Cádiz, The Treasure Island for the Pirates of the 21st Century

More than 800 shipwrecks and thousands of tons of hidden silver and gold are estimated to be under the waters of Cadiz. Archaeologists, who recognize the risk of looting, claim that the greatest value of these wrecks is the historical information they provide.

Do not go to the Caribbean to think of pirates and gold and silver chests hidden in sunken ships. The fact that the history of this province is so coarse and that it has millenary cities through which different civilizations have passed has made its archaeological wealth extensive and varied. But not all is found with the naked eye and on land. War conflicts, pirate attacks, temporary or simple human errors have caused thousands of shipwrecks throughout 3,000 years of history. Hidden jewels that hide in the depths of the Atlantic, from Roman galleys to powerful galleons of the time when the sun did not shine in Spain.

Years ago, the Spanish Galleons Rescue Association calculated, only between Tarifa and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, some 820 registered sinkings, the vast majority, those who made the so-called Carrera de Indias, and almost a quarter of them, ships from America laden with gold, silver, pearls and precious stones that still rest on the bottom of the sea. “Archaeologists never talk about the wealth in economic terms of gold and silver. The real wealth is the historical information that has a wreck, “says Carmen García, head of the Center for Underwater Archeology, integrated into the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage through the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage of the Board and located in the Balneario de la Palma, on the Cádiz beach of La Caleta.

Since its implementation in 1997, the center has been working to establish measures aimed at developing correct underwater heritage protection through research, documentation, restoration and dissemination, this last point is one of the most important thanks to the lack of knowledge that exists among the large population in relation to this type of archeology, much more hidden than terrestrial. “We are aware of the gap between the two and in this regard, the underwater is a little forgotten, but we know that there are numerous archaeological sites, although today we know only a small part,” explains Carmen García, who lists around 100 sites underwater in Andalusia, although there are some 1,300 references to shipwrecks on the coasts of the community, most of them between Huelva and Gibraltar. “Many have been lost and others are preserved underwater and we do not know where they are. We have a long way to go and we must establish greater protection measures so that these deposits are maintained “.

In this sense, the head of the Cadiz archaeological centre mentions that one of the joint projects carried out with the Ministry of Culture of the Board is to legally protect all the underwater heritage through two figures: the archaeological zone and the area of servitude. “The first protects the spaces where there is evidence that there are remains, while the servitude protects the spaces in which a priori is assumed to exist.” In this regard, the documentary sources provide a lot of information to archaeologists and allow to protect these wrecks against the plundering and large companies of treasure hunters. One of the best known is Odyssey Marine Exploration, which became famous after in 2007 found under the waters of Cádiz the remains of the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, with 500,000 silver and gold coins, which led to a dispute between Spain and the American company that finally fell on the Spanish side , forcing Odyssey to return the treasure to our country.

“Although it had to return the booty, the profit that obtained the company was to make public the news of the finding of the Mercedes. Nothing else that’s why their actions went up a lot, “says Lieutenant Juan José Águila Navarro, head of the Historical Heritage group of the Central Operational Unit (UCO) of the Civil Guard. Águila admits the difficulty that often involves fighting against these companies, which have large budgets that are used to loot the deposits hidden on the seabed. “We are talking about large localization media that sometimes do not have our own centres of underwater archeology. To prospect, they use very expensive equipment: magnetometers, side-scan sonar, remote observation vehicles … “.

But sometimes you do not have to spend millions of dollars to find a wreck. Word of mouth, transmitted from parents to children by any detail a priori nimio, as a finding of coins or any other rest in any fishing day-recently the UCO carried out an operation in which arrested three people, divers dedicated to the extraction of red coral-causes many have located any type of shipwreck. And as Lieutenant Aguila himself recognizes, “on the coast of Cádiz there is a great risk of spoliation, because it is a difficult means of moving in the face of the great traffic of vessels that exist. And although we have comprehensive external surveillance systems, in the aquatic environment it is easy to work. Sometimes it is enough for them to drop the load overboard if they see that we catch them. And having the location,

The Archivo de Indias and the shipwreck expert “persecuted” by law

However, the main means by which treasure hunting companies work are the documentary sources, and it is the General Archive of the Indies that has the most comprehensive and largest number of them: 43,000 files, 80 million pages and about 8,000 maps and drawings that come, fundamentally, from the organisms in charge of the administration of the overseas territories. Claudio Bonifacio, Italian born in Trieste, has spent hundreds of hours between the walls of the emblematic Sevillian building studying each document.

