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On Wednesday, President López Obrador criticized the Austrian response to his request to borrow Moctezuma's headdress. On Wednesday, President López Obrador criticized the Austrian response to his request to borrow Moctezuma's headdress.

AMLO resumes efforts to have famous headdress returned to Mexico

The Austrian president 'arrogantly' rejected Mexico's request to borrow it in 2020

Mexico will once again ask Austria to return the elaborate headdress that is believed to have belonged to the Aztec emperor at the time of the Spanish Conquest, President López Obrador said Wednesday.

Speaking at his regular news conference, the president acknowledged that efforts to have the penacho de Moctezuma (Moctezuma’s headdress) returned to Mexico have gotten nowhere, but asserted that his government is in the process of lobbying for the recovery of stolen art and cultural artifacts that belong to Mexico.

“We have to keep insisting that the penacho be returned to us and that everything that has been stolen that belongs to Mexicans is returned to us … [from] all countries,” López Obrador said.

The headdress – made of feathers from the quetzal and other birds – is on display at the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna.

Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, AMLO’s wife, met with the president of Austria in October 2020 and – armed with a letter from her husband – asked that the European nation lend the penacho to Mexico for exhibition during 2021, the bicentenary of independence from Spain.

A modern copy of the headdress is displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology and History, in Mexico City.
A modern copy of the headdress is displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology and History, in Mexico City. Thomas Ledl / CC BY-SA 4.0

López Obrador recalled that Austria rejected the request, arguing that the headdress wouldn’t withstand the long journey to Mexico.

“This meeting that Beatriz had with the president [Alexander Van der Bellen] was very unpleasant, … she tells me that he didn’t have much knowledge [of the penacho]. He was surrounded by men and a woman who feel they are the owners of the penacho. … They’d barely started talking about the issue and they were already saying no,” he said.

“… Beatriz very kindly said goodbye … and we didn’t continue with the issue because there was this refusal. It’s a very arrogant, high-handed attitude and there is no justification,” López Obrador said.

“… We weren’t even suggesting … that they return it to us [for good], that it’s ours, no. It was to exhibit it,” he said.

The president said he hoped Austria would change its way of thinking and allow the penacho to come back to Mexico.

“There are things in the relationship with Austria that are exceptional,” he added. “During the government of president Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico was the first country that condemned the Nazi invasion of Austria; there’s recognition for that.”

With reports from El Universal 

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