The Watch and its Effects on San Juan Bautista Cuauhtinchan, Puebla, Mexico
I remember perfectly the moment I was told that the sixteenth-century church of San Juan Bautista Cuauhtinchan was accepted for the World Monuments Watch.
I remember going to the webpage and finding points all over the world map, passing the pointer on top of each one and looking at the image of other projects like ours. These were people like us, sharing the same interests, problems, frustrations and trying to make a difference for our heritage and cultures. Suddenly I felt like I was in good company, not so lonely and that it was not so steep a hill—together we could do it!
For 30 years a group of civilians interested in protecting the heritage of a small town in the state of Puebla in Mexico made the Fundación Amigos de Cuauhtinchan. It is a NGO investigating the paleontological remains of mammoths, prehispanic codexes, colonial architecture, frescos, sculptures, haciendas, gastronomy, traditions, and other elements that represent and form Mexican identity. Its members had been doing historical research, architectural classification, promotion, and fundraising to save the sixteenth-century Franciscan monastery and getting the federal government interested in working on the consolidation of the building and the first restoration of the main altarpiece. But it turned out that this was not enough. Climatic changes, erosion, dry air and strong winds in the area were affecting the main altarpiece, drying and shrinking the wood and cracking the paint of the most important piece, the oldest complete work of its kind on the entire continent, putting it at risk of total destruction. What could we do now? We had worked so hard and it was back to step one for the altarpiece. That was the moment when we registered for the Watch program at the World Monuments Fund. Everything started to unfold from there. Cuauhtinchan, Puebla appeared in all the national newspapers. For some government offices we were now important. Universities and scholars wanted to do deeper research, non-governmental organizations opened their platforms to hear us and offered help with consultants. With the community it was easier to raise awareness of their area's historic and natural importance and their responsibility to take care of it. We were all so motivated that it really made a great difference.
After a year, some inspection visits, and proving we were a serious group that would go on with our projects no matter what, we were told there was a donation. It would come with additional consulting from a world expert in climate change and the equipment to measure and diagnose the problem. After that, another door opened to match funds and have solutions for the core problem and we are still at it and going on.
It all started with the Watch and becoming part of the world's eyes, minds, and hearts to preserve heritage. The best you can do! Thank You WMF!