Citizens or communities have particular ways of relating to heritage in general, resulting from their own valuation and appropriation processes. Knowledge and recognition of said heritage it is the reflection of their new ways of life, of the mutation of their values, of their desire or not for their protection, of how they decide to live with their past, of the conservation criteria, etc.
In the Krakow menu “Principles for the Conservation and Restoration of the Built Heritage”, from the year 2000, clearly states: “Each community, taking into account its collective memory and aware of its past, is responsible for the identification as well as the management of its assets.
“The individual elements of this heritage carry many values, which can change over time. This variability of specific values in the elements defines the particularity of each heritage.
“Because of this process of change, each community develops an awareness and knowledge of the need to care for the values of its heritage.”
Thus, starting from that look of the heritage as a social construction, the intervention projects to be developed must strengthen local identities and guarantee the enhancement of heritage, in a collective, programmed and consensual task between specialists, officials and society.
As we approach the north of Argentina, to the heritage of Santiago del Estero, we find numerous testimonies scattered throughout its extensive geography, which in some cases are towns as forgotten as they are old.
Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, in Sotelo, Santiago del Estero.
In his book Old Towns, Orestes Di Lullo (1898-1983) affirms: “Tour these towns. Some of them are contemporaries of the conquest. Others were born before and belong to prehistory, others were formed soon after. But they were all great, they fulfilled their destiny, they aged from hardships like the mothers who gave everything, even joy, and when the future and civilization offered in abundance the benefits of their scientific conquests, these historical peoples, instead of increasing, are destroyed and crumbled like the dust of its buildings; Instead of emerging, they are buried and nothing remains of them but the memory of their past greatness.
But there are villages that last … where their inhabitants, committed, protect their most significant buildings, as is the case of the town of Sotelo and its chapel Our Lady of the Rosary.
Sotelo is located on the left bank of the Dulce River, in the Rio Hondo department. It was part of the extensive lands given to Captain Pedro Sotelo de Narváez in the 16th century; who was Lieutenant of Governor (in 1580 and 1588) and Mayor of Santiago del Estero (1587); and around 1687 it was a significant crossing of the wagon road from Potosí to Buenos Aires (old Camino Real).
The Sotelo chapel, in Santiago del Estero, supports a quebracho wood tympanum.
“The current chapel is already more than a century old. It was erected by pious hands a few meters from the previous one, destroyed in 1817 by an earthquake. Presents the appearance of old buildings. Your front or facade he holds up a tympanum made of quebrachos wood. I have long seen the beams and the rustic walls and the border of blackish tiles and the frayed reed and I have immediately remembered the medieval projections and the simple and primitive colonial architecture. It is located in the center of a field fenced with wire, which it shares with the wild peasant cemetery, and whose graves have been surrounding it as if they were looking, gently lying on the hill, for the shadow of their protection.
(…) Then, on the base, the factory continues in thick adobe walls to the roof of reed straw and mud, covered with colonial tiles. The roof, for its part, extends on both sides, forming two galleries supported by quebracho pillars, which are precariously aligned. The impression that is collected is sweet and melancholic. “
Inside, “the ceiling, made of whitewashed reeds, is supported by thick beams of red quebracho, bent and twisted by time. In the background, separated from the boat by an old wooden balustrade, an adobe altar has been built and in it the niches, where the images of San Francisco, Santo Domingo and a tiny Christ dressed in a ‘robe and skirt’ rest. . A tiny terracotta virgin also rests on this altar. She is the patron of Sotelo ”, describes Di Lullo.
Next to the Sotelo chapel is the cemetery. , Santiago del Estero. Architecture Journal
Currently, the chapel still keeps inside chasubles, bibles and ancient missals written in Latin (18th century), the images of the saints and the tiny Virgin of the Rosary; whose devotion and worship dates back to the time of the arrival of the Dominican order during the first foundational expeditions in Santiago.
Its state of conservation is the result of collective actions of the locals, who with a sense of belonging and deep respect, seek to protect it; even recently, the parishioners mobilized to recover the bells that had mysteriously “disappeared” and managed to have them restored.
But the commitment made by the community to its heritage, although essential, is not enough. It is necessary to guarantee their protection. Protection understood as permanence and diffusion.
Sotelo is located just 18 km from the most important tourist city in the province, Termas de Rio Hondo, where a gravel road bordered by the Santiago mount leads to the Chapel and its cemetery.
It is time for new actions, at different scales and in an interdisciplinary way, to achieve its link with said tourist center, which create circuits to know the Chapel, its history and its meanings and thus make it more affordable. On the other hand, it is necessary to restore it, respecting its essential materiality, its construction system, its relics, etc.
As Jorge E. Hardoy argues, “Experience teaches us that what is wanted and appreciated is preserved, and what is known is wanted and appreciated”. For this reason, the chapel declared a Provincial Historical Monument (Law No. 7,080, year 2012) should be included in the patrimonial “repertoire” at both the provincial and national levels, first as a historical document that commemorates events and circumstances of the past and then in its materiality, where spreading its existence implies safeguarding and strengthening its architectural, artistic and symbolic values, which help us to understand and appreciate where we come from and define where we want to go.