MEXICO CITY.- As an acknowledgement to a life of dedication, the Society for Historical Archaeology of the United States of America elected Mexican underwater archaeologist Pilar Luna Erreguerena, to award her with the J.C. Harrington Medal, to be presented in Austin, Texas, in January 2011, as part of the 44th SHA conference.
For Pilar Luna, officer of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) Underwater Archaeology Sub Direction, this acknowledgement adds up to others awarded to her research, preservation and protection of archaeological heritage lying under the sea.
This heritage is vulnerable and highly appreciated by treasure hunters, who ask government for permission to explore waters, becoming necessary to resort to all instances possible to stop them, she declared.
Last year we were pressured by one of the most powerful enterprises, Odyssey Marine Exploration, from the United States, the same that Spain confronted regarding the Cisne Negro affaire, won after a difficult trial in 2009; a court in Tampa, Florida, determined that Spain had the possession of the pecio (shipwreck) identified as Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes frigate.
I think that cases won, she continued, must be announced, because it allows other countries to see that they can stop this hunt of private groups that offer governments a percentage of whatever they make.
She expressed that Odyssey has insisted to Mexican government regarding their interest of exploring Campeche waters to look for Nuestra Señora del Juncal admiral ship, which set sail from Cadiz in 1630 and wrecked with the other ships of the fleet in 1631, during their return.
We have conducted deep research in national and international archives, published by ethnohistorian Flor Trejo, named La Flota de la Nueva España, vicisitudes y naufragios (New Spain Fleet, 1630-1631. Vicissitudes and Wrecks), regarding the features of each ship. Until now, we have not found any of them, but we have precise information of the fleet itself and of the events that happened both in Spain and the New Spain, before, during and after the loss of the convoy.
The INAH Sub direction works jointly with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, which first Scientific and Technical Advisory Body meeting will take place in late April 2010, in Cartagena, Spain, with the presence of Pilar Luna as representative of Mexico, to establish guidelines and requisites that any project of underwater archaeology must fulfill.