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The heritage objects from Barcelona, Spain, are one of the greatest achievements of the #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende campaign. Photo: Gerardo Torres. INAH
The heritage objects from Barcelona, Spain, are one of the biggest wins of the #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende campaign. Photo: Gerardo Torres/INAH

'Mi Patrimonio No Se Vende': How Mexico is trying to recover its stolen cultural patrimony

The Mexican government has launched a social campaign to recover antiques and works of art in the hands of private collectors around the world

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Last July, the Mexican government announced the recovery of more than 2,500 archaeological and historical pieces that were in the hands of a family in Barcelona, who returned them voluntarily.

The recovery of these objects, dating from the pre-classic period of the Tlatilca culture, represents the biggest win so far by the social campaign launched a few years ago by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), whose "priority" is to recover the country's historical and cultural heritage. 

Under the slogan #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende "My Heritage is Not For Sale," the Mexican government has managed to recover nearly 9,000 pieces that were illegally abroad since 2018, turning the campaign into an international success for countries that have suffered cultural exploitation, such as Cambodia and Iraq. 

We are talking about "the restitution of the dignity of those who have always been deprived and discriminated against, of cultures that have resisted 500 years and that are alive, and that deserve to be recognized in the greatness of their past," assured Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto Guerrero in a press release issued by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), where the collection of antiquities of the Barcelona family was delivered. 

In that sense, Frausto explained that they are "working through three strategies: voluntary delivery, that is to say, to raise awareness, to insist, with those who are the ones, or have the rights or ownership of different types of collections. Second, seizures, which are via the law. And third, the cancellation of auctions, which this had not been done, had not been achieved until now, from this stage."

In May of this year, Mexico tried to stop an auction of the French sales house Cornette de Saint Cyr in Paris, where it was planned to auction 30 Teotihuacan archaeological pieces and of cultures originating from the south of Mexico.

"The Government of Mexico will continue to demand not to profit with the identity of native peoples," Frausto wrote on Twitter to call the attention of the auction house.

Another recent success of the campaign to recover Mexican historical heritage at a global level was the discovery of a pair of 2,000-year-old ceramic statuettes in a Stockholm warehouse, which had been used decades ago to advertise the Mexican liquor Kahlúa, owned by the Swedish company Absolut Vodka.

The company reported the discovery to the Mexican Embassy, which immediately contacted anthropologists in the country to verify their value and begin to manage their return, as reported this week by The Wall Street Journal

AMLO's government has not only launched the social campaign #MiPatrimonioNoSeVende, designed by First Lady Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, but has also created a special National Guard team dedicated to the recovery of stolen pre-Columbian artifacts, modeled after a unit of the Italian national police.

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