In total, Brazil has 18 World Heritage Sites (called “patrimônios da humanidade” in Portuguese). In order to be considered a world heritage site, a location must have global importance, because the preservation of these sites must be an international interest. There are two types of world heritage sites: 1. Cultural and 2. Natural and the titles are decided by Unesco. In order to become a world heritage candidate, a site must first be indicated by by some national body. In Brazil, for example, the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) registers the natural sites, while the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan) registers cultural sites. The elected sites are then passed for pre-selection by Unesco. Every 6 months, the new world heritage sites are selected. Few are chosen: in the entire world there are around 800 World Heritage Sites all together. Obtaining the title of World Heritage is a difficult feat, but maintaining the title can be even more challenging, because every chosen site needs to have a complete preservation plan. For example, in Brazil, the Iguaçu National Park almost lost its title because of one trail which cut across a green area in the park. In order to preserve the park’s world heritage title, the trail needed to be closed.
Brazil’s Historical Centers (Centros Históricos)
Brazil has 6 protected historical centers. One that stands out is Pelourinho, in Salvador (BA), which won the title in 1985. Partially restored, the historic Bahian neighborhood Pelourinho preserves the architecture and Baroque art of the 17th century, when the city was the first Brazilian capital. Other Brazilian historical centers that have qualified as World Heritage Sites are: Ouro Preto (MG), honored in 1980, Olinda (PE-1982), São Luís (MA-1997), Diamantina (MG-1999) and Goiás (GO-2001).
Brazil’s Conservation Areas & Nature Reserves (Áreas de Conservação e Reservas Naturais)
This category includes extensive ecosystems with diversified flora and fauna, such as Brazil’s Pantanal (MS and MT), selected in 2000. Besides the enormous biodiversity, the location is home to unique phenomena, such as as the cycles of floods and droughts of the rivers that regulate the life of the region. Other Brazilian world heritage sites that fit into this category are: O Cerrado (GO-2001), Amazônia (AM-2003), the Atlantic forest Costa do Descobrimento (BA e ES-1999), the Atlantic Forest of the Southwest (SP e PR-1999), the islands Fernando de Noronha (PE) and Atol das Rocas (BA), chosen in 2001.
Brazil’s National Parks (Parques Nacionais)
Brazil’s world heritage sites in this category include the National Parks of Serra da Capivara (PI), chosen in 1991, Jaú (AM-2000) and Iguaçu (PR-1986). The National Park of Iguaçu is considered one of the most impressive National parks in the world for housing the majestic Iguassu Falls. On the advice of Unesco who chose Iguaçu park as a World Heritage Site, the evaluators emphasized ”the special, rare and natural beauty, containing an important ecosystem with rivers and waterfalls of exceptional beauty.”
Brazil’s Architectural Sites (Conjunto Arquitetônico)
In this category which honors important architectural projects, the only Brazilian title holder is the capital city of Brasília (DF). Located right in the heart of Brazil, the federal capital was born in 1956, and was the project of urban planner Lúcio Costa and the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. In 1987, Brasília won the title of World Heritage Site for being an example of modern architecture, thanks in part to innovation in the execution of the governmental buildings, constructed in harmony with the natural resources of the area.
Brazil’s Shrines & Ruins (Santuários e Ruínas)
In this category, Brazil has 2 World Heritage Sites. The first is the shrine of Bom Jesus de Matozinhos, in Congonhas do Campo (MG). erected in the 18th century and awarded in 1985, this site includes one of Brazil’s most beautiful churches, ornamented with sculptures by the artist Aleijadinho. The second location is the Ruínas de São Miguel (RS), a historic Catholic mission dating from the 17th century. Selected as a World Heritage Site in 1984, the area is considered a mark of the work of Jesuits in Brazil.