Monday, June 17, 2024

20 pre-Columbian artifacts repatriated to Mexico from Belgium

Mexico has received word from an overseas diplomat that 20 archaeological pieces — some perhaps more than 1,500 years old — have been handed over to the country by a private citizen in Belgium.

The pieces were delivered to Rogelio Granguillhome Morfín, the Mexican ambassador to Belgium, by a Belgian woman named Louise Du Moulin Maria, who noted that her family had been in possession of the Mexican assets for more than 70 years.

Mexican ambassador to Belgium Granguillhome and Louise Du Moulin
Mexican ambassador to Belgium Rogelio Granguillhome Morfín stands with Louis Du Moulin Maria, the Belgian citizen who returned 20 archaeological pieces to Mexico. (INAH)

In announcing the news this week, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) explained that specialists examined the objects and determined that they were made in the Mesoamerican Classic period (A.D. 100-650) by cultures in the Central Highlands, an area that includes what is now Mexico City. The items will be further inspected after they arrive in Mexico.

INAH noted in a press release that the Mexican embassy in Belgium “will continue to contribute to the priority work of returning Mexico’s historical heritage” through the #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende (My Heritage is Not for Sale) campaign. Launched in 2018, the initiative seeks to prevent the sale of Mexico’s archaeological and historical assets and promote their recovery and return to their place of origin.

Du Moulin said it was thanks to the #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende campaign that she became aware that her family’s objects “belong to Mexico.”For his part, Granguillhome thanked Du Moulin and her family for their willingness to give to Mexico “what belongs to it as part of its historical and cultural heritage.” He also pointed to a “context of good relations” between Mexico and Belgium.

According to INAH, the appearance of archaeological pieces abroad is presumed to be the product of looting, plunder or a chain of illegal acts, and such pieces thus merit being returned to Mexico.

Pre-hispanic statue
The #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende campaign has seen success in repatriating a significant number of artifacts from various countries around the world. (INAH)

According to the news source Infobae, Mexico has recovered more than 11,500 pieces it considers national heritage during the administration of President López Obrador, who took office in 2018. AMLO’s government has targeted auction houses in New York, Paris, Rome and elsewhere when objects that appear to be part of Mexico’s patrimony are put up for auction. Moreover, Mexico’s demands that foreign governments recover archaeological and artistic pieces have intensified.

These efforts have paid off. Late last year, more than 50 objects were handed over voluntarily by citizens of Austria, Canada, Sweden and the United States. Then in March of this year, 83 ancient artifacts were returned to Mexico from Italy, Germany and France. 

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that a massive Olmec structure would be repatriated to Mexico from the U.S after reportedly being stolen in the late 1950s. Known as Chalcatzingo Monument 9 or the “Portal to the Underworld,” the monument is reported to be six and a half feet meters tall and weigh more than 2,000 pounds; it was flown home on a Mexican Air Force plane.

“The approximately 2,500-year-old monument was for decades Mexico’s number one priority in terms of recovering its historical heritage,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement at the time.

With reports from El Economista and Infobae

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