are being developed in the Camino de Fisterra and how the logic of the market and the logic of the politics of identity are in play in this case. To do so, this chapter is structured in two parts: The first is dedicated to the Camino de Santiago as a World Heritage Site, the participation of the regional and central state and the lack of participation of other local actors. In particular, I will concentrate on the on-going nomination process aiming to include the Caminos del Norte in the UNESCO World Heritage List, as well as the demands filed by local organizations to include the Camino in the List of World Heritage in Danger. For this part, I conducted interviews with representatives of the Galician government, ICOMOS-Spain and Galician grassroots organizations such as The Galician Association of Friends of Camino de Santiago (AGACS).

4In the second part, I concentrate on how the logic of the market and the logic of the politics of identity are employed by different social actors in another, Camino-related case: The route of the Camino that leaves Santiago and arrives at Fisterra. This part is not included in the UNESCO List but the implementation of the “heritage regime” has modeled institutional policies for this route as well, however, they stand in contradiction to local ideas of what is valued most within “their heritage.”

2 The Camino de Santiago as a World Heritage Site

5Spain ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1982 and the Intangible Heritage Convention in 2006. The route to Santiago de Compostela was proclaimed the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987, and in 1993 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Not all the constituent routes of the Camino are part of this designation; rather, it is the part known as the French Camino. The other routes are not on the list, including the route that reaches the coast in Galicia, the Camino de Fisterra to be discussed later in this article. The main routes, in addition to the French Camino, are the Vía de la Plata (from Seville), the Northern Routes (along the north coast of Spain), the English Route (from the town of A Coruña, in Galicia), and the Portuguese Route (from Porto).

6The institutional actors who are part of the management of the Camino are represented in the Council of St. James, created in 1999 as a cooperative body between the Spanish central administration and the regional administrations. It includes representatives from the Comunidades Autónomas (the regional governments of Galicia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Asturias, Cantabria, Aragón, Navarre, La Rioja, and Castilla y León), representatives from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and other ministries, such as Economy, Foreign Affairs, Education, and the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.1 Other social actors, such as cultural associations, academics or religious representatives, can be invited to attend meetings of this Council to speak but without voting rights.

2.1 The Nomination Process of the Caminos del Norte

7Since its inclusion in 1993 in the World Heritage List, the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to Santiago, has been one of the main tourist attractions in Galicia, and various Comunidades Autónomas along other routes have also prepared dossiers seeking to be included in the World Heritage List. Since 2006, the regional governments of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country, and Navarra have worked on the technical file to justify the inclusion of the Caminos del Norte in the List.

  • 2 For more information on this process see the Spanish Ministry of Culture web page at http://www.mcu (...)

8The process for any UNESCO candidature in Spain is as follows:2

  1. The heritage site needs to be on the Spanish Tentative List (TL), which consists of an inventory of the goods and sites that might become part of the List in the future. The TL is approved in the following way:
    a. Each
    Comunidad Autónoma selects heritage goods that they want to see included in the TL.
    b. The suggestions from the regional governments are taken to the Spanish World Heritage Commission of the Board of Historic Heritage (
    Consejo del Patimonio Histórico). The Board includes representatives of the Spanish Ministry of Culture (MEC) and the regional governments. This Commission proposes the final TL.
    c. The Spanish Ministry of Culture sends the approved TL to the UNESCO World Heritage Center.

  2. Preparation of the file: The World Heritage Commission of the Board of Historic Heritage (Consejo del Patimonio Histórico) selects one or two items each year from the TL to be prioritized and asks regional governments to prepare the file for the nomination process. The MEC coordinates the process, but the regional governments are in charge of contacting experts and grassroots organizations to prepare the file. The selected file is sent to the Spanish World Heritage Center each year.

