As a dietary, cultural and social element greatly practiced and shared by different Mediterranean communities, the Mediterranean diet takes on a symbolic value in some communities, defined as “emblematic”. Emblematic communities, as described in the UNESCO candidacy dossier of the Mediterranean diet, are locally well-defined representative social groups of universal values declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, specifically responsible for the safeguarding and promotion of an element. The emblematic communities are the communities that for historical, scientific or qualitative reasons employ a particular significance together with the national communities of the seven nominated States (Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia and Cyprus). They establish a substantial part of their identity and continuity in this collective and ancestral experience that is the Mediterranean diet, fruit of ongoing trade, experiences and symbolic traditions, passed down from generation to generation, a cultural and social blend with strong regional character.
In recognizing the Mediterranean diet as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO distinguished seven emblematic communities where “the Mediterranean diet is still alive, transmitted, protected, celebrated and recognized as part of the shared Intangible Cultural Heritage”. The list of the emblematic communities was made official by the Declaration of Chefchaouen, in which seven Mediterranean communities committed themselves to the future safeguarding and promotion of the element that characterizes and combines them in one collective. The communities Pollica and Cilento were nominated in Italy, locations in which American physiologist Ancel Benjamin Keys resided for many years to study, elaborate and demonstrate the hypothesis of his studies on the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, which led him to formulate the hypothesis on the influence of lifestyle on such illnesses and the benefits of the application of the Mediterranean diet.
In addition to Pollica in the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Monti Alburni in Italy, UNESCO also recognized Koroni in Greece, Soria in Spain, and Chefchaouen in Morocco, which then followed with the village Agros in Cyprus, Tavira in Portugal, and the islands Brač and Hvar in Croatia, in 2013.
Since the Mediterranean Diet’s nomination to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage program, the emblematic communities have initiated and maintained a close collaboration guided by a series of meetings to safeguard and promote the Mediterranean diet. The first of these was held on March 31, 2010 in Chefchaouen, Morocco directly preceding the official consignment of the dossier in Paris and its evaluation by the Subsidiary Body.
In February of 2011, in Cilento, Italy, the emblematic communities convened for their second summit. Here the strategies, activities and initiatives were outlined to ensure that the Diet is safeguarded and preserved within Mediterranean countries and beyond, greatly benefiting (economically and otherwise) the products and traditions of these communities. Additionally, the communities identified a Mediterranean Diet Study Center in Pollica as a place of research and hospitality.
The third international summit of the emblematic communities was held in Koroni, Greece, in June of 2011 and was followed by a fourth in August 2012, again in Koroni. Finally, in April 2015, the decision was made to formalize a constitution of a European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) that unites the emblematic communities in a single entity for the planning of future strategies and initiatives to protect the Mediterranean Diet.