Colombia has set the rules for excavating the wreck of the legendary galleon San José, one of the largest of the Spanish armada, sunk three centuries ago off the Caribbean coast of this country, and for “the economic exploitation” of its treasures, we learned from official sources.
The contents of the wreckage of the ship, located in 2015 and which according to experts contains at least 200 tons of gold, silver and emeralds, cannot be marketed because it is considered cultural heritage in Colombia.
Companies or individuals interested in excavations will have to sign a ‘contract’ with the state and submit to the government a detailed inventory of their finds and plans for their ‘conservation’ and possible ‘economic exploitation’, according to a presidential decree made public. Thursday.
The government wants the treasures to be exhibited “in a museum of shipwrecked ships” and become “a source of pride for Colombia, the Caribbean and the world,” Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez said. in a press release.
Long the dream of all treasure seekers on the planet, this galleon was sunk by the British fleet on the night of June 7, 1708 off Cartagena de Indias (north-west).
The San José transported gold, silver and precious stones from the Spanish colonies in America to the court of King Philip V. Only a few of the 600 members of its crew survived the sinking.
At the end of 2015, while treasure seekers of all persuasions had been tracking the San José for decades, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, announced the discovery of the exact location of the wreck, thanks in particular to its unique bronze cannons, with dolphins engraved on it.
Mr. Santos then presented it as “the most precious treasure ever discovered in the history of mankind” and offered to finance the rescue operation with part of the wealth found.
But his successor Ivan Duque ordered the freezing of the file and the award of the contract to a private operator in order to guarantee that the recovered loot would remain in Colombia.
“It would have been totally irresponsible to deliver this exceptional heritage for the benefit of a few antique dealers, a shame,” said Ms. Ramirez.
The remains of the San José are located at a depth between 600 and 1,000 meters, which constitutes a technological and scientific challenge for future excavations.
Experts estimate the cost of the operation at $70 million.
Spain and indigenous Bolivians continue to claim ownership of the sunken galleon while it was carrying wealth from the Viceroyalty of Peru. But Colombia maintains that the remains of the boat as well as its precious cargo are its “entire” property.