  3. After this phase, the nomination process takes place within UNESCO and it is the same for all countries.

9In relation to this standard procedure, the case of the Caminos del Norte, or Northern Routes, is quite peculiar, because it is not a straightforward candidature. Rather, the application consists of the extension of the nomination of the Camino de Santiago – currently including only one route (the French Camino) – to also include the Northern Routes: Camino Primitivo, Camino Costero along Asturias, Camino del Baztán in Navarra, the Camino inside the Basque Country, and the route Lebaniega. The Caminos del Norte is thus already on the TL. Therefore, no specific procedure needs to be taken in phase A. Phase B is the same as in any other candidature, as a file needs to be produced.

  • 3 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

10When asked about each of the phases for the case of the Caminos del Norte, actors involved made a clear distinction between phases A and B in terms of procedure, although not in terms of grassroots participation. The decision to be part of the TL was taken by the autonomous (regional) and central governments, without any participation of local agents. As one of my ICOMOS informants explains, it was a decision made “at the highest institutional level.”3

  • 4 Personal communication, May 25, 2011.

11In phase B, theoretically, more possibilities are open for local participation and regional governments might contact various social actors for the elaboration of the technical file. However, in the case of the Caminos del Norte, no collaboration from local associations was requested. Indeed, the main Galician Friends of Camino de Santiago Association, AGACS, completely opposes the candidature. According to its president, AGACS is against the inclusion of the Caminos del Norte on the World Heritage List for two reasons, both of them related to being coherent with the previous history of the Camino as a World Heritage Site: Firstly, “if the inclusion of the French Route of the Camino did not have effects in terms of protection of the Camino, what is the point of protecting it?” and secondly, because the route does not have a fixed delimitation: “How can you protect it if its delimitation hasn’t been established?”4

12The technical file of the Caminos del Norte was approved by the MEC to be presented to UNESCO in February 2011, and a decision will be made in 2012 about its inclusion.

  • 5 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

13The lack of participation of local actors in the process is explained by the president of AGACS with the “logic of the market” argument: “Politicians see the Camino as a resource and they want to attract tourists; that is their only purpose.” Linked to the previous inclusion of the Camino in the World Heritage List, and the current official demarcation of the French Route, the Xunta (Galician government) hosted a meeting to present the delimitation of the Camino to various social actors in 2011. According to a delegate of ICOMOS from Galicia who prefers to remain anonymous, “these meetings are meant to be participative, but they are only informative. Politicians don’t care about our suggestions.”5 This representative considers the entire process – both the preparation of the Caminos del Norte file and the previous general Camino de Santiago nomination – to have been prepared without participation at the local level.

14Comparing the description of the nomination process made by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the data gained from interviews about the nomination process related to the Caminos del Norte allows for various conclusions: Firstly, the inclusion in the TL does not involve any grassroots participation (phase A) either in the administrative process or in its application. The preparation of the file (phase B), as described by the Ministry of Culture, should include local participation. However, my analysis of the Caminos del Norte file revealed no grassroots participation. In short, in the case of Spain, the heritage implementation structure foresees very limited participation; when this plan is applied, the participation is even more limited. Two levels hold strict control of the nation-state heritage: the central Spanish state and the autonomous nation-state.

2.2 The List of World Heritage in Danger; the “List of the Embarrassment”

  • 6 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

15There have been two complaints regarding the Camino de Santiago directed at UNESCO in the last months of 2010: A complaint presented by ICOMOS-Spain and a complaint coordinated by AGACS and signed by 60 local associations. In both cases, a list was included of the dangers that the Camino has been facing over the last few years. AGACS wants the Camino to be included in the “List of the Embarrassment,” as they call it, and removed from the list of World Heritage Sites. For ICOMOS, the reason for the complaint is as follows: “At least the state and the regional governments will realize that having a site declared World Heritage has also a counterpart: It needs to be taken care of.”6 An international commission will be created by UNESCO in the next few months to study the case.

