Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.25

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Peru has nominated Traditional system of Corongo’s water judges (No. 01155) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Traditional System of Corongo’s Water Judges is an organizational method developed by the people of the district of Corongo in Northern Peru, embracing water management and historical memory. The system, which dates back to pre-Inca times, is primarily aimed at supplying water fairly and sustainably, which translates into proper land stewardship, thereby ensuring the existence of these two resources for future generations. The people of Corongo are the main bearers of the element since the system regulates their agricultural tasks, and the highest authority is the water judge, whose role is to manage water and organize the main festivities in Corongo. The element is the pillar of Corongo’s memory and cultural identity and complies with the fundamental principles of solidarity, equity and respect for nature. Its functions, significance and value are transmitted to younger generations within the family and public spheres, and emblematic dances of the city, linked to the system, are taught across all school levels. The relationship between St Peter and water, and hence prosperity and wellbeing, is one of the main values passed on; children learn about devotion to the patron saint either by participating in religious celebrations or through the oral tradition.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The Traditional System of Corongo’s Water Judges is a complex cultural expression and customary organization that embraces resource management, religious values, historical memory and cultural identity. The element relates to the sustainable stewardship of natural resources by indigenous communities. The system of Corongo’s water judges is a traditional way to regulate the use of water in agriculture, ensuring a beneficial management system based on the Andean principles of solidarity, equity and respect for nature. Knowledge related to the practice is transmitted informally within families through oral traditions and by children’s observation of their parents working on the land. The relationship between St. Peter and water and the constant practice of two emblematic dances related to the element are among the core values transmitted. Each year, two water judges take an oath to lead the cleaning of the irrigation canals and to manage the water distribution and related celebrations. The main practitioners of the system also lead the religious celebrations of the Three Wise Men, Carnivals, Easter and the Feast of St. Peter, the city’s patron saint. The phenomenon has adapted to the social changes over the centuries.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would promote respect for similar organizational methods, religious coexistence and environmental management around the world, including for other communities and cultures with similar traditional water management systems. In turn, this would encourage the identification of similar phenomena relating to the treatment of natural resources in general. The inscription could also draw attention to water itself, as the most vulnerable yet indispensable resource on earth. It could also lead to a greater appreciation for the value of ancestral knowledge. The great prestige of the judges in the community could underline the effective role of traditional systems of conflict resolution. Overall, the inscription of the element could draw attention to the value of practices of intangible cultural heritage that testify to principles of solidarity, equity, spirituality and respect for nature and the close relationship between human beings and nature.

R.3:   The safeguarding measures proposed include: developing the interest in and knowledge of the element among children and young people, including through school contests; disseminating information about its history and cultural significance; compiling traditions and customs related to the element; creating spaces for the revitalization and safeguarding of the traditions of the water judges and raising awareness about the importance of environmental care and about the district farming activity that forms the basis of the element, through research activities. A safeguarding committee for the element was set up, activated and coordinated by the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Corongo and representatives of community organizations. Each proposed safeguarding measure is described in terms of the following aspects: action objectives, concrete activities and the participating organizations. During the process, the main risks and threats associated with the discontinuity of the system were identified, as were the necessary measures to mitigate them.

R.4:   Through a series of meetings and workshops, a committee was established at the request and on behalf of the Corongo people for the preparation of the nomination file in 2014. The file demonstrates the free, prior and informed consent to the nomination of people who have assumed the roles of water judges, ‘campos’ and ‘cabecillas’. The written consents and documentation are accompanied by a number of photographs and audiovisual recordings. Access to all of the components of the Traditional System of Corongo’s Water Judges is of a public nature, with no customary restrictions.

R.5:   The Traditional System of Corongo’s Water Judges was declared an element of National Cultural Heritage and entered on the Declarations of Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2013. The Ministry of Culture is in charge of implementing this system. The inventory is regularly updated by the communities of bearers, who submit requests for the declaration of their cultural expressions. The declaration of the element as an expression of National Cultural Heritage is available online at the website link provided.

  1. Inscribes Traditional system of Corongo’s water judges on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting an exemplary nomination.