Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands, during the month of June 2016

Igor Babou © 2016

The objective of the mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands, during the month of June 2016, was to meet the actors of the heritagization and management of the two geoparks. The idea was to construct a familiarity with local actors in order to be able, later, to organize ethnographic fieldworks. The aim of this ethnographic fieldwork is to build a deep understanding of the practices and discourses of the actors: those who manage the geoparks, but also all the actors working in relation with this institution (i.e. the local government, the tourism guides, dissemination associations, technicians, guards, scientists, etc.). In order to understand the characteristics of the over-position of heritage and juridical frameworks in an island territory, I also need to observe the practices and discourses of the actors and patrimonial organisations who work with – or in concurrence with – the geoparks: national parks, natural parks, Natura 2000 reserves, MAB areas, marine reserves, etc. During the month of June 2016, alone or in collaboration with Catalina Gonzalez, I did:

  • Semi-structured interview with Patrick McKeever, director of the Global Geoparks Program in his office at UNESCO.
  • 2 semi-structured interviews with head of the Lanzarote Geopark.
  • 2 semi-structured interviews with 2 guards of the Lanzarote Geopark (they belong to the Environment Department of the local Government, the “Cabildo”).
  • Semi-structured interview with the head of El Hierro Geopark (he is also director of the Biosphere Reserve of El Hierro).
  • Semi-structured interview with the person in charge of the El Hierro Geopark project (with the change of government, this person is no more in charge of the Geopark).
  • 2 semi-structured interviews with the Biosphere Reserve head in Lanzarote.
  • Semi-structured interview with the director of the National Park of Timanfaya.
  • Semi-structured interview with the director of the Territory and Environment Department and the director of the Education Department of the Cesar Manrique Foundation (an NGO working in the field of contemporary art and ecology, in Lanzarote).
  • Semi-structured interview with 2 members of the Environment Department of the Lanzarote Cabildo (the local government in Lanzarote) doing landscape and geologic interpretation (one of them worked on the project of inscription of Lanzarote as a Geopark).
  • Semi-structured interview with head of the Landscape and territorial development of the Lanzarote Cabildo.
  • Semi-structured interview with a former President of the Cabildo: he was President during the creation of the Biosphere Reserve of Lanzarote.
  • I also did various fieldwork observations in Lanzarote:
    • Audio recording and photography of guided interpretation of the landscape and geology (with tourists and local people) during two “georutas” organized by the Lanzarote Geopark.
    • I went to a public conference of dissemination dealing with the “Mars model” of Lanzarote organized by the Geopark (Lanzarote is being part of an international investigation project of the NASA.
    • I visited, with a technician of the Geopark, some of the tourist volcanic sites of Lanzarote (Cueva de la Verdes, Jameos de Agua, museums and interpretation centers, etc.).
    • I visited a laboratory of vulcanology in the National Park (the laboratory belongs to the Geoparks, and every Monday, the technicians have to send data from the laboratory and they check all the equipment), with its head and a technician.
    • I went (and did complete audio-recording) to the public launching of a protest group against a government law project in the Cesar Manrique Fundation: this project will change the rules of the soil, and may have dramatic impact on environmental protection policies.
    • I spent time with the technicians of the Geopark, in their everyday professional activities (I went to meetings with partners, etc.).
    • I went with members of the Environment Department of the Lanzarote Cabildo in a village where the Cabildo owns a house for teaching and conferences, and works with pupils. I spent some time with small farmers of the village, in order to understand better everyday life in Lanzarote country.
    • I went to the opening of the “WineRun – Salvar La Geria”: a promotional trek and exhibition designed to help the Lanzarote wine region, La Geria. In this exhibition, the Geopark had a stand of information. La Geria is a vineyard dependent on the volcanic characteristics of the island (the grapevines are planted in holes and covered with “picon”, a volcanic dust, in order to keep the humidity of the soil. All the Lanzarote agriculture depend on this agricultural technique, as there is no water on the island).
  • During my stay In Lanzarote and El Hierro, I visited some of the volcanos, museums, buildings and sites built by Cesar Manrique, etc., and I took photos of all the interpretation panels.
  • During my stay, I collected a lot of documents objects (reports, flyers, posters, books, promotional objects, etc.) edited by the Biosphere reserve and the Geopark.

In conclusion I would say that all those contacts and interviews were very useful to have a preliminary understanding of the games and reds of actors in those Geoparks, the collaborations they are involved in, and the difficulties they face. I still need to understand better the cultural and politic histories and contexts of those islands, and the potential conflicts the Geoparks could be involved in with other actors, that could not appear in the context of those interviews. In my future missions, I will focus on the Lanzarote island because of its outstanding over-position of heritage frameworks, and because of the richness of its cultural background due to the involvement of a local key actor, an international artist (Cesar Manrique) who contributed in the early 60’s to shape the landscape of the island and to engage the heritagization process that finally conducted to the creation the Biosphere Reserve, and then the creation of the Geopark. In coordination with the thesis of Catalina Gonzalez, and with its transversal work on all the Spanish geoparks, my contribution will be a deep understanding of the social, politics, and cultural conditions of the construction of a local geological heritage. At the end of this work, I hope to be able to have points of comparison with other works I’ve published on another volcanic island: the Reunion Island, a world heritage site.

Igor Babou.

 

  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.
  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.
  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.
  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.
  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.
  • © Igor Babou
    © Igor Babou
    Mission in Lanzarote and El Hierro islands during the month of June 2016.

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