  • 7 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

16A Galician representative of ICOMOS-Spain locates the grounds for the conflict in the instrumentalization of the UNESCO label and the lack of protection: “Everybody wants to place a UNESCO World Heritage label at their sites; and once they get it, the other side is forgotten; ‘we want to build an industrial compound, no problem!’ And afterwards, they tell you there is no way to stop it. In the middle of the Camino de Santiago, in La Rioja, a golf course has been built!”7

17Compared to the candidature process described above, the application to include the Camino in the List of World Heritage in Danger can be located at the grassroots level: It began with complaints made by AGACS. This association produced a video denouncing incidents along the route where the Camino had been destroyed. In a meeting of the International Committee of Cultural Itineraries that took place in November 2010, a member of ICOMOS-Spain showed the video made by AGACS. After seeing it, the members immediately decided to write a manifesto and it was signed and sent to UNESCO the following day. Some of the examples of destruction included in the complaints are: Construction of an industrial area in the middle of the Camino in Logroño (Rioja), and another in O Pino (Galicia); construction of a golf course in the middle of the Camino in Ciriueña (Rioja); destruction of a hospital for pilgrims “hospital de Gran Caballero” in Cervatis de la Cueza (Palencia); and a project to construct windmills in the middle of the Camino in Triacastela (Galicia).

18The complaints can be interpreted as a reaction against the unidirectionality of control in the realm of heritage policies. The conflict between a regional association, such as AGACS, and the regional governments related to the management of the Camino shows a case in which local actors find a UNESCO solution to a UNESCO-related problem. Although it is not openly expressed by the AGACS president or by the members of ICOMOS, one can suggest that the lack of local participation in the implementation of Camino policies made local actors find alternative solutions. What is interesting here is the use of the same tools employed by those who generated the conflict: According to AGACS, the UNESCO nomination created the problem in the first place, and AGACS used a UNESCO tool, the List of World Heritage in Danger, to try to stop the destruction of the Camino.

3 The Logic of the Market and the Logic of the Politics of Identity in Play in the Camino de Fisterra: The Heritagization of the Camino

19Discourses about heritage show two main logics: The logic of the market, linked to the use of heritage as an economic resource, and the logic of the politics of identity, linked to the idea that heritage belongs to “a group” and reflects and reproduces its identity. In this part, I will exemplify both logics with the case of the Camino to Fisterra. The two logics generate different regimes which, in turn, lay open the gaps between how various actors understand heritage.

20Heritagization is a term for the process which bestows value on “something” – it could be any practice or “heritage good” – that a group of people considers their property. Building on the dynamic perspective entailed in heritagization (patrimonialización), including its political and symbolic dimensions, engendered in scholarship in the 1990s (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998, Prats 2004), I follow Mexican anthropologist Victoria Novelo’s definition of heritage as “something that somebody or some people consider to be worthy of being valued, preserved, catalogued, exhibited, restored, admired (etc.); and others share that election – freely or by various mechanisms of imposition – so that an identification takes place and that ‘something’ is considers ours” (Novelo 2005: 86). As Fernández de Paz and Agudo argue, the goods that are heritagized are those that have special meaning for a community and are particular to a given cultural context (1999: 7). Other authors, such as Pereiro, define “heritagization” as the activation of cultural heritage and its promotion (Pereiro 1999: 98, 104). Kevin Walsh was one of the first authors who used this term in English (1992: 4). However, Walsh employs it in a pejorative manner in the context of the “heritagization” of space, to refer to “the reduction of real places to tourist space, constructed by the selective quotation of images of many different pasts which more often than not contribute to the destruction of actual places” (1992: 4), very much in line with Greenwood’s idea of “culture by the pound” (1977). Although some authors continue using Walsh’s take on the term in a pejorative way, that is not the meaning of the word in other languages and it is used more frequently now as an English equivalent to the Spanish patrimonialización or the French patrimonialisation.

