It’s no surprise that the beautiful island of Puerto Rico boasts one of the only ten U.S. cultural sites ever to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. The site, consisting of La Fortaleza, the three forts of San Felipe del Morro, San Cristóbal and San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo), and the City Wall, is emblematic of the Island’s incomparable heritage. Puerto Rico is likewise served by an incomparable, internationally respected cadre of heritage professionals. US/ICOMOS is proud to host their participation in the international ICOMOS network.
Puerto Rico is also facing some serious challenges these days, including the threat of climate change. US/ICOMOS is equally proud to support the work of Puerto Rican heritage professionals rising to the defense of their island and the safeguarding of their coastal heritage. This includes the Puerto Rican members of the Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources Committee (CCSAR) of the Society of American Archaeology (SAA), and the Science, Management and Policy Committee of the Latino Climate Action Network (ELAC in Spanish).
ELAC is organizing the Puerto Rico United to Face Climate Change Walk on the 30th of April. The walk will draw attention to efforts to help identify local risks and vulnerabilities as well as concrete actions to work towards resilience. One of the most serious threats Puerto Rico faces is sea level rise. Local archaeologist aren’t missing the chance to use the the Walk to bring to the forefront the threat erosion poses to Puerto Rico’s coastal heritage. US/ICOMOS and SAA have endorsed this effort in support of this critical aim.
Helping lead the charge is Professor Isabel Rivera-Collazo, a professor in Environmental Archaeology at the University of Puerto Rico. She will be joined in this week’s heritage activism by Tom Dawson of the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust (SCAPE), who has traveled to Puerto Rico for the occasion. Together they we will address the general public during the walk on issues of heritage at peril and will also pay visits on other leaders over the coming days.
Tom Dawson is a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. His research focuses on the archaeological and historical heritage of the coast and threats posed by natural processes and climate change. He works closely with the Government Agency, Historic Environment Scotland, to gather information on the scale of the problem around Scotland.
Tom manages the Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP), a groundbreaking approach to heritage management which involves citizen archaeologists editing and updating records on threatened sites using an interactive website and mobile technology. He also manages practical projects at a number of sites, and recent work has included archaeological excavations, digital 3D recording projects and the relocation of threatened structures. SCHARP’s model has been widely touted as a model for adoption here in the US, including at the Keeping History Above Water conference hosted by Newport Restoration Foundation earlier this month.
US/ICOMOS stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Puerto Rico as they take a stand for their island’s heritage. Join them this weekend in person or in spirit as they help Puerto Rico mobilize for Climate Action.