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The Patecte







A 120-minute documentary film for a worldwide general audience

©2016 Tom Warson, Ph.D.


Logline:  A team goes in search of enchanting Pre-Columbian treasure.

The lost gold Patecte of Ecuador is more than a piece of metal. Its symbols represent an identity of Latin America essential to the eradication of poverty.

Synopsis:  Chordeleg, Ecuador, 1869.  A treasure hunter discovers an ancient royal tomb. Its riches include a mysterious gold relief — the Patecte.

Suddenly, the Patecte vanished.

Stolen? Hoarded?

Destroyed for its gold content?

Mislaid in a museum?

Lost at sea?

The only hard proof the Patecte ever existed is an oil painting commissioned by Heduvides Serrano, the legendary tomb raider who discovered the Patecte.

The rest of the story is paved with double and triple-bottomed boxes.

An El Dorado fable? – or did the Patecte not only exist but exists today? Our investigative team seeks the answer on three continents.

During the search, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and psychoanalysts decipher the Patecte´s hidden universal message.

We have the most accurate and complete information in the world on the Patecte.  Visit our website blog:

As for Heduvides Serrano …







We start our Patecte search at the top.

Much has been said about Heduvides Serrano, discoverer of the Patecte.  Little is known. 

When and where was he born, died?  What happened to two of his three daughters?  Is the amazing Peru treasure story recounted below true? 

The missing pieces of Heduvides´ life are huge.  


El Sagrario Church, Cuenca, Ecuador.  Major source of documentation on Heduvides Serrano

In Heduvides´ time, the Catholic Church was the register and custodian of vital records in Ecuador.  Three researchers and I have exhausted Church records readily available on the Internet. 

“Registro” research is incredibly painstaking.  Not all clerics had good penmanship. Misspellings and alternative spellings of names are common.  Result:  crucial information is easily passed over. Finally, Internet sources such as Geneanet allow information to be added by participants, creating an abundance of false leads. 


Marriage registration, Heduvides and Manuela Serrano, 1847 

Three things are certain:

First, after hundreds of hours of research we have only scratched the surface of Heduvides´ biography.

Second, a highly capable archivist has joined our Patecte search team.  She has spent decades researching official records and unofficial sources in Ecuador.

Third, legends and myths surrounding Heduvides only grow with time.

They are rooted in a simple reality:  

Everybody dreams of striking it rich.  Heduvides did it in only a few hours. 

Here is what happened …

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“Historia de las famosas huacas en la Parroquia de Chordeleg”

(Story of the famous treasure tombs of Chordeleg)


Gonzalo Serrano Iñiguez, a successful lawyer and Heduvides´ grandson, wrote an astounding article.  It is the point of departure for investigating Heduvides Serrano.

The account was told to Gonzalo by his father, Francisco Isaac, Heduvides´ only son. A member of our Patecte search team, Dr. Benigno Malo, published it in “Revista de Antropología” July 1979.

Heduvides and his brother Ignacio took up residency in Chordeleg, Ecuador in 1852. They came to pan for gold.


Santa Barbara River near Chordeleg.  Centuries ago, prospectors were said to have more gold than dirt in their pans.

Heduvides soon heard rumors about Pre-Columbian tombs in the area loaded with gold and silver. One evening, near the Chordeleg town square, he noticed something unusual. It was the key to how Heduvides subsequently located other tombs and became one of the richest men in the Americas. Our documentary will reveal his detection technique.

Heduvides started digging.

He discovered an ancient Cañari tomb containing 77 kilos of gold. He sent word to Ignacio: “Come! We cannot get one spark of gold from panning of what I have found here in kilos!”

One tomb discovery followed another.

Which created a problem:

What was to be done with so much treasure?  Gonzalo wrote that reliable sources put the total amount of gold Heduvides acquired at a minimum of 550 kilos. At 2021 prices, $55,659 per kilo X 550 = $31 million.

Heduvides devised a plan.

He sent his dirt-caked artifacts to a goldsmith for cleaning. The goldsmith later remarked that his house was filled with such an “enormous” quantity of relics that it resembled “one of those pottery makers that has mud rubble spilling onto the patios and corridors, which will later be put in ovens and cooked.”

Was the Patecte among those relics?

We think we have identified the goldsmith; he lived in Cuenca, Ecuador. If we obtain funding our archivist will search for his descendants for interviews.

The cleaning finished, Heduvides took his treasure to Peru. He was accompanied by his son, Francisco.

Heduvides was hoping to find a museum that would buy the relics.

No museum was interested.

Heduvides decided to return to Ecuador. Before leaving, he had Peru´s national mint, the Casa de La Moneda, melt the relics into gold coins.

La Casa de la Moneda, Lima, Peru

Heduvides purchased maritime insurance to cover the coin shipment by steamer from Lima to the port of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was told regulations prohibited him from traveling with the shipment.

Heduvides and Francisco embarked on another ship to Guayaquil. On arrival, Heduvides was informed the treasure steamer would dock at six in the evening the following day.

Guayaquil pier c 1890

The steamer did not arrive on time. Heduvides cabled the company which responded there was a delay, nothing more.

