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WHC 2019: Paraty Culture and Biodiversity

The Brazilian town of Paraty holds the record of having submitted an incomplete dossier: no less than 4 times! But finally the Brazilians have succeeded last year in putting everything together and Paraty will be brought forward as their WH nomination for 2019. Its new title ‘Paraty Culture and Biodiversity’ suggests a very broad approach.

As Gold Route in Parati and its landscape an earlier incarnation of this site was already Deferred in 2009: the main objection at the time was that only a small part of the Gold Route was included. The focus was on the town of Paraty, on which the verdict was “a 19th century colonial town, although attractive, it is not exceptional and ICOMOS does not consider that Paraty on its own justifies inscription on the World Heritage List”. Possibilities were seen though to include a longer stretch of the Gold Route and/or to extend it to a mixed WHS or a cultural landscape “with high natural values”.

The new nomination called ‘Paraty Culture and Biodiversity’ is a mixed one indeed and a cultural landscape as well. The “Gold Route” has disappeared from the title, so we may assume that the natural setting will become more prominent than the historic route. But let’s be clear: in the end it’s all about Paraty, a pretty coastal colonial town that is already well on the tourist trail. They might be wanting to attract even more international visitors.

For me it was an exciting trip just getting to Paraty, which lies on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro. I left by plane from Iguacu (in the far west of Brazil) with a direct flight to Rio. From there it’s another 4 hours to Paraty. At the bus station in Rio however I found out there was only one bus leaving, at 7.30 pm. Which meant a (very) late arrival in Paraty – something you always hope to avoid but just not always works out.

When the bus finally left, the fun lasted only briefly. After half an hour something obviously was wrong with the bus and the driver went outside to smoke a cigarette. Fortunately, we were stranded in a not too bad suburb of Rio. 45 minutes later a new bus picked us passengers up for the final stretch to Paraty. The road to get there winds along the coast, unfortunately it was already dark so I missed out on the views. The bus stopped pretty often, we even took a loop near a nuclear power plant. At half past twelve I arrived at the door of my pousada in Paraty where they had waited for me.

So what is there to see and do in Paraty? Well, actually nothing special at all. It is an old colonial port, which (in 2004) supported a modest form of tourism. There’s a good choice in restaurants, you can have a walk through the streets, sit on a bench and look at a church. However, I spent most of the days on the sunny terrace of my pousada.

Els - 24 February 2019

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