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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Critics of proposed transfer of Indigenous site to Utuado say it would lead to privatization

A proposal headed for a vote in the island Senate would transfer the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to Utuado, giving the town far-reaching control of the historical site.

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Senate may vote this week on a joint resolution that would transfer the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center to the municipality of Utuado in a move chided by indigenous groups and one senator who argued it would lead to its privatization.

The Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center site is the Caribbean’s most important Taíno archeological site, offering a unique glimpse into the indigenous cultures that inhabited the region before Spanish colonization, according to the center’s website. Administered and protected since 1955 by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, the site has 10 “bateys” (ceremonial ball courts), stone monoliths and countless petroglyphs.

Joint Senate Resolution 45 would transfer the site from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to Utuado, giving the town not only management control of the site but allowing it to carry out “all the actions that it deems necessary and agreeable to reach its maximum potential use for the sake of the economic development of the region and its municipality.”

Section 5 of the resolution will allow Utuado to reach agreements with other municipalities, nonprofit groups and private entities to maximize the resources and use of the facilities.

Citizen Victory Movement Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli objected to the legislation in social media, arguing that it would lead to the site’s privatization, the reason given by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture for its opposition to the resolution.

“We aren’t going to allow them to hand over the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana to the municipality of Utuado,” Nogales Molinelli said.

“The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture is opposed with reason,” she said. “This SJR 45 would permit the privatization and transfer of ownership of a sacred place.”

A vote on the bill is slated for Tuesday.

The Latino Rebels group wrote that the Higuayagua Caribeña Taíno group, whose website says it is dedicated to the pursuit of ancestral knowledge, cultural endeavors and strengthening of the Taino community in the Caribbean, wrote to Sen. Albert Torres Berríos (District 6 Guayama) urging him to oppose the legislation.

The group said it is against the commodification of the sacred ancestral lands of Borikén and that the privatization of such lands is a violation of its members’ Indigenous sovereignty.

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