This week, when I heard the radio announcers describe the collapse of Notre Dame Cathedral’s central spire due to the fire, I reflected on the varying speeds with which we lose the tangible patrimony of our humanity. I thought about the number of Properties of Cultural Interest that have been lost in Spain or those that are disappearing even now due to neglect or to lack of financing. I recalled the number of abandoned abbeys I used to visit in my province, Ourense, one of the provinces with the largest volume of patrimony in the country. I thought about the forgotten histories of our land, histories that disappeared because of the disintegration of our patrimony. There are disasters, like the fire at Notre Dame, that make things disappear in a matter of minutes, and there are disasters, like the ones in Ourense, that make things disappear over decades and centuries. Without a doubt, their rhythms and circumstances are completely different, but that does not make them less catastrophic.
These losses affect not only our tangible patrimony. When the exhibit “The Welcomes” opened in New York this week, I could not stop thinking about the connection to our intangible heritage. A small selection of photographs of Galician immigration in the United States may help us better understand the history of our country at the start of the twentieth century. Moments in our history that would probably never be visible if not for the documentation work of its two curators, the journalist Luís Argeo and the Hispanist and NYU professor, James Fernández. Theirs is a generous exercise to regain that forgotten patrimony.