September 15, 2014
Please publish this letter in order to bring out cultural awareness and to stop illegal archeological excavations in the village of Sarteneja.
Last month I had the magnificent opportunity and pleasure to spend a few days in the beautiful and friendly village of Sarteneja, a place where any adventurous kid would want to live his childhood days. The lengthy and bumpy bus ride on that narrow coarse road is no deterrent for the amazing views and thrills which are experienced in the harmonious community. The thick greenish-brownish foliage along the roadside waits patiently for the rains just as the farmer looks helplessly at his droopy fields. The rain gods must be mad at the villagers for the silent sacrilege which is befalling upon the village.
Sarteneja is surrounded by the dense tropical forest and savannahs where the wildlife flourishes. So after a day of recreational fishing and swimming I decided to go bird-hunting with my slingshot. I was accompanied by a few friends and upon a few hours of trailing through the bushes we stumbled upon a hill no more than twenty feet high. There were about two other smaller ones near it but all of them were covered with trees and bushes.
Upon closer inspection of the hills I noticed that one of them had a clearing at one side. I was amazed and mad at the same time as I became aware of the sight. I was standing directly across an ancient Mayan ruin which had been illegally excavated. The hill had been dug until a wall was uncovered and it was then demolished in order to further the excavation as broken pieces of pottery were scattered all over the ground. Also squared and rectangular slaps of stone, belonging to the mall, were thrown around the hillside.
As I reached the village I began to question some confidential villagers and what I learnt was alarming. They told me that these Mayan ruins are located all over on the outskirts of the village, mostly on farmlands, going as far as Shipstern and also on the coast. They are not big in size but its importance to history and culture is priceless. What is alarming is that these sites are been illegally excavated and plundered indiscriminately without the intervention of the proper authority. The villagers are aware of a black market which purchases jade and Mayan relics. I was also informed that some of the white foreigners residing in the village are encouraging the pillage as they also buy the relics for their personal collections.
During my remaining days in the village I visited two other sites and they were in the same plundered condition. This is so sad because history is being destroyed and also sold irrecoverably. The department of archeology should investigate this big problem and thus teach the villagers the great importance of these archeological sites. The Sartenejeños’ heritage is at stake and something must be done about it. History must be told and not sold!
Moises F. Serna