3.1 The Camino de Santiago to Fisterra, “The End of the Earth”

21Instead of ending in Santiago, as the rest of the Caminos, this route reaches the cape of Fisterra on the Galician Atlantic coast. In Latin, Fisterra means “the end of the earth.” Fisterra’s cape is located in the north-west of Spain in Galicia. It is considered the western-most point of continental Europe, although geographers have demonstrated that the capes of Roca in Portugal and Touriñán – very close to Fisterra, also in Galicia – are situated further to the west. Other European mythical “ends of the world” include Land’s End in Britain, Finistère in Brittany, France, and Dingle in Ireland. The end of the world is linked to the idea of conquering territories and expanding the limits of the known world; using the words of Spanish anthropologist Nieves Herrero, “these places have been frequently the objects of symbolic elaborations; aspects such as their frontier character or the braveness and dangerousness of the sea allowed for an interpretation as liminal spaces, associated to the unknown, to the más allá” (Herrero 2009: 166).

22The existence of pilgrims continuing their journey to Fisterra after their arrival in Santiago was already documented in the 12th Century. Pilgrims visited the sanctuaries dedicated to the Santo Cristo de Fisterra and the Virgen de la Barca in Muxía (Vilar Álvarez 2010). However, the links between the cult developed in these two places – Fisterra and Muxía – and the cult to Saint James are not so clearly established. There are two types of mainly historical explanation linking Fisterra and Muxia with Santiago: On the one hand, there are studies that explain the pilgrimage to Fisterra and Muxía as a medieval construction of the cult and a unifying Christian strategy against Muslims; on the other hand, there is the sun cult explanation of pre-Christian origin, mostly followed by 19th Century Galician nationalists. There are several legends that establish the relationship between these places, and the use of legends to establish links among sanctuaries was a common strategy employed by the Catholic church to redirect the large number of pilgrims that the major sanctuaries attracted to the less popular ones (Herrero 2009: 168).

23In the 20th century, the recuperation of the Caminos started as an initiative of the Associations of the Camino de Santiago and, afterwards, various administrations added to the project. In 1993, the year of the inclusion of the Camino in the World Heritage List, the Government of Galicia initiated the program called “Xacobeo.” The Camino Fisterra-Muxía was then included as one of the Caminos de Santiago (Vilar Álvarez 2010). This part of the Camino de Santiago is not officially recognized by the Catholic church and the route does not count in order to get the Compostela, the recognition granted by the Catholic church to those pilgrims who have walked at least 100 km. For this reason, as well as its relationship with the sun cult, many pilgrims call this route “the Camino of the atheists.”

24In fact, the Catholic church is a strong heritagization force for the rest of the Caminos, and maintains a clear ignoratio strategy in relation to the Fisterra route: Officially, the church does not oppose this route, but it also does not recognize it.

3.2 Changes in Olveiroa: A Youth-Hostel Village

25After leaving Santiago and on the way to Fisterra, many pilgrims spend the second night in Olveiroa, a small town with two hostels and a hotel. By shifting the focus from pilgrims to the local population, I want to bring to the fore questions such as: What does it mean to live in a town with less than 100 inhabitants that hosted, in 2010, more than 8,000 pilgrims who slept in its public hostel and in two private accommodations? How does it affect the daily routine of Olveiroa’s inhabitants? What processes emerge next to the heritagization? What are the logics underneath these processes in order to heritagize certain practices and not others? Who initiates, decides and controls? This section of my paper lays bare the logics that are behind the various heritage-making endeavors related to the Camino de Santiago.

  • 8 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with the mayor of Dum (...)

26The youth hostel of Olveiroa, inaugurated in 2001, was built as a municipal initiative rehabilitating four different stone houses in the middle of the village. The hórreos – grain deposits on top of columns – of the village have also been restored and illuminated from below and the transformations in the village have been marked by the inauguration of the public hostel. A bar, a hotel-restaurant and a private hostel have also been built since 2001. The center of the village was largely abandoned, as new modern houses were built in the 1970s and 1980s next to the main road. Therefore, one of the first impacts of the Camino in Olveiroa has been the restoration of the old stone houses, which is – using the mayor’s own words – “the first step to value our heritage.”8

27The initiative started at the municipal level and the mayor, an architect, shaped the esthetic decisions for this “hostel – village.” The mayor controlled decision-making processes in what kind of architectural vision was to be followed, although the resources came from the Galician Government.

