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Naturecultures from the Perspective of Argentina

Naturecultures Dialogues

Theme: Naturecultures for an Argentinean perspective

Session 10 with Alicia Cahn, Ana Bajcura, and Cira Szklowin

In our new series of Naturecultures sessions that runs from May to September 2020, we followed a different format than before. Presentations are pre-circulated, leaving most of the dialogue session open for active discussion.  

The abstract, and link for each of the presentations are included on the next page. This summary is drawn up from comments that came up in the dialogue session and elaborated on in the email discussion afterwards. These comments are general, abstract expressions, and personal thoughts that are not necessarily associated with the view of ICOMOS, IUCN or any other organization.

Nupur Prothi, as the moderator to this session opened the first round of questions to the panelists that I include here below, as they capture the gist of what you will find in the audio file of this dialogue session.

Throughout Alicia’s presentation it is impressive to see the scale of the cultural route. How do you envisage the future of large-scale landscapes in defining the identity of a region and reiterating the indigenous natureculture vision across South American nations? What role is this site playing in the Argentinian understanding of their relationship with landscape?

Ana makes some very compelling statements about the South American view of the landscapeversus the transformation with the Europeans. How do you define the future of the landscape profession when you say the profession is rather new but the practice of landscape ornaturecultures is ancient and embedded in the way of life? How can this profession in its education and practice streamline this Latin American naturecultures view in the future?

Cira takes us to the scale of the city and nature within. Please share with us what is the future of ecology that you foresee in the future of your cities. What are the unique approaches that other cities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future?

This meeting was conducted in English, although the panelists’ first language is Spanish. Each of them walked the extra mile by following up on the questions that came up in the chat box during the discussion with written expressions. This highlighted the deep understanding that comes with language, and the effort that goes into expression your thoughts in another. It was an honour to be invited into their thoughts and perspectives. Nosotras te saludamos!

Participatory management mechanisms

Abstract by Alicia Leonor Cahn Behrend

This presentation is an approach to the “participatory management mechanisms” based on the “ongoing dialogue with the local communities” being conducted within the Argentine section of the Cultural and Serialized Route of Qhapaq Ñan – Andean Road System (WHC.UNESCO 2014). This management is oriented to the reunion of the indigenous peoples with their personal and cultural identity. The Argentine segment is a part of the “Tahuantinsuyo”, which provides its sense of unity and involves the states of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú.

In Argentina, the Qhapaq Ñan runs through seven provinces in their Andean region, with a total 118,527 km in length, 13 road segments and 32 archaeological sites associated to the phenomenon of multicultural integrationand the integration ecologic diversities. It develops as a layout of a road system built with a specific and concrete goal, connecting and interrelating geography, goods and people, over a lengthy period of time. The Qhapaq Ñan is a planned and articulated network linked to the longitudinal axis of the Andes mountain range and to rough and extreme landscapes with a great biological and cultural diversity. It is regulated with apragmatic system for the organization and unification of the territory, seeking to link production, administrative, ceremonial centers and their associated populations.

In the Qhapaq Ñan “culture and nature” are unified in an all-embracing worldview. There is no conceptual distinction between both terms. Its nature is its own culture, and its culture is sustained in the interaction with natural components. A heritage asset in which the territory prevails and sets its own rules, without anaesthetics for visitors and with joy and respect for the local inhabitants. Walking down and remaining in it generates an existential change and an immaterial experience in our lives, a process whereby we gain access to our inner silence, stripping ourselves off our personal emotions to connect with the spirit of the place.

Connecting with practice. Abstract by Ana Bajcura:                                   

Looking from here…

To say, “The world is like this¨ means avoid finding the causes.

Nevertheless, it also means to have lost Impatience and to accept the

real construction of true reality.

