Monday, June 17, 2024

Teachers’ union takes possession of art collection bought by ex-boss

The SNTE teachers’ union has recovered La Maestra’s long-lost treasure, an art collection with a value of as much as 3 billion pesos (US $150 million).

La Maestra is the nickname of Elba Esther Gordillo, leader of the the union between 1989 and 2013 when she had total control over the largest teachers’ union in the Americas.

It was during the last year of her reign that she ordered the multi-billion-peso purchase of several works of art that would adorn the walls of her Ciudad del Conocimiento (City of Knowledge) project.

Along with giving the union a new central office, the Ciudad was to have a museum, a modern library, open air auditoriums and gardens, and was to be equipped with sustainable water and power systems.

But Gordillo was arrested in February 2013 on charges of embezzlement and organized crime. Also that year, she was included on the list of the 10 most corrupt Mexicans published by Forbes magazine.

As the official investigation into Gordillo’s activities progressed, the Attorney General’s office (PGR) discovered a warehouse in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City in 2014 in which Gordillo kept 15 boxes. Inside, federal agents found 16 paintings and a sculpture.

The SNTE subsequently presented documentation supporting its claim of ownership of the works of art, which Gordillo had purchased using dues collected from teachers.

The PGR formally returned the pieces to the union yesterday. Eight were done by famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and artists Francisco Toledo, Gabriel Orozco and Pedro Coronel are also represented.

The teachers’ union plans to exhibit the pieces permanently and free of charge in some of its cultural centers.

SNTE secretary general Alfonso Cepeda Salas estimated that the value of the 17 recovered works of art could be as high as 3 billion pesos.

Source: Plano Informativo (sp), El Universal (sp)

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