  • 9 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with the youth hostel (...)

28The village of Olveiroa does not have a mayor of its own; it is part of the Dumbría municipality in the Galician province of A Coruña. Olveiroa went through a process of abandonment similar to the process many other villages in Galicia have undergone in the last decades. After the 1960s, the abandonment became more visible. Many inhabitants migrated to Northern Europe, particularly Switzerland, and also to large Spanish cities, mainly in the Basque Country, where a growing industry needed workers (Río 2009). When these migrants returned, either for vacation or permanently, they built a different style of houses in a different space. Instead of restoring the old houses, new ones were constructed next to the roads. At the beginning of the 21st century, Olveiroa thus consisted of an old semi-abandoned village center. As Puri, the hospitalera (youth hostel assistant) of the public hostel, born in Olveiroa, explains: “When migrants coming back from Switzerland returned, they built another house and abandoned the village one (…). They said ‘it’s more in to live next to the road, rather than in the middle of the village’ and now it’s just the opposite!”9

  • 10 This part of the research was presented by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero a (...)

29Heritage does have a role in these changes, and it can be made palpable by focusing on the presence and absence of both heritage practices and heritage terminology in discourse, looking at who is controlling what. The analysis is based on ethnographic fieldwork that Paula Ballesteros Arias, a member of the research team, and myself, the coordinator of the project, conducted in Olveiroa during the autumn of 2010 and the first months of 2011.10

30I will analyze the spheres of discourses and practices in relation to how the term “heritage” is used. I want to see if the notion of heritage that various administrations employ have permeated both the discourses and practices of the daily life of Olveiroa inhabitants. Among them, the word “heritage” is not used in either conversations among villagers nor when we asked about aspects of Olveiroa that are valued most. The absolute absence of the word “heritage” in the discourse of the people from Olveiroa is even more evident when compared to the use of the term by José Manuel Pequeño, their mayor. He has an elaborate narrative on the importance of heritage for the promotion of his municipality. The promotional work is concentrated along three lines, and two of them are related to heritage: The promotion of their cultural heritage through the promotion of the Camino de Santiago in their territory; and the promotion of their natural heritage through the promotion of the activities at the river Xallas. In addition, the municipal employment plan is linked to their heritage sites. The political strategy of the municipality is to promote cultural tourism as their most important economic strength. In fact, the same characteristics that made people migrate in previous decades – for instance, inaccessibility – is what preserved their landscape and rural life (Aguilar 2003, Herrero 2005). Now it has turned into a value to be consumed by pilgrims and tourists.

31The use of the term “heritage” in the discourses of the institutional social actors, such as the mayor, shows the logic of the market and the logic of identity politics taking place simultaneously. The logic of the market understands heritage as a resource for the area’s economic development and targets, in this case, tourists and pilgrims; the second logic focuses on the creation of a sense of belonging and targets the local community. Both logics can be exemplified in the following excerpt from an interview with the mayor of Dumbría:

  • 11 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with José Manuel Pequ (...)

Regarding the Camino de Santiago, our first decision consists of the recuperation of the heritage of the Camino […]. to do so, two things needed to be done: Actions from the municipality and actions from other institutions. We talked about how interesting it would be […] to create a public hostel, as we need pilgrims to stop here, we also need to recuperate our churches, to recuperate the Camino; and, on the other hand, how do we do it? Well, let’s see if we can prepare an employment plan so our people participate in the recuperation process; so the inhabitants themselves take care of it, so they feel that it belongs to them. And that was our biggest success. The success is that, in that moment, people recognize that something belongs to them, and take care of it, because they participate. (Interview February 7, 2011)11

32The two logics are clearly present in this quote. The mayor explains how pilgrims are a resource and, in order to attract them, two things need to be done: Make pilgrims sleep in the township through the construction of a public hostel; and secondly, heritage needs to be taken care of. To the mayor, heritage needs to be preserved as a resource. The logic of the market is reflected in the emphasis on the development of rural tourism. The promotion of the sector of tourism in rural areas reduces, as a consequence, resources dedicated to other options, such as agrarian development.

