Mexico is retrieving over 2,500 pre-colonial works of art

Retrieval of national cultural assets
Mexico is bringing back more than 2,500 works of art from pre-colonial times

Mexico regularly opposes the auctioning of artifacts made by indigenous peoples. Now more than 2500 artifacts have returned to Mexico.

© Gerardo Vieyra/ Eyepix Group / Picture Alliance

More than 2500 works of art and historical objects are returning to Mexico. The restitution of pre-colonial cultural assets is an important part of President López Obrador’s cultural policy.

Mexico has brought back over 2,500 works of art and historical objects from the pre-colonial era. It is the “most important restitution of archaeological objects by individuals,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Tuesday. The items, including stone figures, spearheads and vessels, previously belonged to a family from Barcelona, ​​Spain.

The objects have been on display since Tuesday in the Museum of the Templo Mayor in the historic center of the capital, Mexico City, under the responsibility of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The repatriation of national cultural assets is a central component of the cultural policy of the left-wing Mexican government under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Bringing back archaeological and cultural wealth to Mexico

The government has been asked not to publish the names of the previous owners of the items, Foreign Minister Ebrard said at a press conference alongside President López Obrador. “We are in the process of retrieving Mexico’s archaeological and cultural wealth from abroad,” said López Obrador. There are “thousands of stolen archaeological finds”. Since taking office in 2018, the government has recovered 8,970 items from the pre-colonial era, added chief diplomat Ebrard.

Mexico regularly opposes the auctioning of artifacts originating from present-day Mexico and made by indigenous peoples such as the Olmec, Aztec, and Maya. The current government believes that their heritage has been illegally taken out of the country since the 19th century.

Auction houses and other state governments routinely require proof of the origin of artifacts from Mexico, Ebrard said. He added that Mexico had partially succeeded in reversing the burden of proof – so that the seller first had to prove the “legal origin” of the objects from pre-colonial times.


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