When the steamer still did not arrive, Heduvides again cabled the company which this time reported the steamer had sunk.

Heduvides ordered his agent in Lima to obtain payment on the insurance policy.  The agent went to the company office, only to find the doors shuttered. The insurer had declared bankruptcy.

Creditors swooped down on Heduvides, seizing his assets and those of his guarantor, Anselma Pesántez.  Who was this mystery woman to whom Heduvides in his will left 3/4 of his estate? 

She was long rumored to be his lover. 

We discovered the truth. 

From a distinguished family in Cuenca, Anselma was Heduvides´ mother-in-law.

Gonzalo wrote that Heduvides died “around” 1896.

*         *          *

Today, a lone misspelled memorial marks the passage of the man who discovered the Patecte and who suddenly was and was not one of the richest men in the Americas.

A. Eduvides Serrano” Street, Chordeleg, Ecuador

If Heduvides´ gold treasure was melted into coins and the Patecte was in that treasure, have we found — but lost — the Patecte?

Only two gold coins were officially minted in Peru in the latter half of the 1800s:

(1) The 20 soles of 1863.

(2) The sterling pound of 1898 featuring Manco Capac.


For the Patecte, 1863 was too early. Heduvides discovered it in 1869.

For Heduvides, 1898 was too late. According to his grandson, Heduvides died c 1896.

Does the date conflict prove the Peru trip never happened?

For every Patecte story, there is an equal and opposite Patecte story.

(i) A prominent archaeologist was informed that Heduvides´ massive collection of gold relics did not go unnoticed in Lima. Pirates attacked the steamer, off-loaded the coins — or relics if they were not melted — and sank the ship.

(ii) A descendant of  Heduvides´ brother told me Heduvides had special coins minted, hence he could have done so at any time. Many South American nations — Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, among others — minted gold coins so the possibility is not to be discounted.

The coin date conflict is compounded by a political-military one.

Ecuador and Peru were on hostile terms. In 1858-1860 a territorial dispute flared up. Peru blockaded Ecuador´s ports. Peruvian soldiers occupied Guayaquil.

Peruvian Vice Admiral Ignacio Mariátgui y Telluría commanded the blockade of Ecuador

Why, then, would Heduvides seek to do business with a hostile nation? As noted, Peru was not the only South American nation to mint gold coins in the 1800s.

Colombian gold coin minted 1863-1886

Our archivist will: 

(i) investigate the Lima mint for a transaction with Heduvides.

(ii) Search for a Lima maritime insurance company that declared bankruptcy and a steamship that sunk in route from Lima to Guayaquil – both almost simultaneously.

If the answers are positive, the Patecte could be at the bottom of the sea.

Pacific Ocean

If the answers are negative, why would Heduvides invent the Peru story in whole or in part and tell it to his son, Francisco?  Note:  The year of the Peru trip is unknown; Francisco may have been too young to understand what was happening. 

Our documentary will present a possible motive for Heduvides to hide the truth.

In conclusion:

(1) if the Peru trip never took place, or

(2) If the trip did occur but Heduvides´ $31-million cache of gold relics, which perhaps included the Patecte, was (i) not melted into coins, (ii) not lost at sea or (iii) not stolen by pirates who attacked the steamship transporting the relics/coins …

Where is Heduvides´ treasure trove?

Is the Patecte in it?

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Our Challenge

The biggest risk to our documentary is financial.

$12,000 is required to fund the investigation of Heduvides.  That research is invaluable because apart from his discovery of the Patecte, Heduvides was a key figure in our knowledge of Pre-Columbian America. 

His role was as indirect as it was vital:

Two Ecuadorian priests, Federico González Suárez and Julio-Maria Matovelle, were renowned pioneer scholars in Latin American archaeology, anthropology and ethnology.  Although they never publicly acknowledged him, our documentary will present convincing evidence that both men not only knew Heduvides but utilized in their publications his vast knowledge and practical experience with Pre-Columbian tombs and artifacts.

Archaeologists — distinguished scholars — collaborated with a tomb raider?

Line item breakdown of our Heduvides research:

Compensation:  $5,376.  Archivist Marlene Ullauri for three months.  She is based in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Airfare:  $590.00.  Two roundtrips:  (i) Cuenca-Quito, Ecuador. (ii) Guayaquil-Lima, Peru.

Vehicle Rental and Maintenance:   $900.00.  Quito and Lima.

Other Transportation:  $170.00.  Bus Cuenca-Guayaquil; taxis.

Lodging:  $1,800.00.  Quito and Lima.

Food:  $240.00.  Quito and Lima.

Equipment/Lab Equipment & Supplies rental:   $720.00.  Computer, camera, scanner, recorder, photocopier.

Miscellaneous:  $204.00.   Access to archives, courier.

Subtotal:  $10,000.00.  

501c Fiscal Sponsorship fee (7%), credit card processing and platform fee (2-3%):  $1,000.

Taxes, miscellaneous:: $1,000. 

TOTAL:  $12,000.



