Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the trail to Spanish treasure?

Once again our good buddy Homer has saved my bacon by giving me yet another treasure story to post for our readers. Thank you Homer!

This one takes us to Mexico and the 1930's. It is being researched/hunted for by some underwater archies from Mexico.

Maybe it's just me but I'm thinking that if any great treasure is found in Mexico it will never make it where the archies think it should go. We may never hear of it again except in rumors or government documents that show up many years later.

From the web:

Mexico City – Starting from a watch dial, Mexican researchers are following a number of clues to find a purported treasure from Spain, while also hoping to find a survivor of that story that goes back to the 1930s exile of Spanish Republicans to Mexico.

The 7-centimeter (2 3/4-inch) watch dial was found Nov. 20 by divers from the underwater archaeology division of Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, at the bottom of a lake in the crater of Nevado de Toluca volcano, at 4,200 meters (13,770 feet) above sea level.

The watch is related to other objects, including a locket and some boxes bearing the name of the Spanish bank Monte de Piedad de Madrid, which were found in the same lake in the 1960s by members of Mexico's Hombres Rana (Frogmen) Club, who kept them in a private collection.

The pieces might all be related to a treasure said to have been brought to Mexico in 1939 by Republican Spaniards who brought them from Monte de Piedad de Madrid - a savings bank now known as Caja Madrid - and from the Spanish central bank to help support the exiles.

The story remained literally submerged for the following decades until this year a group of archaeologists, led by Roberto Junco, climbed Nevado de Toluca volcano and descended to the bottom of Lake of the Sun, which has a depth of 12 meters (39 feet) and a water temperature of 5 C (41 F).

After several days of searching they found a watch face that is now being restored and studied.

Junco, who knew the story of the divers' club that in the mid-20th century found several objects in that lake, met one of them two years ago, who showed him photos taken at the time the discovery was made of pieces that might reasonably have belonged to the "Spanish treasure."

The story goes back to 1939, when Gen. Francisco Franco defeated forces loyal to the Spanish Republic.

That year the ship Vita set sail from a French port with Spanish Republicans aboard, who were apparently carrying objects of value packed in 120 boxes that are said to have been worth $300 million at the time.

That "treasure" is believed to have been amassed by the Spanish socialist politician Indalecio Prieto, a man on good terms with then-Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas, who welcomed the Republicans and their children, from then on known as "the children of Morelia."

Historian Flor Trejo said that the Republican Spaniards are believed to have stripped the gold from watches and other pieces and then threw the mechanisms and dials into the volcanic lake.

On that point, Junco cited some researchers who say that Mexico's central bank bought the melted-down gold from valuable jewelry and coin collections, but he warned that this has not been documented and so falls within the realm of speculation.

Trejo is in charge of pursuing the clues provided by the watch dial and the pieces that the divers found in 1960.

She believes the watches came from Swiss factories and plans to ask for help from those still in business.

The idea is also to find some Spaniard or descendant who knows the history of this shipment, Trejo said, while Junco adds that an attempt must be made to "get to the individuals behind the objects."

Junco said that there is no certainty that the objects found at the bottom of the lake are part of the purported treasure - this is just one line of investigation, because there is another theory that a group of thieves came to the lake to get rid of part of their haul.

The research could take years, since according to Junco, "it has to be done as seriously as possible."

"This is one of those great mysteries that perhaps will never be solved. Maybe someone left a statement that tells all. The goal is to find somebody who owned one of these watches, to reconstruct the journey of those objects that somehow came to Mexico, some of which were dumped in the lagoon of a volcano. It's a story that seems taken from a detective novel," Junco said.

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