Despite efforts by official preservation agencies to update these practices towards a widening of narratives and representation by different social groups in Brazilian society, there remains a conceptual and practical framework that reinforces the hegemonic narratives of the State towards the idea of a common past, shared by all, that affirms the heritage of certain social groups representing the ruling classes. Thus, it is necessary for social groups that defend the right to memory and cultural heritage to create strategies to organize themselves and act politically as civil society towards the construction of comprehensive public policies to guarantee these rights.
The spaces related to the histories and memories of perons affected by Hansen’s disease are part, therefore, of a set of other spaces that, for a long time, were not considered in processes for the preservation cultural heritage, which were always related to the commemoration of national memory and official narratives of the past.
There was no place in history for anything related to tragedy, oppression, and pain. With the expansion of the concept of cultural heritage in Brazil expressed, as mentioned above, in article 216 of the Constitution, and with the struggles of social movements, the protection of sites related to these aspects of history has been expanded in Brazil and in the world. There is a growing interest in the so-called "heritage of pain”, “difficult heritage" or "sensitive heritage" of populations and social groups that had their narratives suffocated and made invisible.
UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization - recognizes as world heritage sites Hiroshima in Japan, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland, Robben Island in South Africa, and Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janeiro (the point of arrival of the African diaspora and the largest port for enslaved people in Latin America). These sensitive historical sites awaken the memory of traumatic and painful events that reveal the history of human rights violations.
In the case of the spaces related to Hansen’s disease, the value is not only in their historical aspects, but also in their symbolic values that synthesize the tragedy of mistaken public health policies, which adopted a hygienic ‘cleaning’ perspective of problems that, in fact, were social problems arising from an overwhelming modernization process in Brazil which had, as a consequence, the social exclusion of more socially vulnerable groups.
Guaranteeing the use of these spaces aligned to the stories of these people gives a sense of reparation, on the part of the Brazilian state - in the sense that the public health policies that have brought so much harm to these people have already been recognized as mistaken.
Thus, the exercise of educational practices that promote the mobilization of social groups that live in and relate to these spaces on a daily basis is fundamental. It is important here to state that educational experiences in valuing heritage are more effective when integrated with the various dimensions of people's lives. In other words, they must make sense and be perceived in everyday practices. In the case of educational actions for the preservation and appreciation of cultural heritage, instead of preserving places, buildings and objects for their value in themselves, in a reification process, it is necessary to associate cultural assets with everyday life continuously, as a creation of symbols and circulation of meanings.
For the practice of this principle, it is essential to recognize the affective dimension of heritage. According to Meneses (2012), the affective values of heritage are in the field of the constitution of self-image and identity of social groups and are constituted by subjective relationships that are established with the assets. Thus, a challenge arises: the recognition of these values that, for the author, is not to be confused with conducting opinion surveys, but it is about seeking to understand the universe of representations and the social imagination.
Therefore, only through processes of truly listening to different narratives about cultural heritage is it possible to begin to access the valuations that are revealed by different arguments emanating from different social agents.
A tool that contributes to this perspective are the participatory inventories. These are instruments of social mobilization that advocate the protagonism of the subjects in the identification of their cultural heritage.