Creative Personnel

(i)  Tom Warson, producer and scriptwriter of “The Search for The Lost Gold Patecte of Ecuador,” is a former political consultant to senators, representatives, governors, mayors, city counselors and the media.  He worked for electoral campaigns on all levels; for federal, state and local governments; and for all three branches.  An accredited expert witness in Federal Court, he holds a Ph.D. in political science and M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida.  His B.A. in political science is from Antioch College.  He is fluent in English and Spanish.

During decades of independent consulting, Tom became aware that his primary interest in politics and court proceedings was their drama.  The product of two decades of research and writing, his screenplay “Pillars of The Sea” won awards in the International Film Festivals of Amsterdam, Mexico and Barcelona. 

Since 2011, Tom has resided in Cuenca, Ecuador, researching the Patecte.  “I first saw it in a history book,” he says.  “My reaction was instantaneous.  The Patecte did what all great art does:  stir the unconscious.”

(ii)  Our director, Carlo Fusco, is a film director, producer and screenwriter. He was born in Potenza, a small town in southern Italy, in a working-class family. He graduated in economics and moved to Rome where he worked in theater and cinema. His teachers were Franz Muller, Dominic d’Alexandria, Silvano Agosti and the international director Knut Erik Jensen. During that time, he worked for large companies in film production and distribution. 

At only 33 years of age, Carlo produced “Sins Expiation“ (2012), an action movie in which he directed Michael Madsen, Danny Glover, John Savage, Steven Bauer, Anne Jeffreys and Hal Yamanouchi. The film won Best Film and Best Director prizes at the Mendocino International Film Festival, 2011.  Some of Carlo´s movies, e.g., “The Slider,” explore deep psychological themes.

For his complete filmography, visit his IMDb page

(iii) Our director of photography is Carlos Diazmuñoz.  He is currently President of the Mexican Cinematographer Society (AMC).

Carlos began his career in the film industry when he was six years old, as an actor.  He continued acting for six years while growing up with his American mother who worked as an actress and his Spanish/Mexican father who was a director and cinematographer.  Carlos lived in the United States and Mexico, and is fluent in English and Spanish.

His professional education and training at working behind the camera started when he was 20 years old in 1985, as Assistant Cameraman working with internationally recognized cinematographers including his father, AMC, CSC and ASC members. He participated as Assistant Cameraman in over 500 productions in only five years.

Since 1989, he has become recognized as a cinematographer who is extremely meticulous.  He specializes in narrative feature films, visual effects, aerial cinematography, people features, music videos, documentaries and advertising.  Overall, Carlos has participated in more than 2,000 productions.

For more information, including a long list of awards, visit his web page:

(iv) Joshua King Ortiz is our editor.  Originally from Spain, Joshua went to film school in Madrid where he graduated in Film Editing in 2002. He next attended the University of California Santa Barbara, where he received a B.A. in History. Joshua has edited five feature documentaries as well as numerous promos, trailers, music videos, and short films. He is fluent in English and Spanish.

For samples of his work, go to:

(v)  Dan Chapman is our digital designer.  He has vast experience in the film industry.  His website:

Core Advisers/Consultants

*Dr. Jaime Idrovo, Sorbonne-trained archaeologist.

*Dr. Juan Chacón Zhapán, historian, paleographer and author of “Guacha Opari Pampa,” a book that analyzes the Patecte from a Cañari Native perspective.

*Dr. Benigno Malo Vega, lawyer, editor of The Anthropological Journal and author of the book “El Tesoro Precolombino de Sígsig (Azuay-Ecuador).”

*René López Moreno, historian.

*Marlene Ullauri, archivist.

*Anne Laurain, psychoanalyst and graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich/Küsnacht, Switzerland.

*Patricio Pessantez, lawyer.

*Mario Brazzero, anthropologist, University of Azuay.

*Oscar Gustavo Vintimilla, cinema professor (celluloid and digital), University of Azuay.

Note:  this dynamic group continues to grow.




To raise $12,000 for our Heduvides research, we have one award for all contributions.

Exclusive messages, fast personalized answers to your questions, timely updates, and information/images not given elsewhere will be yours as a Charter Member in a real-life treasure hunt.  You will receive key findings from our Heduvides research of archives, local memory and oral history as they emerge.

Coffee cups, T-shirts and other rewards will be offered in a subsequent crowd funding campaign to finance the main event — the full documentary search for the lost gold Patecte.



Our investigation of Heduvides Serrano has no “Mr. Big” — no private foundation or government — for financial support. We do not have a staff of 10 people, no padded expense accounts.

We have only one thing:  you.

That reality is why we are launching this crowd funding campaign on Fund My Film.

What it boils down to:

Without your donation, there will be no research of Heduvides Serrano, and consequently, no search for the lost gold Patecte.  All will go gentle into that good night.

Our project will be your project — or it will be no project at all.

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Apart from customary — and heartfelt — messages of appreciation, we wish to express our gratitude for donations this way:

Nonprofit projects such as ours come from many ways. 

However, they all have one thing in common:

Although some contributions are bigger than others, there is no such thing as a small contribution.

FYI:  The most popular donation to Kickstarter is $25.00.  The average donation to all crowd funding campaigns is $88.00.