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Anthropology Department helps to restore beachside Spanish estate
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By MAELIE AROCHO
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For several months, the Anthropology Department at Florida Atlantic University has been restoring a beachside Spanish estate on the west coast of Ecuador.

Situated in the small village of Salango in the Manabi Province of Ecuador, South America, this is one of the last remaining historic “haciendas.” A hacienda is a large estate often used for farming or ranching.

The Anthropology Department’s archaeological field program, which is in its ninth year, brings together students from FAU and across the nation, South American and Europe to learn field learning excavation methods and survey training.

Salango Research Center is the field school’s base operation, which also houses an archaeological museum that attracts international visitors.

“The idea actually came about in 2000, once we learned of the complex history of the house and its relationship to the historical development of the village of Salango” said Valentina Martinez, an adjunct professor.

After some diagnostics, estimates and finding potential funding sources, the restoration began in April 2009. The department received a grant from the U.S Ambassador’s Fund for Overseas Development to aid the work.

“The hacienda house up until last year was used as our laboratory where students clean, classify, and catalog archaeological materials such as ceramics, stone tools and animal bones,” Martinez said.

In collaboration with the Comuna Salango, Salango Research Center and Ecuador's Institute for National Cultural Patrimony, Michael Harris, chairman of the Anthropology Department, and Martinez are providing ethnohistoric research and supervision for the project. Comuna Salango is providing the labor required along with Ecuadorian students and professionals assisting in the project.

“The community has been very happy thus far – this project has provided a good deal of employment. It’s a moment where the people will take control of their own resources,” Harris said.

This past summer, the dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Manjunath Pendakur, visited the site.

“They have built capacity locally, built such strong community relations and community members feel this is their project which is important,” Pendakur said.

The house, which is to be completed in December, will serve as a resource for the local people as well as hopefully draw more tourists into the area.

“The project goal is to restore the hacienda house and turn it into a museum. The community will be the administrators of the Hacienda House Museum once it is accomplished,” Martinez said. “Most importantly, the community is eager to have a piece of their recent history, the struggle for the land, told in the museum’s display.”

According to Martinez, the house was built in the late 1800s and lasted until about 1930, when it was then restored by rich North American entrepreneurs who later abandoned it around 1980. The house has two large storage rooms on the first floor and a series of rooms upstairs.

“It has a fantastic beach within 50 to 60 feet. You actually can see the water from the house,” Pendakur said.

The project has brought great satisfaction to the community as well as those working on it.

“To participate in the restoration of an historical structure, turn it into a museum and return it to the local population gives me an incredible satisfaction. It feels great to be involved in a project that has brought together Ecuadorian and American institutions which is not always easy,” Martinez said.

 

 
 

 
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