SAN JUAN – A wealthy businessman’s acquisition of an environmentally important property in Arecibo, a city on Puerto Rico’s north coast, has drawn criticism from residents, who contend that access to Cueva del Indio, a pre-historic rock art site and tourist attraction listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003, is being restricted.
Jose Gonzalez Freire acquired land next to the cave and is limiting access to residents and visitors, Rosario Feliciano, a member of the Arecibo Cueva del Indio Defense Committee, told EFE.
Gonzalez Freire, who is president of Pan American Grain, bought land next to Cueva del Indio, fenced off the area and charges $3 for parking and $4 for tickets to enter the cave, Feliciano said.
“We are fighting for free access without restrictions for anyone wanting to visit the cave,” Feliciano, a 26-year-old university student born and raised in the area, said.
“What Gonzalez Freire wants to do is monopolize and appropriate Costa de Islote. This man wants to come here and raise his flag as lord and owner of the area,” Feliciano said.
The dispute over access to Cueva del Indio dates back almost 30 years but has intensified in the months since Gonzalez Freire acquired land around the site.
Feliciano said she has had several encounters with security staff while trying to walk in the cave area, where she used to stroll without problems as a child.
“One gentleman told us we cannot walk across because it is private property. He even threatened us,” Feliciano said.
Feliciano and other residents have reported the situation to the police without getting any results.
“We are defending our rights, the community’s rights,” Feliciano said.