If the alert level at the Cotopaxi volcano is raised to orange, Ecuador’s Ministry of Culture is prepared to protect as much of the country’s history in the area as possible.
On Saturday, Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute said that magma continued to rise within the base of the volcano, indicating a build-up to an eruption. The alert level remains at yellow but would be raised to orange if an eruption appears imminent.
The ministry has identified hundreds of historic items and documents that it will collect and relocate to areas outside of the possible eruption zone. The items include some large objects, such furniture, paintings and statues. Most of the items are in the area around Latacunga, southwest of Cotopaxi, but others are in the Los Chillos Valley, east of Quito.
Joaquín Moscoso, undersecretary of Social Report of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, says that not all historic assets can be moved. “Many of them are too large and, of course, we cannot move real estate.” According to Moscoso, the Ministry of Defense will assist in the gathering and moving process.
Raul Perez Torres, president of Ecuador’s Casa de la Cultura, says that warehouse space has been allocated outside the eruption zone to store historic objects. “We have been busy identifying safe places for these items and will be prepared to go into action if it’s necessary. This will be a huge project but it is important to our heritage,” he said.
Torres says he is worried about the fate of archaeological sites in case of an eruption but says there is little that can be done to protect them. “We are checking the inventory of the sites to make sure we have photographic records in case they are lost,” he said. “In some cases we are sending out photography and video teams to provide documentation.”
Because of the possibility of losses, Torres says he and his staff are working with heavy hearts. “It seems inconceivable that we could lose valuable treasures that are part of our history. We are all praying that there is not a large eruption.”