Cultural sites in Latin America inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List

© Iphan/SRBM. Author: Oscar Liberal

Brazil, Sítio Roberto Burle Marx

Situated west of Rio de Janeiro, the site embodies a successful project developed over more than 40 years by landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994) to create a “living work of art” and a “landscape laboratory” using native plants and drawing on Modernist ideas. Began in 1949, the garden features the key characteristics that came to define Burle Marx’s landscape gardens and influenced the development of modern gardens internationally. The garden is characterized by sinuous forms, exuberant mass planting, architectural plant arrangements, dramatic colour contrasts, use of tropical plants, and the incorporation of elements of traditional folk culture. By the end of the 1960s, the site housed the most representative collection of Brazilian plants, alongside other rare tropical species. In the site, 3,500 cultivated species of tropical and subtropical flora grow in harmony with the native vegetation of the region, notably mangrove swamp, restinga (a distinct type of coastal tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest) and the Atlantic Forest. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx exhibits an ecological conception of form as a process, including social collaboration which is the basis for environmental and cultural preservation. It is the first modern tropical garden to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

© IDARQ. Author: Ivan Ghezzi

Peru, Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex is a prehistoric site (250-200 BC), located on the north-central coast of Peru, in the Casma Valley, comprising a set of constructions in a desert landscape that, together with natural features, functioned as a calendrical instrument, using the sun to define dates throughout the year. The site includes a triple-walled hilltop complex, known as the Fortified Temple, two building complexes called Observatory and Administrative Centre, a line of 13 cuboidal towers stretching along the ridge of a hill, and the Cerro Mucho Malo that complements the Thirteen Towers as a natural marker. The ceremonial centre was probably dedicated to a solar cult, and the presence of an observation point on either side of the north-south line of the Thirteen Towers allows the observation both of the solar rising and setting points throughout the whole year. The site shows great innovation by using the solar cycle and an artificial horizon to mark the solstices, the equinoxes, and every other date within the year with a precision of 1-2 days. It is thus a testimony of the culmination of a long historical evolution of astronomical practices in the Casma Valley.

© CPCN, Getty Foundation. Author: Javier Villasuso

Uruguay, The work of engineer Eladio Dieste: Church of Atlántida

The Church of Atlántida with its belfry and underground baptistery is located in Estación Atlántida, 45 km away from Montevideo. Inspired by Italian paleo-Christian and medieval religious architecture, the modernistic Church complex, inaugurated in 1960, represents a novel utilization of exposed and reinforced brick. Built on rectangular plan of one single hall, the church features distinctive undulating walls supporting a similarly undulating roof, composed of a sequence of reinforced brick Gaussian vaults developed by Eladio Dieste (1917-2000). The cylindrical bell-tower, built in openwork exposed brick masonry, rises from the ground to the right of the main church facade, while the underground baptistery is located on the left side of the parvis, accessible from a triangular prismatic entrance and illuminated via a central oculus. The Church provides an eminent example of the remarkable formal and spatial achievements of modern architecture in Latin America during the second part of the 20th century, embodying the search for social equality with a spare use of resources, meeting structural imperatives to great aesthetic effect.

© Regional Program for the Protection of the Chinchorro Sites.

Chile, Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region

The property consists of three components: Faldeo Norte del Morro de Arica, Colón 10, both in the city of Arica, and Desembocadura de Camarones, in a rural environment some 100km further south. Together they bear testimony to a culture of marine hunter-gatherers who resided in the arid and hostile northern coast of the Atacama Desert in northernmost Chile from approximately 5450 BCE to 890 BCE. The property presents the oldest known archaeological evidence of the artificial mummification of bodies with cemeteries that contain both artificially mummified bodies and some that were preserved due to environmental conditions. Over time, the Chinchorro perfected complex mortuary practices, whereby they systematically dismembered and reassembled bodies of deceased men, women and children of the entire social spectrum to create “artificial” mummies. These mummies possess material, sculptural, and aesthetic qualities that are presumed to reflect the fundamental role of the dead in Chinchorro society. Tools made of mineral and plant materials as well as simple instruments made of bone and shells that enabled an intensive exploitation of marine resources, have been found in the property which bears a unique testimony to the complex spirituality of the Chinchorro culture.


Mexico, Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Tlaxcala [extension of “Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl”, inscribed in 1994]

The Franciscan Ensemble of the Monastery and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is part of the first construction programme launched 1524 for the evangelization and colonization of the northern territories of Mexico. The ensemble is one of the first five monasteries established by Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian friars, and one of three still standing. The other two are already inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Tlaxcala ensemble of buildings provides an example of the architectural model and spatial solutions developed in response to a new cultural context, which integrated local elements to create spaces such as wide atria, and capilla posa chapels. The edifice presents two other particular features, a free-standing tower and a wooden mudéjar not found in the other monasteries already inscribed on the World Heritage List as part of the serial property. It contributes to a better understanding of the development of a new architectural model that influenced both urban development and monastic buildings until the 18th century.

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