Tuesday, May 18

Mexico recovers 280 pre-Hispanic pieces that were in the United States

Archaeological pieces that will return to Mexico from the United States.
Archaeological pieces that will return to Mexico from the United States.INAH

Mexico has recovered 280 archaeological pieces that were in the United States, as reported by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) this Tuesday. The pieces that will return to the country are mostly carved stone artifacts that were stolen from the territory currently occupied by the State of Sonora, in the northwest of the country; in addition, tools will return, a group of “rare” copper bells or anthropomorphic figures. The moment of repatriation, said José Luis Perea González, director of the INAH Sonora Center, is “opportune”: “It is the year of a very significant commemoration, the 500th anniversary of the taking of Tenochtitlan, which was a foundational and heartbreaking meeting between the cultural universes of Western Europe and America ”.

The recovered pre-Hispanic pieces correspond to two lots. The first was seized in 2012 by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service and includes 270 objects that were removed from archaeological sites in Sonora. Among them are projectile points, stone axes or a group of copper bells whose discovery is “rare,” according to the Institute in a statement. The second batch consists of 10 pieces delivered by the Chandler Museum in Arizona, in the United States, among which anthropomorphic ceramic figures stand out, some of which exceed 30 centimeters in height and have ornamentation details.

“The people of Mexico are grateful for the willingness of both countries to combat the illicit trafficking that occurs in our borders and the investigation, authentication and administrative processes necessary for this,” said Ricardo Santana Velázquez, Consul General of Mexico in Nogales (Arizona ), where the goods were delivered. The Mexican Secretary of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, has valued from the capital of the Latin American country the “shared commitment with the Government of the United States in favor of the recovery, protection and respect for cultural, historical and archaeological heritage.” In 1970, both countries signed a treaty for the recovery and return of historical and cultural property.

When they arrive in the country, the objects will be analyzed and cataloged by INAH specialists, and will remain in the custody of the institute. More than 9,000 pieces of pre-Hispanic art are distributed in museums in Europe and the United States, according to an investigation carried out in 2012 by the specialist Miguel Gleason. The objects left the territory as gifts or tributes during the conquest, through archaeological plunder or in the hands of a private collector.

In 2020, the writer and historian Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, wife of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, made a tour of Europe to request the temporary loan of some of these archaeological pieces. Gutiérrez met with Pope Francis; the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, and the wife of the French president, Brigitte Macron, among others. The objective was to recover them momentarily to expose the artifacts during the anniversaries of the independence of Mexico (1821), the fifth centenary of the fall of Tenochtitlan [el precedente prehispánico de Ciudad de México] (1521) and the foundation of the first villas in that city in 1931, which coincide this year.

The Latin American country has continued the crusade to recover the historical heritage that is distributed throughout the world. A month ago, Mexico filed a complaint with the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office to take legal action against the commercialization of 33 objects that the firm Christie’s was about to auction and asked the Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE) for diplomatic actions to recover the treasures. But the government’s actions failed to stop the auction, which raised three million dollars (2.53 million euros, 61 million pesos).

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