Santa Fe-based writer Douglas Preston was in on the ground floor of an adventure that led to uncovering a city in the jungles of Honduras which had been buried for centuries. A documentary based on those trips and the publication of his bestseller The Lost City of the Monkey God premieres as a fundraiser for the School for Advanced Research at the Violet Crown at 7 pm Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Javier Suazo Mejía is the coordinator for the proyecto arqueológico Ciudad Blanca and secretary of the board of the Kaha Kamasa Foundation, which manages the site and work to protect the surrounding environment. He's part of a panel that follows the movie:
The place that has been referred to as "The Lost City of the Monkey God" is known by another name now. Can you talk about that?
First of all the monkey god, it's more kind of a myth and actually it's kind of a hollywood myth. Back in the '30s an explorer was hired to go to Honduras to find a lost city … but he didn't find a city at all. He started working and prospecting in the area. But he had to come back to the US with evidence that he tried to find something and so he bought archaeological artifacts from local people and came back with them and the story about seeing a city with a tall statue of a monkey god in its center. This came from his imagination probably. And we think actually it had to do with a King Kong movie that was released during those years. That's where the monkey god came from. Over time, there were other names for these lost cities but the name given to this place by the people is Cuidad Blanca.
What's the significance of this uncovering for the people of Honduras?
It's very important. These are very important issues. First of all, it's some great pride for the nation. Such a wonderful great civilization in that area. … It has meaning for us, and given us hope also. It's very important for the people to have the consciousness of their cultural heritage and it's been very widespread. Honduras is going through a very hard situation right now, but the reaction the Cuidad Blanca … is very very positive. Recently we had a very huge event here and from all sectors of society … We started from zero in this project. We did not know what civilization it was, how long had they been there settling, and it all was a mystery. It has been four years now since the team came to the site and there is a lot we have advanced. Now, we have a much clearer idea of the timeline of the occupation of the site by the people and we have a better idea of who they were and where they probably came from.
Was the interaction between the government and the American adventurers different for this event than perhaps the way such revelations have been dealt with in the past?
I think this would have not been possible if there would not have been a political decision to make it work. From the first time they came they asked for permission to make exploring, they did not only get permission, they also got a lot of help and the government … There have been probably $5-6 million already invested by the government in making this happen … They have built a headquarters for all the work the scientists have been doing. It has been important to let the people know what we are doing and what has been .. to make it visible to the people. The government is paying for Honduran scientists who are working there: archaeologists, anthropologists, biologists. It's a very big deal.