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The Developing World Finds Value in Preserving Its History

Lauren Gravitz explores the importance of demonstrating the economic viability of cultural tourism to safeguarding historic sites in Peru and Bolivia.
April 16, 2012, 1pm PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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Communities like Peru's San José de Moro are becoming energized about preserving their cultural heritage sites, but not for the reasons you may think. The non-profit Sustainable Preservation Initiative is working with local communities, such as those leaving near the cemetery and ceremonial center of the ancient Moche in San José de Moro, by giving small grants and guidance in recognizing the value of preserving sites for cultural tourism.

"The $48,000 grant paid for 20 people from San José de Moro to build a visitor's center and artisan's workshop, and to train a dozen more to work long-term as artisans at the site," reports Gravitz. And since its opening to tourists over a year ago, the popularity of the site and its artisanal products have exceeded expectations.

Larry Coben, SPI's founder and CEO says, "all the paradigms of preservation made no sense to me, the idea of teaching people how important their heritage is and they'll take care of it. If there's no economic incentive, why shouldn't they instead use the land for looting or growing crops or taking stones to build houses?"

The SBI economic model for historic preservation has found success at several sites in the developing world, reports Gravitz. "It changed attitudes in the community dramatically. Suddenly, preserving the land was economically viable, and they had a return on investment. That was the genesis for me," states Coben. Coben is expanding his work to a historic site in Jordan.

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Published on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 in Fast Coexist
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