Valencia recommends paella as national cultural heritage

by Deborah Cater
Paella nominated for cultural recognition status by Valencia government

The Valencia government nominates the regional rice dish paella for recognition as national cultural heritage. It is explicitly not about the recipe itself, but acknowledgement of the dish and the social tradition surrounding it.

The latter refers to the social gathering when preparing and consuming the world famous Spanish dish. A technical committee assesses whether something is Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC). The committee judged paella as a highly valued intangible heritage with a historical-cultural tradition that is not only of regional and national but also international importance.

Spanish icon

The committee calls paella “a traditional and contemporary dish” and a “connecting phenomenon” that “reflects the character of Valencian society”. Paella is the symbol of Valencia. It is a dish that has stood the test of time and is still passed down from generation to generations. The different ways in which the dish can be prepared makes it a cultural Spanish icon.

Opinions are very divided about the ingredients and the preparation method of paella. The committee sees the different variations as a result of the globalisation and internationalisation. In Italy, for example, the rice is stirred as in a risotto.

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Lengthy process

Before paella is definitively nominated for the title BIC, the committee’s report will be published in the State newspaper of Valencia. In addition, the University of Valencia, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Regional Ministry of Culture must also report as advisory bodies.

According to director Carmen Amoraga of the regional department of Culture and Heritage, the presentation of paella honours an important tradition of social gathering. Some festivals and traditions revolve around the preparation and eating of the paella involving the whole village.

World Heritage List

Deputy Mayor of Valencia Sandra Gómez also welcomed the candidacy of paella as bien de interés cultural. For her, this means a first step towards the title of intangible world heritage.

Once paella has BIC recognition, the Regional Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports can propose the Valencian rice dish for registration on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If accepted, it would sit among Napolitana pizza and the Mediterranean diet.

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