Campaign #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende scores a new success with 428 pieces repatriated from the US

The Mexican government’s campaign #MyHeritageNotForSale has managed to recover a new batch of 428 archaeological pieces belonging to desert cultures, including projectile points, flint knives, shell and bone artifacts, marine fossils and organic elements, which were seized by the Customs and Border Protection Office of United States and delivered to the Mexican Consulate in Portland, Oregon.

This initiative, headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the most intense and extensive on record in recent decades, has achieved a record number of 9,398 repatriated archaeological and historical assets since 2019, including the latter, and the recent collection from Barcelona of 2,522 pre-Hispanic and viceroyalty pieces.

Showing off the old Mexican adage “In the asking is the to give“, the Mexican authorities have deployed a task of diplomacy, through embassies and consulates, which has borne tangible fruit, achieving the recovery of pieces of the cultural heritage of the Mexican nation, the same from the United States, as from Germany, Italy, Countries Netherlands or Spain.

Last Tuesday, July 27, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, when reporting on the recovery of the pieces via the Mexican consulate in Barcelona, ​​reported from the National Palace on the presidential instruction to “place the recovery as a priority in foreign policy. of our historical and cultural heritage”, and revealed that the numbers of pieces repatriated to date represent “55% more than what had previously been recovered; that is, what is being done is giving results,” he said.

As a result of the auctions of pre-Hispanic pieces that have been offered in recent years in Europe, in France in particular, the Ministry of Culture launched the campaign #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende on social networks and, in parallel, the representations of Mexico abroad displayed a work to disseminate it and raise awareness, aimed at possible bona fide owners of these assets, most of them stolen from the country before the 1972 law that criminalizes their alienation, and they are approaching institutes and collectors around the world , requesting voluntary returns.

With France, the Mexican government has not been very successful in stopping the auctions, specifically due to the impossibility of verifying the origin of illegally auctioned goods, in accordance with Mexican legislation; however, in March of this year, Mexico was able to stop the auction of four pre-Hispanic pieces that would be offered in Belgium and Austria.

On that occasion, the Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto wrote on her Twitter account: “It is clear that raising your voice does give results. The 3 Mexican pieces that they intended to sell in Bruges #Belgium have been withdrawn by the auctioneer @CarloBonte. Thank you for not allowing Mexico’s national goods to become a luxury item. #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende”.

Foreign Minister Ebrard has emphasized that “now Mexico has defended the thesis or the doctrine that whoever auctions must prove the legal origin of what they are auctioning, and not the other way around. Luckily we have already managed to cancel some auctions. This has not been done or achieved until now,” he said, referring to past administrations.

According to Secretary Frausto, Mexico proposes to discuss the restitution of cultural property looted from the territories where pre-Columbian cultures settled during the summit of Ministers of Culture convened by UNESCO, Modiacult, next month in Mexico City.

The Oregon Lot

The Ministry of Culture, through the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), formalized this Tuesday the reception by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) of 428 archaeological assets from the United States, which were subject to confiscation in that nation, as reported on July 27 by the Mexican foreign minister.

The lot transferred to Mexico by diplomatic bag, and delivered to the INAH for study, cataloging and custody, dates from the Late Postclassic period (900-1600 AD) and is associated with human groups of desert cultures, which settled in the territories now occupied by the entities of northern Mexico and the southern United States, reported archaeologist Jaime Alejandro Bautista Valdespino, deputy director of the Registry of Movable Archaeological Monuments of INAH.

Projectile points and scrapers made of flint, shell and bone artifacts, in addition to two knives that preserve their original handles, “are representative of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer communities,” says the archaeologist.

Among the objects delivered to the diplomatic headquarters in Portland, two elements of organic material stand out: a huarache and a fragment of a petate, in a fair state of conservation.

Likewise, various marine fossils of the genus Exogyra were returned, which have been dated to the Cretaceous period, with an estimated age of 60 million years.

Bautista Valdespino indicated that each of the 428 pieces will be protected by the INAH and registered in the Public Registry of Archaeological and Historical Monuments and Zones of the institution, with the possibility that they may become part of exhibitions in museums.

The official called on the population in general to avoid participating in the looting of heritage sites and the illicit trafficking of historical and archaeological goods, since a consequence of such crimes is the loss of information on the context of the pieces.

Some of the most significant recoveries:

  • In March 2109, the Italian Carabinieri Corps for the Protection of Cultural Heritage returned to Mexico 600 Mexican votive offerings that had been seized in 2016, and in September 2021 it prevented the auction of 17 archaeological pieces.
  • 34 archaeological pieces that were in the hands of German private collectors were returned to Mexico in June 2021.
  • Dutch citizens returned 17 pieces to Mexico in February 2022.
  • In June of this year, a Swedish company returned to our country two pieces that had been extracted in the 1950s for an advertising campaign.
  • Just last week, on July 27, 2022, the Albuquerque Museum of New Mexico Foundation returned 12 sculptures belonging to Western Mexican cultures, from the Shaft Tombs cultural tradition, dating between 300 and 600 BC
  • Also on July 27, 2,522 objects or fragments of an archaeological or historical nature were repatriated through the Mexican consulate in Barcelona.

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