Let us think that modern world

is quite far from that same attitude”

Rodolfo Kusch

Here, in South America, we feel it is a challenge to be the centre, to be able to think from this place, from our ambiguous reality here. Without even knowing who we are, but … discovering that under this external skin, our own words, signs and shapes are appearing out of a mixture of realism and magic. In addition, our way is a “mystery”, in the Greek sense, as mystés, the guide that leads us through unknown passages (Rodolfo Kusch). The mission that we are learning is to discover where we come from, and to get to accept our reality- My proposal is to create a link between the way of our ancestors and the nature that surrounds us, the nature that is our support but at the same time is our challenge, with the building of our culture. To achieve this aim, I propose to reinterpret reality considering the theme axes (Ferdinand Braudel’s ideal): geographical situation, time relation in our history, the clash between cultures, and the integration to western culture.

  • vision of the placement of our planet (Image 4)
  • Time relation of our American history to that of other continents.
  • The crossbreeding, clash and interwoven of native cultures and western Latin and Anglo-Saxon cultures (Image2).
  • The meaning of life in native empires and that of the conquering empire.
  • Religion, language, brotherhood (Image 3).

Urban rivers as a city-making landscapes. Abstract by Cira Szklowin

The heritage and landscape fields are undergoing a transitional process of widening the meaning, scope and relevant sets of relations in the naturecultures spectrum. Progressive diversification in approaches towards complex cultural landscapes, are encompassing inclusive community interpretations and participatory evaluations, as well as management contexts effectively linked with planning policies to cope with global processes and climate change.

The presentation begins with an overview of the regional context of insertion of the Buenos Aires Metrop-olitan Region in the wetlands corridor along the Parana River, Delta and Plate estuary -a fluvial vertebral landscape and waterscape, intermingling consolidated urban-industrial settlements, infrastructure systems, cultural and natural areas- exploring the modelling influence of the rivers in the development of the cities, their imaginary and landscape.

Then it highlights some features of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region’s landscape transformation resulting from cultural and developing forces involved in two crucial periods of insertion in world markets (1880-1920, and a century later), illustrated by local mindsets, cosmopolitan attitudes, and values regarding nature and cultural landscape conservation. In the central city of Buenos Aires, erratic succession of waterfront projects without integral landscape management plan (with the exception of an urban reserve, unexpectedly created by nature on an abandoned landfill frame). In the metropolitan area, dramatic transformation of large extensions of wetlands into urbanized “new natural areas” (imminent wetlands law).

In Argentina, the transformation of traditional conservation management towards an integrated approach faces implementation challenges: natural areas and urban reserves embedded in an urbanized region, are exposed to continuous anthropic impacts and economic pressures on local ways of life, cultural representations and habitat-territorial control, as well as unplanned regional growth and lack of compliance with laws and regulations. Local management plans in nested metropolitan scales require a different set of conceptual dimensions, increased integration in the socio- territorial structure, and permanent context change monitoring.

We have indigenous people’s cosmovision’s to draw nurture and learn stewardship from. They remind us that nature, cultural landscapes and public spaces are common good and not commodities defined by a private sector.


1Alicia Cahn (AC), Panelist14Kristal Buckley (KB)
2Ana Bajcura (AB), Panelist15Marike Franklin (MF), Dialogues Convenor
3Cira Szklowin (CS), Panelist16Maya Ishizawa (MI)
4Diane Menzies (DM)17Mónica Lueng (ML)
5jane Lennon (JL)18Nobuko Inaba (NI)
6Jessica Brown (JB)19Nupur prothi (NP), Moderator
7Je-Hun Ryu (JR)20Steve Brown (SB)


