Four personnel from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) were attacked by municipal police Monday in San Juan del Río, Querétaro, claims the institute’s delegate to the state.
Rosa Estela Reyes García told a press conference that a formal complaint has been issued, and warned there could be international implications in irregularities in the construction of a footbridge next to a historic monument.
The historic monument is El Puente de la Historia, or the Bridge of History, a 110-meter-long bridge built in the early 1700s across the San Juan river, making it the entrance to the Bajío region of the country for travelers coming from Mexico City.
Its location made it an important landmark for armed forces during the war of independence in the early 1800s, and the Mexican Revolution 100 years later.
The bridge was also part of the 2,560-kilometer Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior Land), an active trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, from 1598 to 1882.
Today, both enjoy some protection after having been recognized as a cultural world heritage site by UNESCO in 2010, meaning that any changes must go through an approval process. But according to Reyes García, the process was breached last year.
It was in the interest of preserving the integrity of the bridge that the municipal government of San Juan del Río and INAH officials began considering their options in 2015. One was to close the bridge to vehicular traffic and turn it into a pedestrian-only footbridge.
INAH’s position was that the old bridge should become a footbridge and that another bridge should be built for vehicle traffic, Reyes García said.
But when it became evident there wasn’t enough money to build a new bridge for vehicles, the construction of a parallel footbridge was agreed upon, she explained, and a permit was issued last July.
But the terms of the license were breached late last year, she charged. The new bridge was not being built to the dimensions specified in the license, and attempts to have the municipality correct the situation were ignored.
As a result, INAH ruled December 28 that the project be suspended.
However, Reyes García said, work started anew on Saturday, a move that is “worrying, as the license and our recommendations have not been respected.”
She said that when INAH personnel showed up Monday with orders to halt the work, they were met by 14 municipal police officers and the encounter finished up as an “act of violent aggression” on the part of police.
Since the area of the Puente de la Historia is part of a larger cultural world heritage site protected by UNESCO, said Reyes, it is international organizations that must now determine what sanctions are applied to whoever is found responsible for the construction.