Ponce, Puerto Rico (UCTP Taíno News) – Tomorrow at 9am, the President of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos, Elba Anaca Lugo will issue a public statement concerning a recent archeological “discovery” in Ponce, Puerto Rico via University of Puerto Rico Radio (WRTC 89.7 FM). Lugo’s statement will highlight the declaration issued by the Consejo General and the Caney Quinto Mundo in response to this major archeological find said to date back from 600 A.D. to 1500 A.D. Lugo will also note violations observed by the local indigenous Taíno community in relation to this already controversial case.
The Taíno archeological site was uncovered last week while land was being cleared for construction of a dam to control flooding in the area.
At the site a number of unique archeological finds have already been documented including monolithic stones displaying petroglyphs (carvings) that are surrounding ceremonial plazas as well as burial grounds. At least one of the stone monoliths depicted a human figure with frog legs similar to one found at another site – Caguana - in the island’s mountainous interior.
Although local archeologists have been aware of the historic importance of the area since at least 1985, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture has called for the construction to stop as heavy machinery has already destroyed important artifacts. The investigation and the “discovery” is one that is sure to bring the subject of ancient indigenous culture back into to the spotlight on the island. The case however is already amidst controversy regarding the construction permits, their relation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the island’s Institute of Culture.
Same Old Story
Local Taíno leaders and activists are all too familiar with the scenario unfolding in Ponce. In July 2005, a group of indigenous community leaders entered the Caguana Ceremonial Center in Utuado to mount a peaceful protest to not only bring attention to condition of that “park” but the ongoing destruction of sacred sites around the island. This historic action, which ended in the arrests of several Taíno leaders, is known locally and internationally as “El Grito Indigena Taíno de Caguana.”
Reports indicate that at this new archeological discovery in Ponce, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave permission for the construction to begin with evidence that there was the potential for a major find in the area. As in other similar cases, the U.S. Army Corps is said to have already removed major artifacts to undisclosed locations in the U.S. One question locals have concerns the Puerto Rican Institute of Cultural and if it was aware of and allowed the U.S. Army Corps to engage in this practice without challenge.
At least a year before “El Grito de Caguna”, local Taíno leaders raised the alarm about another major archeological site that was being destroyed to make way for construction. This case occurred in Arecibo at “Ojo del Agua.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Institute of Culture were also involved in this case and again, many unique artifacts have left Puerto Rico without pubic knowledge or consultation. The Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos and the Caney Mundo brought the destruction at Arecibo to the attention of both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Institute. The local Taíno called for a halt to the construction and for consultative meetings to discuss their concerns but their requests were ignored. The construction continued and the destruction to that site remains an inconceivable loss barely mentioned by local media.
“The lack of respect for the local community and the continuous destruction and looting of our national patrimony were among the major reasons why we chose to enter Caguana and symbolically reclaim the site through our protest.” stated Elba Anaca Lugo.
“These corrupt practices have been going on in Boriken (Puerto Rico) for many years and we, the Taíno People have continuously attempted to bring these cases to the attention of the government authorities who in turn continue to ignore our concerns.” continued Lugo. “This is a violation of our basic human rights.”
Speaking on behalf of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP), Roberto Mucaro Borrero stated “The UCTP is in full support of the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos and the Caney Quinto Mundo with relation to their declaration concerning the ancient Taíno site recently found in Ponce, Puerto Rico.”
“As they represent the concerns of the local indigenous community, the UCTP looks toward the Consejo General and the Caney Quinto Mundo for guidance in this situation and will do all that it can to highlight their exclusion from the consultation process” noted Borrero.
Representatives of the Consejo General visited the site on Saturday, October 27, 2007 to survey the situation first-hand as well as to perform traditional ceremony on behalf of their ancestors. Lugo’s statement and commentary on UPR radio tomorrow morning is the first in a series that the Consejo General de Tainos Borincanos will dedicate to this issue.
Photo: Prof. Elia Vega García