MADRID – UNESCO has declared transhumance, a traditional form of seasonal livestock herding in Spain, an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Spain shares this recognition with countries such as Albania, Andorra, Croatia, France, Luxembourg and Romania. It emphasizes the importance of this age-old practice, which has already been recognized in countries such as Austria, Greece and Italy. Transhumance is an ancestral tradition in which cows and smaller livestock such as goats and sheep are moved to mountain pastures in the spring and returned to the valleys and villages in the fall.
A living heritage
In Spain, the Trashumancia includes approximately 125,000 kilometers of cattle routes. These extend across the entire Iberian Peninsula and the islands. Many of these lead through the centers of cities and villages. This seasonal migration of herds is not only an agricultural practice, but has also led to a rich cultural and ethnographic heritage. Think of celebrations, traditions, toponymy, gastronomy and architecture related to this age-old activity.
In regions such as Extremadura, the trashumancia plays a crucial role. The recognition by UNESCO highlights the importance of preserving and valuing these traditional practices. Furthermore, these contribute to Spain’s cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.
The purpose of the designation is to protect these cultural expressions to prevent their loss. However, the number of transhumant shepherds in Spain is declining due to the challenging nature of their work. The traditional methods of herding and pasture management have been passed down through the centuries by the transhumant culture as they travelled through different regions of the country.
Shepherds in Spain are, according to Spanish media, satisfied with this recognition. They believe it is a fair recognition of a practice that combines the use of natural resources with local culture and the preservation of the environment. Passing the herds also helps maintain the cleanliness of the forests and prevent fires.
Handmade glass production
At the same time, the technique of handmade glass production has also been recognized in Spain as intangible cultural heritage. This emphasizes the knowledge, craftsmanship and skills in glass production. Spain now has a total of 21 cultural events that have been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. These include the Fallas in Valencia, the Mediterranean diet, the patio festival in Cordoba, flamenco and the human towers (castells) in Catalonia.