The market site, where some believe a tunnel exists. The market site in Totolapan, where some believe a tunnel exists.

Project halted over possible tunnel, relics

But mayor says the only relic is the market's chief opponent

A new market is in the works for the city of Totolapan, Morelos, but some residents are convinced, despite archaeological studies to the contrary, that there’s a five-century-old tunnel under the site, and possibly some relics and pots of gold.

The project, due to be completed next year, has been halted by older indigenous residents and others who claim it would be erected over a tunnel built in the 1500s. They say evidence of the historical construction has been passed down orally by previous generations who always spoke of the tunnel, which supposedly connected the city’s church to a former convent, as a fact.

Florentino Vergara, 70, a resident of Totolapan all his life, says that 28 years ago he saw the tunnel during the construction of an underground cistern.

The city’s elders wrote to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to request the site be studied with further excavations and the demolition of the now unused cistern. When the institute didn’t reply, the citizens of Totolapan decided to do it themselves.

On August 5, after taking down one of the cistern walls, the townspeople found what they claim is the mouth of the tunnel, although the only structure visible is a wall of dirt.

The excavation site has been since cordoned off with a group of people mounting guard at all times, while a committee has been created to raise 20,000 pesos to purchase a scanner and hire an archaeologist.

But INAH’s state representative says that institute personnel have performed 15 studies on the grounds and found little more than tepalcates, or fragments of earthenware pots.

Víctor Hugo Valencia Valeria will not acknowledge the existence of any archaeological relics, stating that INAH reviewed the market project during a 10-month period and, finding no irregularities, authorized its construction.

The chief of INAH’s legal department has said that all work on the Totolapan market will be performed in compliance with the law, and with the presence of institute personnel on the site.

If any relics existed, added Alma Rosa Cienfuegos Domínguez, the archaeologists would already have found them.

Opponents, however, continue to insist there is not only a tunnel but “several pots filled with gold.”

The mayor of Totolapan was rather more dismissive of the claims than the archaeological authorities, and declared that “the only relic is the man stirring up citizens,” alluding to Humberto Galicia Morales, church steward and one of the main opponents of the market.

“This small group of dissatisfied people hallucinates the existence of relics. It would be a happy moment if a ruin was found because Totolapan would become more famous and attract more tourism,” added María de Jesús Vital Díaz.

Galicia claims that more than 75% of local residents are Catholic which is why they are demanding the preservation of the tunnel. They also want to build a museum and attract tourism.

According to the townspeople, the grounds belong to the convent, “and we won’t let the mayor do whatever she wants with the cultural heritage of Totolapan,” said Galicia.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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