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Two San Diego Collectors Surrendered 65 Archaeological Objects to Mexico
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Historic Artefacts Returned to Mexico

The Mexican government claims that more than 5,000 historical antique items from Mexico have been retrieved in the last few years. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has set the repatriation of ancient cultural objects from Mexico as a focus of his administration. His campaign is called “My Heritage is Not for Sale,” and, as a result, the Mexican government is continually requesting the return of artefacts from collectors and museums, and has fought hard to stop the sale of these items at auction houses all over the world.

World-wide, Culture Ministers have committed to increase their efforts to return illegally-traded stolen artefacts to their countries of origin. There are many pre-hispanic artefacts from the Americas in both private collections and European museums.

Massive Return of Artefacts From the Netherlands

In December 2022, as a result of “active cooperation” between Mexico and the Netherlands, the government of the Netherlands returned over 200 pre-Hispanic archaeological artefacts to Mexico. With this, the Netherlands has demonstrated a commitment to restore historical and cultural objects to their place of origin

The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) (National Institute of Anthropology and History) in Mexico said that the artefacts were from between 400 BC and the 16th century. They had belonged to various pre-Hispanic cultures from both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico, as well as the central highlands.

Also in December 2022, the INAH denounced a Paris auction that included Mexican artefacts valued in the tens of thousands of euros.

65 Artefacts From a Private U.S. Collection

In May have 2023, Pete Mechalas and Norm Werthman, U.S. collectors from California, voluntarily returned their collection of 65 pre-Hispanic artefacts to the Mexican consulate in San Diego. The artefacts will be returned to the INAH, where they will be inspected and catalogued. 

These objects date to the Mesoamerican Preclassic, Classic, and Postclassic periods. They were from the Gulf of Mexico coast, and also from the Central Mexican Plateau. One item was a clay cajete (bowl) decorated with linear designs and red dots typical of art from the Shaft Tombs – subterranean burial chambers common to pre-Hispanic Western Mexican communities. There was also a clay base from the Mesoamerican Classic period (100-900 CE).

González Gutiérrez, the Mexican consul general, said, “I thank the citizens of San Diego for the generous and selfless gesture of returning these pieces to the people of Mexico. This is part of the permanent effort of the Mexican government to reintegrate pieces of historical and archaeological value that are part of the nation’s heritage.

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