Cuban rum and French baguette declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

For more than 155 years, eight generations of teachers have accumulated knowledge about the Cuban drink

The elaboration of rum in Cuba and the manufacture of baguettes in France are Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and deserve to be protected, UNESCO declared this Wednesday.

The inscription on that list, announced by Unesco during a meeting in Rabat, represents a boost to the artisans, and a call to the respective governments to care for and keep alive this ancestral heritage.

For more than 155 years, eight generations of teachers accumulated knowledge about the preparation of light rum in Cuba to their apprentices to pass it on orally and in daily practice.

This light rum, with an alcoholic degree of 40 percent, is obtained from cane syrup or molasses and is aged in wooden barrels before consumption.

The generation that keeps this knowledge is made up of three first teachers, seven teachers and four aspirants.

This select group is the repository, guardian and transmitter of the knowledge originated with the agro-industrial explosion of sugar in the 19th century.

“For us, more than pride is the true recognition of the Cuban rum tradition,” teacher Asbel Morales, 54, told Afp by telephone upon hearing the news.

The male dominance that has prevailed for decades in this world has changed with the presence now of two female teachers and three other aspirants.

Cuba has developed a school for rum teachers concentrated in the Movement of Cuban Rum Masters, which participated in the elaboration of the file presented to Unesco.

The island has other intangible heritage of humanity, such as the Tumba Francesa (2008), the Rumba Cubana (2016), the Punto Cubano (2017) and Las Parrandas (2018).

UNESCO also registered three other Latin American ancestral traditions, as well as a Spanish one.

Meanwhile, the baguette, with its crispy crust and spongy crumb, this long, narrow bread is a relatively recent product: it appeared in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. It is currently the most consumed throughout France.

Some 6 billion baguettes are sold each year, which means that 12 million consumers order them in bakeries every day. Each bar weighs about 250 grams approximately.

More than the product itself, Unesco rewards with this distinction the savoir-faire, the particular way of making, kneading and baking this loaf of bread that has suffered, like so many other French culinary successes, from the abuses of industrialization.

This inscription “also celebrates an entire culture: a daily ritual, an element that structures meals, a synonym of exchange and coexistence”, reacted the director general of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay.

“It is a recognition for the community of bakers and pastry chefs,” explained Dominique Anract, president of the French Confederation that brings together these artisans of flour and yeast.

The award is a recognition of traditional bakeries, which have been closing down in France, particularly in the countryside.

In 1970 there were about 55,000 craft establishments (one for every 790 inhabitants) compared to 35,000 today (one for every 2,000 inhabitants), according to data from the Ministry of Culture.