Considered a corsair of the 21st century – nevertheless, these were sailors licensed by kings and emperors to capture treasures -, he has given name and surnames to hundreds of shipwrecks, he has written scientific treatises and books, he has lectured, He has worked for European and American universities and for oil companies looking for marine deposits. It has also done it for countries such as Cuba or Italy to lay cables or recover treasures submerged in sovereign waters.

It affirms that in the coasts of Cádiz there are 800 tons of gold and 12,000 of silver. “The other Bank of Spain. A fortune that sleeps for hidden interests. Everything that has to do with gold and silver are hidden interests, no matter what archaeologists say. ” Of course, he denies that he is a treasure hunter or a pirate. “If you’re going to get something without permission, it’s piracy. I am a person who is legally dedicated to participating in projects where there have always been permits from competent authorities, “he argues. It has also done it for countries such as Cuba or Italy to lay cables or recover treasures submerged in sovereign waters. It affirms that in the coasts of Cádiz there are 800 tons of gold and 12,000 of silver. “The other Bank of Spain. A fortune that sleeps for hidden interests.

Everything that has to do with gold and silver are hidden interests, no matter what archaeologists say. ” Of course, he denies that he is a treasure hunter or a pirate. “If you’re going to get something without permission, it’s piracy. I am a person who is legally dedicated to participating in projects where there have always been permits from competent authorities, “he argues. It has also done it for countries such as Cuba or Italy to lay cables or recover treasures submerged in sovereign waters. It affirms that in the coasts of Cádiz there are 800 tons of gold and 12,000 of silver. “The other Bank of Spain. A fortune that sleeps for hidden interests.

Everything that has to do with gold and silver are hidden interests, no matter what archaeologists say. ” Of course, he denies that he is a treasure hunter or a pirate. “If you’re going to get something without permission, it’s piracy. I am a person who is legally dedicated to participating in projects where there have always been permits from competent authorities, “he argues. Everything that has to do with gold and silver are hidden interests, no matter what archaeologists say. ” Of course, he denies that he is a treasure hunter or a pirate. “If you’re going to get something without permission, it’s piracy.

I am a person who is legally dedicated to participating in projects where there have always been permits from competent authorities, “he argues. Everything that has to do with gold and silver are hidden interests, no matter what archaeologists say. ” Of course, he denies that he is a treasure hunter or a pirate. “If you’re going to get something without permission, it’s piracy. I am a person who is legally dedicated to participating in projects where there have always been permits from competent authorities, “he argues.

However, the shipwreck expert, who started out in this world in 1981 and from whom Arturo Pérez Reverte relied on one of his characters in La Carta esférica, feels persecuted by the Spanish justice system. In 2006, he was detained by the Civil Guard in the framework of Operation Bay 2, in which an alleged network was dismantled dedicated to the pillaging of underwater archaeological remains in the waters of Cadiz on board a ship with the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadine. Louisa, moored in El Puerto de Santa María. Bonifacio affirms that everything started from a denunciation of a private person to the Civil Guard, informing that they were plundering archaeological remains in the Bay of Cádiz from the Louisa, financed by a US company.

The Italian says that everything was a trap against him by Odyssey and the whistleblower, who turned out to be a salaried person of the American company. And all this, according to a private investigator hired by Bonifacio, to create “an effective smokescreen to eliminate competitors, criminalize experts (including Claudio Bonifacio) and overlap their plunder on the rights of other treasure hunters licensed by Spanish authorities.”

Aerial view of Caños de Meca, with the Trafalgar Lighthouse in the background. In these waters one of the greatest naval battles between Spain and England took place.

Aerial view of Caños de Meca, with the Trafalgar Lighthouse in the background. In these waters one of the greatest naval battles between Spain and England took place.

Twelve years later, the investigation of the case remains stagnant and the Louisa still stranded in El Puerto de Santa María, despite a claim of 10 million dollars from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to Spain for the retention of the vessel that, according to this government, I was only doing hydrocarbon prospections. A story of corsairs and pirates, still unfinished, that Robert Louis Stevenson himself would have signed.

 

 

Source: La Voz del Sur