Galeón San José: indigenous people of Bolivia will visit the country at the end of the month to verify recovery work

Galeón San José: indigenous people of Bolivia will visit the country at the end of the month to verify recovery work
Galeón San José: indigenous people of Bolivia will visit the country at the end of the month to verify recovery work

Gold ingots, flowery tableware, swords, a grail, cannons. Colombia revealed never before seen images of the San José galleon, sunk three centuries ago in the Caribbean with a great treasure. (Credit: AFP)

A representation of the ancestral Qhara Qhara people, originally from the territory that is now Bolivia, plans to visit Colombia at the end of May to learn the details of how the recovery work of the San José Galleon, which was transporting a valuable cargo of gold when it sank off the coast of Cartagena in 1708, a time when the country was part of the kingdom of Spain.

The indigenous people of that community would be waiting to see when exploration will begin in the waters of the Colombian Caribbean. where the wreck is located, so that at least one of its leaders, possibly Tata Samuel Flores, travels to the heroic city, as confirmed to the Spanish news agency. EFE.

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Precisely, Flores represents the Qhara Qhara in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Cidh) where he initiated a claim so that part of the valuable elements found in the shipwreck be delivered to his people. as a historical claim, since it ensures that the gold and silver that the boat carried was extracted from the Bolivian hills where they live.

The indigenous leader seeks to be accompanied by a representative from each of the 10 villages, which are known as ‘markas’, of native nation, although he acknowledged that transportation is an issue that is complicated for them.

Added in EFE who are optimistic about the results of the scientific research being carried out on the historical value of the pieces that the ship would contain, although he reiterated that they do not seek profit with the pieces of valuable metals, but rather their preservation.

Photograph provided by Samuel Flores, taken on April 2, 2024, of Samuel Flores, one of the leaders of the Qhara Qhara nation, located in the Bolivian region of Potosí. EFE/ Samuel Flores

“We do not want to commercialize the gold and silver of the galleon, we want it to be declared a common asset, to be preserved in a museum on dry land,” He stated in another interview that he gave to the Spanish agency at the beginning of April.

However, he stressed that the pieces of the ship go to Spain, where they also have claims, while the rest are obtained by their nation.

“You can take the wood, cannons and vessels from the galleon, we as a living indigenous nation want to recover what was looted from our homes and hills,” he expressed on that occasion.

For the indigenous leader, if this happens, It would be an act of justice for the ancestral peoples of the South American country and especially for the Qhara Qhara.

At the beginning of May, the President of the Republic, Gustavo Petro, also announced that he will meet with the King of Spain, Felipe VI, and the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, to work on the issue. although he announced that only the treasure would remain of the ship: “The Galleon, the wood, the clothing no longer exist,” he stated.

Aware of the discovery, the Qhara Qhara sent Flores to Colombia in 2016, where he met with authorities of the then Colombian Government and the General Maritime and Port Directorate.

In 2020, Colombia designated the San José galleon as “an asset of cultural interest,” initiated scientific investigation and emphasized that the value of the ship cannot be evaluated in monetary terms.

Last February, the Bolivian indigenous people had first contact with the Government of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, and an agreement was reached on their “inclusion” in the exploration, as Flores recalled.

Community Qhara Qhara has around 28,000 inhabitants in the Bolivian areas of Potosí and Chuquisaca.

The San José Galleon sank in 1708 – credit National Navy

Apart from the Qhara Qhara, The Killacas, Carangas and Chichas communities sent a letter to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to review the legal security of the recovery process of the San José Galleon, in accordance with the plans in Colombia.

They stated on that occasion that they could cause a risk to the archaeological heritage that would be in Colombian waters and other countries in America that were territories of the Crown, because “opens a way to remove these important deposits from international law that could protect them”.

If its cultural exploitation generates economic returns, it would be an aberration if a significant part of them is not directed towards improving the well-being of these communities.“, linked for centuries to exploitation in conditions clearly unequal to those enjoyed by the other subjects of the Crown of Castile,” they explained.

The galleon San José was sunk by a fleet of English privateers on June 8, 1708 while sailing towards Cartagena de Indias, in northern Colombia. According to accounts from the time, she carried around 11 million eight- escudo coins in gold and silver that she had collected at the Portobelo fair (Panama).

The announcement of the discovery of the shipwreck in December 2015 sparked a legal dispute between Colombia and Spain. This is because they consider it to be “a ship of state” under their flag at the time, and UNESCO standards would support their claim of ownership.

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