Santa Cruz ruins endangered?

The structures at Santa Cruz. More cenotes and other features have been located since this map was drawn.

Last week the Belize Information Service issued a press release concerning "Sustainable Development in Action at Ambergris Caye." The press release was printed in the Belize Indformation Service's weekly magazine and also Conexion, the Corozal weekly newspaper. The San Pedro Sun did not receive a copy of the press release and requested a copy on Wednesday, July 30. As of press time, this had not been received.

One expects the government propaganda service to present a biased picture, however, this release did more than that. The misinformation could lead to irretriveable loss of ruins in the area of the Basil Jones Airport, where work is being done on the old airport and roads by Nova Shrimp for First Company Ltd. who will receive land in return for their "investment." The release also does not indicate if proper permits were obtained for the work being done.

The press release as printed in Conexion read,

According to a member of the NACDC, the first phase of this on-going development project includes unearthing and refurbishing of an existing road and airstrip that was originally constructed in the early 50's by the Gulf Oil Company (which was searching for oil at that time).

Work on the road and airstrip commenced in the first week of June and is already underway. The existing road as well as the 1,800 runway has already been cleared as well as the existing road. A 150 by 300 ft. area has also been cleared and will be utilized as a parking ramp.

The next step will be the burning of the areas already cleared after which works will commence on paving of the roads.

According to a First Company official, 'we are moving as quickly as we can without causing any damage to any of the existing wildlife located in this area. And, with the construction of the airstrip, there will be easy access to Belize from Cancun as well as other areas.' Thus far, several stone walls, cinotes, and other evidence of previous dwelling has been found. These findings are being left untouched by workmen who are working hand in hand with the Archaeology and Environment Departments.

According to the Archaeological Commissioner, Mr. John Morris, the Department has conducted an inspection of the area and so far there has (sic) been no findings of anything that may be of importance. He stressed, however, that the Department will continue to work with First Company to ensure that if there are any artifacts in the area, they will be preserved as best as possible.

Surrounding the area under development are several pieces of land, property owned by individuals who are presently in need of easier access to their properties for development.

Provisions for this has (sic) also been taken into consideration as the two major access roads are being constructed to allow for heavy traffic between the airstrip and a commercial pier. Construction of this pier gets underway this week and will measure 20 by 100 by 50 feet.

With the implementation of both the pier and access roads, development of the area should move full speed ahead.

Phase two of the project will include the construction of a terminal and tarmac."

The press release gives the impression that much attention is given to the environment and archaeology. Unmentioned in the release is the role of Nova Shrimp in the "reconstruction" of the airstrip and the roads. Nova Shrimp is in the process of building a shrimp hatchery on land fronting the barrier reef.

At the Santa Cruz Mayan ruins, a great deal of work has been done in the last two decades by a variety of people, including Drs. Tom Guderjan and Herman Smith. They describe the Santa Cruz site as five mounds, 2-3 m. high) Upright stones delineate the final buildings on each mound. Ceramics collected on the site date from the Late and Terminal Classic periods. Six masonry structures, 2 to 4 meters high and in ruins but in excellent condition, loosely arranged around a plaza, were found by Dr. Herman Smith within the last few years. Late and Terminal Classic period ceramics were found here also. A number of fissures and artificial holes were also discovered, providing fresh water for the Mayans. "The discovery much increases Santa Cruz's importance in understanding the archaeology of the island." This seems to contradict Archaeological Commissioner Morris' statement that "There has (sic) been no findings of anything that may be of importance."

San Pedro Sun

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