In memory of Pilar Luna, Mexican underwater archeologist that left us on March 15, 2020
Pilar LUNA was a pioneer in the protection and management for underwater cultural heritage. As a woman of science from Latin America and the Caribbean, she inspired many more in the region to the point that gender parity is a reality in the field of underwater archaeology in this part of the world.
Her enthusiasm and true passion to protect and preserve our common heritage under the waters of our planet, made many people, from the general public to the highest politicians, conscious of the need to be aware of this enormous rich resource of our past that is in need of active protection. The protection against natural degradation but also ignorance and greed was an important focus in her life. She lead the Center for Underwater Archeology of the INAH (Instituto Nacional de Arqueología e Historia) of Mexico during 37 years and even after her retirement, she continued to collaborate with INAH in a number of research and capacity building projects.
In the global arena, Pilar an active member of the Mexican Delegation to the numerous consultations meetings at UNESCO that resulted in the creation of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Her support to the region continued in the ratification processes of this important instrument as well as helped establishing the necessary capacities and structures for its appropriate implementation. Pilar was a member of the Scientific Technical Advisory Body of the UNESCO Convention (STAB) and of the ICOMOS International Committee for Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH). Today the region counts with twenty state parties to the 2001 Convention which make a strong and united force against treasure hunting, indifference or unethical exploitation of its underwater cultural heritage. She encouraged and organized many trainings and capacity building initiatives in her home country Mexico and elsewhere in the region, always ready to participate and brake any barriers to accomplish the goal of ensuring sustainable continuation of the work that she and many colleagues of her generation achieved. Thanks to Pilar LUNA many underwater archeologists, now working within their national institutions or in university programmes in the region, will ensure that her efforts continue.
Although Pilar's desire to seize every moment of life was something she transmitted to anyone that had the fortune of working with her and learn from her, she also knew that every day on earth is a gift that could be taken away any minute. This probably was behind her eagerness to teach and leave a solid legacy.
She contributed to a strong network of underwater archaeologists in Latin America and the Caribbean Region that work together, know what solidarity is and strive to make this profession flourish in our countries. Today, thanks to the work she started, the underwater archaeology of the Region is internationally recognized and present in scientific conferences and symposia.
Pilar was also an unconditional friend, ready to listen and help anyone that reached out to her. Her generosity was also a great gift. She knew well that although our work is to understand humankind through its material world, we do not take it with us when we go. Her best gift to us was her knowledge, which is a torch she passed on to younger generations of underwater archaeologists and heritage managers to continue lighting up the way and to pass in on when their turn comes.
Nevertheless, although all of us who knew her and worked with her are profoundly sad, there is a strong feeling of her presence as an inspiring force that pushes us to continue working for what she taught us to love and understand the most: our cultural heritage preserved in the depths of our Oceans, Seas, Rivers and Lakes. She acts already, beyond expectations, as a patron for underwater archeologists. May your voyage be happy and your sailing smooth.