Concluding thoughts by Ana Bajcura, and the scale of South American Landscapes AB: Our landscapes are so huge, so big, and silent…only Iguazu falls is a noisy place. All our placeswith silent, and Invite us to join inside with us, to connect our soul. That is real, that is unique it is the land inside the land inside us. When we walk in the middle of our natural landscape. Not in the city, but in the landscape, our soul is one with the earth.MF add two images that she took a few years ago as a student. These images might relate to thevast landscapes of South America, that Ana describes here. MF notes that landscapes are not silent at all, with the number of stories that it can tell, but understood the silence that AB tried to convey.She was interested to know what these images convey to the rest of the group?  AB, MF
 AB: The images convey me… the first the greatness of the place and the blessing of being alive and enjoying it. It is as the universe is represented in the landscape and it traveled within me, and once there, we would be one. The second is to be one with nature, animals, plants all the earth in me like a huge hug all together. 
Concluding thoughts by Alicia Cahn, the Inca’s and Colonisation AC: I was thinking about the future…shared heritage across the American nations. I believe to study this kind of landscape, that kind of cosmovisions… I think, I believe that we are heading towards thepath of greater respects and human tolerance. All the study to this kind of cosmovision, and to sharedifferent things. I think because the resistance and fear is towards the other… the one who is not like me reflects the fear of the unknown. As soon as we become familiar with foreign cultures the barriers give away. Leaving to acceptance to the generation     of … The dichotomy about the perception occidental in the Andes for example on other cultures … is regarding Perception not only of the landscape but also the western with respect to Andean, or other cultures, yes?In the case of the Andeans, to this day there are in this case there are many left that indulge. And that is a great point of contact for these people who live there… and the dichotomy that must be reduced is in the message, spread this new way of perceiving the environment.  It  is to  understand  different.  In  this case  landscapes  are soulish… before now they have an entity, and have anexistence, and that is why festivals such as Pachamama, as you mentioned before, are celebrated, because they have to do with this sense of soul full of meaning of life, rocks – the forest, life. they all have an identity that persists. The system (landscape) is threatened with the gaze of the western vision. So, it is important to understand and to approach. To keep away the preconceptsSB: The Inca Empire might be considered a colonial situation, so it is interesting to think of the Qhapag Nan a continent-wide identity in the present day. Perhaps it also has multi-identities for different regions. What do you think Alicia?AC: Evidently there were multiple identities prior to the Incas. Each culture and each place had itsown paths and sanctuaries. What the Incas did was re-functionalize and reuse the conquered peoples with a new dynamic, therefore, the archaeological remains refer to a past prior to the Inca.AC, SB
Faced with the candidacy, the different regions left their disagreements to focus on heritage and the Qhapaq Ñan. The six countries pursued the objective of twinning and building a lost link with colonization, the republic, the subsequent divisions of countries, etc. through a time slot.There were disagreements with the name of the candidacy, as Bolivia and Ecuador, due toideosyncratic conflicts with Peru, did not accept that it be named as the Inca Trail. It is then when an agreement is reached with the name Qhapaq Ñan, a name in Quechua, a language  spoken  by  all and  a  vestige  of  the  Inca  moment.  Today the problems of the past are put aside and only remainwith the patrimonial element, the communication routes and the sites, which are part of the QhapaqÑan.SB: It is interesting to think about how regions along Qhapaq Ñan become culturally ‘hybridised’because of their histories – in basic terms for the areas along the route, they have histories as pre-Inca societies, then part of the Inca Empire, and then part of various European colonial empires and the influence of Christianity, before becoming parts of different Nation States and independent countries. When I was working on the excavation in Peru in the early 1980s, the study was of theHuari Empire (pre-Inca) on a remote part of the Andes. In that area, Huari influence was determined to be relatively minimal (as indicated by the pottery styles), because of its ‘remote’ location on the edges of the Huari Empire. 
