THE “MINGA” COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF VERNACULAR HERITAGE BUILDINGS IN THE HISTORICAL CENTER OF CUENCA, ECUADOR
The Latin-American cities declared by UNESCO World Heritage Sites display a problem of generalized deterioration of its vernacular or environmental architecture due to, among others, a lack of maintenance. This is aggravated by the existing legal vacuum in planning for its historical centers, resulting in irreversible losses in their heritage buildings. It is proposed to involve the community in the maintenance interventions to counteract the lack of maintenance and at the same time contribute to improve the level of livability and to create a collective awareness in the community about the care of its heritage. To achieve this goal, the university of Cuenca, has implemented the so-called “maintenance campaigns”, through which the preventive conservation phases proposed by ICOMOS (2003) are supported methodologically from a perspective that combines varied techniques (quantitative, qualitative), giving priority to operational workshops and collective construction of knowledge and action. The experience in the traditional ‘Las Herrerías’ street (case study), evidenced in a short period of time an improvement of the physical conditions of the buildings and of the quality of life of its residents, and furthermore motivated the long-term activation of comprehensive and inclusive conservation processes that lead to the valuation and preservation of heritage by all involved. The participation of the community in the whole process through a “minga” of multiple actors guarantees a successful intervention. This initiative could be successfully adapted to other heritage sites of similar characteristics.