The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, announced this Monday that they found two ships near the area where the Spanish galleon San José is, sunk off Cartagena de Indias in the 18th century by English corsairs and whose wreck was found in 2015.
“We have already found two additional vessels: one vessel that is from the colonial period and another that, from the point of view of preliminary analysis, corresponds to the Republican period of our history,” Duque said in a statement.
In addition, he assured that they have “history of around a dozen similar vessels”, whose location they are investigating with teams from the Navy.
The president explained that they bought “equipment in recent years to be able to reach the depths and have the best images” and at the same time protect “the integrity of the treasure” and preserve and protect it until the extraction can be carried out, whose rescue is in tender.
“In recent years, with these technologies we were able to reach a level of precision never seen before,” said Duque, who added that this equipment has also been used to carry out explorations “where there was prior preliminary information on possible shipwrecks in similar times” and Thus they have reached the location of these two boats.
This equipment also made it possible to verify, according to the commander of the Navy, Admiral Gabriel Pérez, that “the area where the San José Galleon is located had not been intervened in any way by anthropic means or by the hand of man.”
The General Maritime Director, José Joaquín Amézquita, also explained that other finds have been discovered in the photographs of the San José Galleon, such as intact crockery from the time, with the galleon’s insignia, or details of the cannons made in Seville and Cádiz on the year 1655.
There are also macuquinas (the coin minted by hand in Spanish America), a gold ingot and the crew’s swords. “What we are talking about is an important wealth that has a lot to tell us about our past,” said Amézquita.
The San José was sunk by a fleet of English corsairs on June 8, 1708 when it was on its way to Cartagena de Indias loaded, according to chronicles of the time, with nearly 11 million gold and silver eight-escudo coins that it had collected in the fair of Portobelo (Panama).
After the announcement of the discovery of the wreck, in December 2015, disputes arose between Colombia and Spain because the latter country claims that, because it is a “state ship”, it is protected by the rules of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco) to claim ownership.
The current Colombian government has assured that it will not pay for the rescue of the San José with the assets found in the wreck, as the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) had planned.
To rescue the San José, the previous Colombian Executive launched a contracting process through a public-private alliance that would be paid mainly with pieces rescued from the wreck, but the Administration of his successor, Iván Duque, suspended it for fear that may lose national heritage.
The tender for this alliance was declared void last March because, once again, the Duque government indicated that its priority was to preserve it “as protected cultural heritage” and does not want to deliver part of the heritage as payment.
After declaring this call void, the Government will make a new one with international experts and archaeologists to make a contract for the extraction of the galleon.
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