Concluding thoughts by Cira Szklowin, Pachamama, cultural justice, and language of expression CS: Reading the transcript of my commentary, I feel that it inadequately expressed my thought. I said that in the Buenos Aires region, the influence of indigenous culture is almost nil, meaning that there is insufficient expression of their culture in public spaces and in the media.Even when indigenous communities are recognized in the Constitution and in important national laws,Argentina is a federal system, so the indigenous minority are subject mostly to provincial laws. They amount to 5% of the population, concentrated in some provinces, although never being a dominant community. Apart from those living in communal grounds, they have to abandon their traditional livelihood and be employed in cities as low qualified working labor, as their progress in educationdoes not reach yet the level of opportunities to participate fully in decision-making policies.In Buenos Aires region, we take account of them living mostly in the metropolitan area and in certainparts of the city, as well as working in low qualified jobs and developing cultural activities and celebrations, but there are insufficient communication channels to perceive their traditional worldview.Although they are integrated in civil life, we know much less about their contemporaneous culture and traditional values than we know about the dominant Argentinian culture (hybrid and important European cultures).I also expressed that from the local cosmopolitan view, that indigenous minorities seem to be living ina separate cultural world, not yet fully integrated in the urban cultural landscape. Increasingly –as inLatin America and other parts of the world- we consider them as a moral voice, we respect theircosmovision (gradually being recognized through the spread of ecological thinking). They show the way to Naturecultures integration and stewardship of common goods.In Bs.As. there are three monuments, one park for celebrating the Pachamama, and some cultural centers.DM: This is a question for Ana or Cira but other may be able to help. How can minority Indigenous culture achieve cultural justice thru cultural landscapes in urban areas: techniques, strategies, principles? And a further question, How can we recognise Pachamama in cities?CS: The cultural justice Diana Menzies asked about would be to work toward policies that explicitly recognize their identities as part of a multicultural society, and fully address the representation of theiridentity and cultural activities in focal places of the public domain, so as to be reflected in the urbanlandscape and the social imagery.DM: You are an enormously kind and generous person. Thank you so much for your considered andfull response to the ‘follow up’ question I posed. I was not so kind to you, as I can understand how difficult a response is for such a question in another  language,  with  no  time  to  think  about  it. I had been  asked a similar question  byCS, DM, MI, NP
students in Sr Lanka after a Zoom lecture last week. Last week and am also working on this in New Zealand: and the situation is very similar, although 15% Indigenous in New Zealand rather than 5%. But it is still a struggle, while also dealing with education, low skills and poverty as linked issues. Yes, you are most helpful. Looking to public places for design expression, encouraged by policy, is a hopeful way to go.MI: Answering from the Peruvian not Argentinian perspective, Pachamama is present in the pre-Hispanic sites in all cities, as they have been built over Indigenous groups ceremonial centers and urban centers, for eg. But what are also present in cities are Andean practices carried by migrants (rural-urban)NP:A point that is made repeatedly in the presentations is the dichotomy of the indigenous versus the colonial viewpoint of how nature and culture are perceived (1). How do you see this change in your own work over the years? (2) What is the future of shared heritage that you foresee sharedacross South American nations, but also in the context of indigenous, native and European histories?(3) CS: 1. Dichotomy of the indigenous vs the colonial viewpoint of how nature and culture are perceived. Indigenous communities, inscribed in legal frameworks, lack critical mass and sufficient high education to participate/influence decisions affecting natural and cultural heritage in their common territories, as provincial authorities usually undervalue their cosmovision and act with an utilitarian view of nature assets. Uprooting of these communities from their ancestral places, and the correlative emotional damage, fades to the background of their culture. The nature/culture dichothomy is now somewhat diluted, as indigenous people integrate in contemporary society mostly in a cultural and economic subordinated position, at the cost of their traditional practices related to nature, relegated to private spaces of their lives. Some intangible indigenous heritage is widely recognized, but lacking a knowledge context about their significance in their ancestral cultures and their relation with contemporary ones.2. How do you see this change in your own work over the yearsI see the slow convergence between ecological thinking and indigenous cosmovison, being now accelerated by climate change, global processes and the epidemic panorama. It didn’t directlyinfluence my work, that has been mostly developed in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Region and Parana River urban settlements, mostly established by european immigration. Now that I am involved in urban landscape studies my focus changed to Naturecultures integration, where indigenous cosmovision easily fits in.3. What is the future of shared heritage that you foresee shared across S.American nations, but also in the context of indigenous, native and European historiesI see an acceleration of the transformation of indigenous traditional territories into uses and occupations divorced from their cultural values, simultaneously with their increased articulation with other ecological movements to install their demands in the public agenda. They are increasingly a mobilizing example for and harmonious and integrated approach in managing cultural landscapes in Latin America and other parts of the world.I think that shared intangible heritage would be the driving force across Latin America approaches to cultural landscapes, with indigenous communities, as custodians of nature, incorporated as co-managers of their heritage sites. 
