A Native American man has refused to sell his tiny wooden Miami house to developers for $1.8million because he believes it is on sacred ground.
Ishmael Bermudez, 65, also known as Golden Eagle, has been excavating the backyard of his home for almost 50 years and claims it is a mystical place sacred to the Tequesta tribe.
He says he will not sell his home unless the garden, where he discovered a natural spring, is protected.
The small house, which is decorated with colorful paintings, sits incongruously in the heart of Miami’s bustling city center, surrounded by high rise buildings, heavy traffic and ongoing construction projects.
Mr Bermudez claims he has found evidence of the earliest native inhabitants of the area in his garden, which sits just two blocks from busy Brickell Avenue and is surrounded by skyscrapers, bars and restaurants.
Set directly in front of a Miami Metrorail station, the tiny wooden house surrounded by mango trees bares more than passing resemblance to an oasis in a concrete jungle.
Mr Bermudez calls his garden the ‘Well of Ancient Mysteries’ and told the Miami Herald that over the last half century he has discovered ‘artifacts used in ancient rituals, humanoid fossils, prehistoric objects’ – and, of course, the spring.
Despite the fact his property has now been valued at $1.8million – and is likely to keep rising – he maintains he will not sell.
‘There’s not enough money that can buy what’s on this land because it’s simply priceless,’ Mr Bermudez told the Herald. ‘How can you put a price on the history of humanity? It has none.’
He said he would only entertain selling if he had a guarantee the property would be kept intact and unchanged.
‘Maybe like a museum or an archaeological landmark for the city,’ he said. ‘But in these difficult times, it’s hard to believe that someone would have a clean enough soul to do something like this because people only care about making money.’
Mr Bermudez was born in Colombia to a Colombian mother and an American soldier father, who was a descendant of the Pueblo and Navajo tribes.
The family moved to Miami when he was eight. When he was 12 his sixth-grade teacher told him to search for one of the springs the Tequesta drank from before they escaped from the Europeans during colonization – which sparked the excavation project in his back garden.
‘Many thought I was crazy,’ he told the Herald. ‘While other children played, I spent the time digging.’
When he was 19 he finally discovered the pure water spring, close to a mango tree.
Since its discovery it has supplied his home with water, and is also used by dozens of Mariel refugees who live nearby.
Mr Bermudez claims other residents in the area were ‘cruel’ to the refugees and denied them basic rights – so now they queue in his garden with buckets and fill them with water from the spring.
The walls of the colorful house were painted by artist Burke Keogh,Mr Bermudez’s partner.
While a couple of archaeologists have visited , the home remains mainly unheard of – despite the discovery of the Miami Circle in the 1990s just a few blocks away, which is also believed to be an ancient Tequesta site.
Archaeologists have confirmed that some of the items found by Mr Bermudez are part of the Tequesta culture while other discoveries include animal bones and prehistoric shells.
Mr Bermudez, his partner and a small group of environmentalists have launched a Facebook page called ‘Well of Ancient Mysteries‘ in an attempt to raise awareness of the site and the importance of preserving ‘Pachamama’ – Mother Earth.
He told the Herald: ‘I’m committed to sharing the knowledge I have acquired through an excavation of more than 50 years, waiting for people to understand that we can’t keep destroying our natural resources. If there’s no water, there’s no humanity.’