33The logic of belonging seeks the participation of Olveiroa’s inhabitants in the construction and maintenance of “their heritage.” The mayor actively tries to make Olveiroans proud of, value and, more importantly, take care of the elements that are rebuilt and linked to the Camino de Santiago: hórreos, houses, the common washing space (lavadeiro) and the gardens. In order to create a sense of belonging attached to “something” (which is called “heritage”), civil society needs to take part in the process and participate in the recuperation of heritage. The rate of unemployment is very high in rural areas in Galicia, and the public employment plan of the municipality of Olveiroa gives three months of contract per year to most of the unemployed people of the village. Instead of having a quarter of them working the whole year, the mayor prefers to distribute the work among all the unemployed inhabitants, offering them a few months a year of municipal contracts. The mayor’s control of the municipal heritage processes is evident in his depiction of the top-down mechanism; the population figures as passive recipients of heritage.

34In sum, the institutional discourse of Olveiroa features heritage vocabulary, but it is missing in the discourse among the inhabitants. In the next section, I will concentrate on the practices related to heritage activations in the area.

3.3 Heritage Activations in the Area

35The promotion of Olveiroa as an overnight stop for pilgrims is linked to the activation of various heritage elements: The rehabilitation of the buildings of the public hostel in the center of the village; the restoration and maintenance of the route of Santiago, and the other paths in the village; and the restoration of the hórreos.

36The houses used to build the public hostel were bought by the municipality for very little money. Again, I quote the mayor:

  • 12 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with José Manuel Pequ (...)

We bought it for 400,000 or 500,000 pesetas […] almost for nothing because they were in ruins. My idea from an architectural point of view was to recuperate the old houses… the rural houses; to have them rehabilitated instead of a new building. After that rehabilitation, the people realized that they could live in the old houses as comfortably as in the new houses they were building. This was like a procession. When we had a funeral, people from the area came and visited the restoration ‘how could those houses be so nice and at the same time be so comfortable?’[…] and that was the beginning of the recuperation of the center of Olveiroa. (Interview February 7, 2011)12

37Even though the funding agency for the restoration was the Xunta (the Galician Government), the municipality bought the houses and had complete control to decide the style of the hostel.

38The hostel was built by rehabilitating the stone houses’ architecture. This activated the valorization of the village center and triggered new private initiatives to restore other houses. Among the motivations, the word “pride” appears frequently both in the narratives of the representatives of institutions and in the narratives of Olveiroans.

  • 13 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero on October 19, 2010.

39In addition to the houses and the paths, the hórreos along the Camiño in the village of Olveiroa and next to the hostel have been “monumentalized” using two strategies: Restoring them and placing lights underneath the hórreos to illuminate them at night. The rest of the hórreos have not been restored. The illumination gives the whole village a touristic sheen. Most of the neighbors we interviewed consider the illumination is a “sign of modernity” and like it, but some of them, such as Clara, who works cleaning the restaurant – hotel, think that “this illumination is made for pilgrims, not for us.”13 None of them were asked about the style of restoration or any other related issue. The villagers have thus far not had any agency in terms of heritage preservation.

4 Conclusions: Heritagization and Controlling Forces

40The heritagization processes in Olveiroa do not include bottom-up initiatives of the type described by Iñaki Arrieta (2010: 13). Spanish anthropologist Arrieta insists on the importance of communicating the modus operandi and not only the opus operatum in the heritage actions initiated by institutions, so the local communities can be also agents in the modus operandi, rendering the processes of heritagization also a bottom-up endeavor.

