Cordoba Jesuit Block, Argentina
It was only when I glanced down at the inscription that the thought came to me. Had I been doing this subconsciously all along? And, if so, was this something I should be proud of and embrace?
I was standing in a courtyard of the Jesuit Block in Cordoba, Argentina’s second-largest city. The city itself is a thriving metropolis with a cultural and social scene reflective of the large number of universities it is home to. But it’s also a city of history, having been founded more than 400 years ago as one of the first large Spanish colonies in this part of South America. Around the older buildings of the colonial period, present-day Cordoba has grown. But it was in one of the original constructions of the seventeenth century that I had my realisation.
As I looked down at the inscription I noticed that this collection of buildings had been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations. This wasn’t the first time I had been to a UNESCO site, I was sure of that. I had seen this sign before. And as I stood there and thought about it, I realised that I had probably been to dozens of these sites all around the world in my travels.
It stayed on my mind as I walked through the rest of the Jesuit Block and eavesdropped on a tour being given in broken English, picking up some interesting facts. The designs on the walls were unique to this part of the world because of the way they fused together the Spanish view of Christianity with the connection to nature of the indigenous people; The architect of the church was a boatbuilder by trade and so the ceiling of the building resembled the hull of a ship; The university’s collection of books includes a very rare complete bible from 1645 written in seven different languages.
As I listened I realised that this site represented a seminal time in the history of South America as European and native cultures were brought together. It’s not a topic I’ve ever had a huge interest in but the more I’ve seen in the continent, the more I have realised how important it is. And it’s for that reason that this site was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
My UNESCO mission
At that moment I made a decision. I decided that if I was on a journey to learn more about the world then I should take some advice from an expert. And that expert was going to be UNESCO. If it thinks a site is important enough to be included on its list, then it’s important enough for me to visit.
From this day on, I am going to set myself a challenge to visit as many of the sites on the list as possible – maybe even all of them one day. As of today, there are 936 sites on the list. So it’s going to be a slow project. What better way to see the great cultural and natural locations of our planet, though?