Indigenous/native landscape architectsSB : Ana, in what ways are the perspectives of Indigenous peoples in Argentina being integrated into landscape teaching and learning in Argentina? With particular reference to naturecultures integration.SB: Are there any or many Indigenous landscape architects in Argentina?AB: I am asking the professor of different universities… and to some groups of professionals. some of them told me they don’t know native professionals in landscape architecture.There are a lot of Mestizos landscape professionals in Argentina, but I don’t know exactly how many.SB, AB, CS, MI
Sandra Aguilar (you know her, she was in New Zealand for the 50th WCongress) is architect and specialized in landscape architecture. She works in Land Art.CS: As to your question to Ana about indigenous landscape architects in Argentina, I was told by Lenor Slavsky, who manages the Colloquium of Indigenous Architecture in America, that there are no indigenous architects or landscape architects in Argentina, but there are many traditional constructors…MI: In Peru we do not have a landscape architecture, planning school. I was wondering if the lack of development of this discipline in our region is also related to our understandings of naturecultures…?SB: Maya – so what professionals are responsible for landscape planning in Peru?MI: Architects in general, but we do not have development in this field, it is one of our biggest problems…MI: Even though we have such a rich inheritance from pre-colonial cultures 
Lessons learnt from Latin America NP: Cira, takes us to the scale of the city and nature within (1). Please share with us what is the future  of ecology that you foresee in the future of your cities (2). What are the unique approaches that other cities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future? (3) CS: 1. Scale of the city and nature withinSocio-ecological systems as complex and changing system of people and nature, can be a conceptual framework applicable to contemporary cities, integrating ecosystem functions with social dynamics.Urban residents are substantially removed from a direct experience with nature, as it is highly mediated by an intensely built landscape, to the point of a lack of perception of natural dynamicsoccurring within urban systems, including people interactions with green spaces. There is poor a understanding of an urban ecosystem functioning, resulting in an undervalued and largely invisibleecosystem services. Interacting natural and cultural processes, and the services they provide, are notfully perceived at the scales people interact with urban green. They are thus unlikely to committed themselves with nature.There is a need for interaction studies at scales that can be understood and applied by all actors interacting actively with urban nature, so as to elicit specific methods to attract and engage them in conservation an other nature-related activities. Urban landscape ecology should be at the base of these studies, as it deals the interactions between the temporal and spatial aspects of a landscape and its components.Future of ecology in the future of your citiesCities are viewed in urban ecology conceptual frameworks as heterogeneous, dynamic landscapes and as complex, adaptive, socio-ecological systems delivering multi-scale urban and ecosystem services thus linking society and ecosystems. Landscape ecology’s integrated and interdisciplinary approach, focused on ecosystems spatial configuration at all scales, connectivity an functional linkages, is a very suitable approach to manage complex urban areas and cities, as it deals with diversity and complexity in natural and social systems.Another approach is centered on an integrated view of Urban Ecosystem Services (UES), comprisingboth natural and man-mediated services, emerging from interlinked processes at different scales, challenging integral sustainable management approaches. Resilience approaches seem to deal better with the complex net of components and services than sustainability approaches based on long-term steady provisions of each component.Contemporary trends for naturing cities -Nature based Systems (NbS), Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDs), Green Infrastructure (GI) and others- have converging key operative concepts and methods that may increase urban resilience. Climate change and epidemic increased awareness of nature and demands of urban green and open spaces may be seen as accelerators of the process, in the context of uncertain global changes .Unique approaches other cities can learn from LA for their resilient futureLatin American features of cultural resilience processes –some of them derived from traumatic social experiences- may differ from other cities in the world, and perhaps provide hard lessons from negativeexamples.NP, CS, AB