41The analysis of the relationship between the absences and presences of the term “heritage,” on the one hand, and the level of discourse and practices, on the other, allow for some conclusions. Narratives about heritage, for instance, are largely employed by local administrators and are absent among the inhabitants of Olveiroa. However, the latter have a clear idea of what they value the most in Olveiroa and what they would like to see preserved and taken care of: In addition to their church, houses and hórreos, they unanimously point to their festivals and the idea of the “rural life” and “being able to work our land.”

42No performative practices, such as festivals, are promoted by the municipality in their heritage policies, yet conversations with the inhabitants of Olveiroa reveal that they are considered valuable. Institutional discourse and practice have naturalized the notion of heritage as objects; this definition has, however, not permeated the discourse of Olveiroa inhabitants, who have a more holistic vision, adding not only built elements, such as hórreos or houses, but also performative practices, such as festivals.

43A double objective in the heritage mobilization in Olveiroa can be pointed out: The first objective is related to the goal of promoting identity markers to legitimate feelings of belonging among the population of Olveiroa; secondly, tourism and heritage are to be promoted as a resource (Jiménez de Madariaga 2005: 25 – 27). In the case of Olveiroa, the logic of the market – the second objective – is meant to increase the arrival of pilgrims, and, as the words of the mayor show, the logic of the politics of identity is also present. Both logics are integrated in the employment plan of the municipality and also in the overall design of the Camino de Santiago policies. Tourists and pilgrims are the same thing for the promotion of the area. In terms of policies, it is not a question of tourists being half-pilgrims or if pilgrims are half-tourists (Turner and Turner 1978), but a question of both being rural development resources.

44The “touristic mono-crop” is the unquestioned basis of the rural development of the area among institutional representatives. There are no plans to develop the agricultural sector, even though it is the economic activity that occupies a greater percentage of the active population in the municipality of Dumbría (Río 2009: 108). The economic promotion of the area for the local administration is synonymous with the promotion of tourism: The pilgrimage to Santiago being the priority in the local development plans. However, these priorities are far from being shared by the inhabitants of Olveiroa. The focus on tourism (and by that I include the services offered to pilgrims) leaves aside other possibilities that are voiced by the inhabitants of Olveiroa, who repeated “if I could make a living by working the land, I’d have stayed here.” Working the land is one of the aspects of the life in Olveiroa that is valued the most. Therefore, according to the working definition of heritage proposed at the beginning of this paper, working the land is the most important aspect of their heritage for the inhabitants. However, the policies and resources dedicated to heritage in Olveiroa are related to the Camino de Santiago. This research project thus makes visible the gap between state heritage policies and the local scale of heritage values. While the latter includes the possibility of linking heritage with the development of the agricultural sector (among others), the former closes off this possibility by naturalizing the assumption that heritage is linked exclusively with the touristic sector.

45Various heritage regimes affect the daily life of the inhabitants of Olveiroa. Decision-making at the national level (nation meaning Galicia and also Spain) affects decision-making at the municipal level. In addition, the ignoratio tactic of the Catholic church contributes to this amalgamation of layers of controlling forces. The bidirectionality between institutions and civil society needs to be further explored, as these processes of heritagization do not only take place top-down. The main conclusion thus far is, however, that the local population in the area examined absolutely lacks control over heritage policies and heritage-related initiatives.


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1 For more information on the Council of St. James see <accessed June 5, 2011>.

2 For more information on this process see the Spanish Ministry of Culture web page at <accessed May 30, 2011>.

3 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

4 Personal communication, May 25, 2011.

5 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

6 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

7 Interview conducted by Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with an ICOMOS representative on May 27, 2011.

8 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with the mayor of Dumbría on February 7, 2011 (the project code of the recording is GR011).

9 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with the youth hostel assistant on October 20, 2010 (the project code of the recording is GR005).

10 This part of the research was presented by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero at the Spanish Anthropology Conference (FAAEE 2011).

11 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with José Manuel Pequeño on February 7, 2011 (the project code of the recording is GR011).

12 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero with José Manuel Pequeño on February 7, 2011 (the project code of the recording is GR011).

13 Interview conducted by Paula Ballesteros-Arias and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero on October 19, 2010.

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