Cultura

El museo de los huracanes y naufragios

Interior del museo

La República Dominicana abre en las viejas Reales Atarazanas una colección de 1.200 piezas recuperadas en sus costas por el hundimiento de 12 galeones y naves entre los siglos XV y XIX

pesar de su tremenda envergadura, en los galones y navíos españoles que durante siglos surcaron los mares del mundo, no había apenas sitio para los embarcados. Los marinos que manejaban los cañones que protegían estas naves de flotas enemigas o piratas comían y dormían entre las piezas de artillería, colgados de hamacas o coyes que equilibraban el balanceo del barco. En caso de combate, los palanquines y bragueros permitían mover las cureñas hacia adelante para que asomasen sus bocas por las portas y evitar que los artilleros terminasen aplastados por el retroceso. Cómo se vivía y se moría en aquellos barcos puede ser revivido en el Museo de las Reales Atarazanas (MAR), en Santo Domingo (República Dominicana), inaugurado el pasado día 12 por el presidente de país, Danilo Medina.

odo comenzó a las 11 de la noche del 25 diciembre de 1492, cuando el almirante Cristóbal Colón se retiró a dormir e incomprensiblemente la nao Santa María quedó al mando del grumete: encalló al poco. Fue el primero de los cientos de naufragios que durante siglos se sucederían frente a las costas de La Española, lugar elegido por los Reyes Católicos en 1503 para fundar una Casa de Contratación y en 1543, durante el reinado de Carlos V, los astilleros (atarazanas).

Como la isla se convirtió pronto en centro estratégico desde el que partían las exploraciones hacia el continente entre los siglos XV y XIX, sus costas fueron codiciadas por las potencias europeas. Pero el litoral resultaba continuamente azotado por terribles temporales que convirtieron sus aguas en un gigantesco cementerio marino. En 1976, el Gobierno dominicano puso en marcha el Programa de Arqueología Submarina para rescatar los bienes de las naves que estaban siendo expoliados por pescadores y cazatesoros clandestinos. Fue el inicio del Laboratorio de Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático, que custodia más de 100.000 objetos de estos naufragios, así como del nuevo museo.

El arqueólogo subacuático español Carlos León y los expertos dominicanos Francis Soto e Isabel Brito escrutaron más de 50.000 objetos para elegir los 1.200 seleccionados para el museo. “Es uno de los pocos dedicados a los naufragios. La colección expuesta comienza con los restos de dos piezas artilleras de la flota de Ovando y una selección de joyas, monedas, cerámicas y pesos hallados en un naufragio español en Punta Cana, también del siglo XVI.

Nicolás de Ovando llegó el 15 de abril de 1502, con 32 naves y 2.500 personas, a Santo Domingo para sustituir en el gobierno a Francisco de Bobadilla, que a su vez le había quitado el mando a Colón. Tras ser destituido, Bobadilla decidió volver a Castilla, aunque Colón se lo desaconsejó. Había aprendido ya la cadencia de los huracanes. El exgobernador no le creyó y se lanzó a la mar con 12 naves. Solo sobrevivieron tres y él murió ahogado. Ahora, en el MAR se pueden ver los falconetes y lombardas de este fallido regreso, las piezas más antiguas.

El galeón Nuestra Señora de la Pura y Limpia Concepción partió de Veracruz en 1641, cargado de 600 toneladas de productos traídos de China, oro y plata en barras, lingotes y monedas. Un huracán le hizo chocar contra los arrecifes dominicanos el 30 de octubre. El casco se inundó y la tripulación, aterrada, se refugió en el castillo de popa, pero no había espacio suficiente para sus 250 pasajeros. La mitad falleció. Finalmente, el galeón se partió y se hundió a unos 15 metros. La carga se perdió, provocando una de las mayores tragedias económicas de la Corona en aquel siglo.

Un año después se intentó recuperar la carga, pero los temporales y los piratas lo impidieron. El increíble tesoro se dio por perdido. En 1686, el marino inglés William Phips lo encontró. Extrajo 74 toneladas de monedas de plata, lingotes y esmeraldas. Fue nombrado caballero. El barco fue olvidado durante tres siglos.

En 1968, el oceanógrafo Jacques Yves Cousteau organizó una expedición para hallar el pecio. Encontró cuatro cañones y dos anclas. En 1978, la compañía Seaquest Internacional Inc. desenterró, a su vez, miles de monedas de Felipe IV, bandejas, cucharas, lingotes, espadas, cadenas de oro, además de un baúl con 1.440 monedas. En 1981, la firma Caribe Salvage, con permiso del Gobierno, extrajo 3.000 monedas más, joyas y parte del valioso cargamento de porcelana china.

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