President López Obrador announced the creation of a special team dedicated to recovering stolen archaeological artifacts and historic documents at his morning news conference Monday. He said the order had been made to the National Guard, the security body he established in 2019.
López Obrador said inspiration for the idea had come from Italy, which had recovered and sent artifacts to Mexico for the Grandeur of Mexico exhibition. “What an example: Italy has a special body of carabinieri to recover stolen archaeological pieces. Imagine if all countries had the same organization dedicated to the recovery of stolen pieces that belong to the cultural and artistic heritage of the different countries of the world … We are going to follow the example of Italy, I have given the instruction for the National Guard to constitute a special team for the purpose,” he said.
Later in the conference, the head of the Italian carabinieri department which recovers artifacts, Brigadier General Roberto Riccardi, was decorated with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest order that can be awarded to a foreigner.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained the recognition. “Brigadier General Roberto Riccardi has exercised a very active leadership in support of the safeguarding and return of heritage pieces illicitly stolen from our nation. An example of this is the recent recovery of 17 archaeological pieces that were intended to be auctioned in Italy …. and the restitution of 74 archaeological pieces … since 2013,” he said.
Riccardi took the opportunity to argue for the cultural value of historic artifacts. “We believe in what we do, deeply. Every time we recover an artifact of historical or artistic value, it is a piece of identity, of collective memory … I wish Mexico a brighter future, if possible, than its glorious past,” he said.
The president also showed his appreciation to the governments of the United States, France and the Vatican for lending and returning artifacts to Mexico. “The French government was the government that lent us the most pieces for the exhibition. A special thanks to the Vatican, to Pope Francis, who gave us documents and works, which had never happened in history,” he said.
The governments of Netherlands, Germany and Sweden were also accredited by the president.
The Grandeur of Mexico exhibition will display 1,525 pieces for five months in Mexico City at the National Museum of Anthropology and at the Education Ministry’s headquarters.
In the National Museum of Anthropology the pieces are displayed by theme, and divided into territory, spirituality, the person, symbolism and the paths to freedom. The SEP exhibition presents pieces along geographical lines: the southeast and the Mayan region, the highlands region and northern Mexico.
With reports from Milenio