Further studies on flexible, informal processes, way of life and modes of livelihood in Latin America, may contribute to elicit potential qualities for a resilient future in the context of climate change andglobal impacts on local cities and communities.Global financial markets enact a “land-grabbing” strategy of the best located urban and rural territories around the world, to be transformed into capital assets or resources for extractive activities, disregarding ecosystems and people. In LA this process is extremely visible in un-consulted political decisions, and in its environmental, landscape and heritage consequences.NP: What are the unique approaches that other cities around the world can learn from Latin American cases for their resilient future?AB: The Latin American cities, are open, new, rich in their cultural landscape, they are a miscellany of superimposed cultures: pre-colonial, colonial and current. The urban richness occurs in the union of the growth zones that continue to give grids, like a patch work, as well as its architecture and its vegetation. For example, in Buenos Aires the streets have trees planted in a rhythmic way but of different species, like reproducing a gallery jungle. Each neighbor plants what they bring from their province. The houses have their gardens with individual expansion, unlike the European ones that have common gardens. There are neighborhoods that are like little boxes of a particular landscapecared for their neighbors. Those neighborhoods generally remain in places where the urban grid isclosed off. You have to discover them. In the suburbs the people use the sidewalk as an expansion of their homes… like a dining room!!! in “La Boca” (in Buenos Aires) put a little canvas swimming pool in the sidewalk, with wood benches. 
Compared impression of the various charters circulated in the reading list MF: I found this an interesting phase: From the America’s Charter: The understanding of theAmerican landscape comes from a particular identity; the “Americanity”. That is a permanent dialogue between the diversity of the territory and the constant unity in culture. It is in this spirit that we present the Landscape Charter of the Americas.If I think of South Africa, I would actually perceive the landscape as constant and the culture asdiverse. Although all the documents are very different, I enjoyed the comparison. Any other thoughts on this? Some are more specific to landscape architecture (European, America’s), while others relate more to the notion of landscape in a more general sense (Asia pacific, and African).AB: The African charter I think MF’s thoughts about the characteristics of African region are excellent: diversearray of cultures spread across one region.The Asia Pacific charter describes in a sentence the essence of the region.The IFLA Asia-Pacific Region is a part of the world that has been shaped by maritime journeys, vibrant cultural landscapes and economic innovation and is home to a rich tapestry of landscapearchitecture traditions. And the objective, aim, are similar in both charters.For me, The European charter is a legal tool.The other charters sits within a global context and framework which comprises… European one, etcLALI and American Charter are used for information and respect the profession.LALI Convention encourages, promote to work with landscape.American Charter explain, among other things, the Americas roots, the essence.SB: To what extent has the LALI Convention been applied in building resilience in Argentinian cities?And to what extent does the Convention fit with the Historic Urban Landscape approach?CS: Responding partially to Steve Brown about the LALI charterMF, AB, SB, CS
The draft text -which has been worked on for 6 years, drawing inspiration from the European Landscape Convention and the Catalan Landscape Observatory-, has started this week a four-monthcirculation and feedback process, in order to strengthen its concepts and consistency through a participatory enrichment. The feedback will be then analyzed by a team of professionals from the Chilean Heritage and Landscape Corporation and the Argentine Landscape Net, amongst otherparticipants. The LALI project has not been applied in any city in Argentina, and will probably have little chances, like other similar local initiatives, to reach the public policies agenda, let alone being included as a structural part of the local legal system and of the vulnerable territorial planning system. Even if itdoes advance landscape awareness and is included in planning instruments, it will face challengingforces that have only a utilitarian view and use of landscapes, disregarding, if needed, its heritage values. And resilience is a concept that has barely reached the actual urban plans, remaining so far in a discursive plane. AB: LALI Convention is a charter that invites to promote and work for the landscape. Promote therecognition and valuation of the landscape and their actors an executors. Calls for active participation Promotes continuous, broad and multi-level education. Calls for concrete actions andencourages the participation of all citizens, ONG’s, governments, etc.The charter of the Americas describes our roots and our “Americanity”, our essence. The Landscape Charter of the Americas is based on the search for our roots and the reason for our existence, based on the knowledge of who we are and what we possessing as its habitants from our planet theunderstanding of the American landscape comes from a particular identity; the “Americanity”. That is a permanent dialogue between the diversity of the territory and the constant unity in culture. 

Circulated pre-reading:

Additional reading:

  1. Centre for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research, Stockholm University.
  2. Sent by Patricia O’Donnell

This meeting:

Argentinean perspective on naturecultures

Ana Bajcura, Alicia Cahn and CiraSzklowin 31 August 2020 10 PM GMT

Final meeting of the series of Dialogue Sessions: Where to Now?

12 October 2020. 1 PM GMT

  • Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Land Change Science Research Unit, b Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development Dresden, Centre for Environmental Research and Impact Studies, University of Bucharest
  • Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Land Change Science Research Unit