Mexico displays pre-Hispanic artifacts recovered from abroad

Miguel Angel Trinidad Melendez, of the National Coordination of Museums and Exhibitions of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, takes part in the launch of “The Greatness of Mexico” exhibition, displaying for the first time in the country more than 800 pieces repatriated from abroad in the last three years and others that were in safekeeping and confiscation warehouses, at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Two Mexican museums have opened a massive show this week of 1,525 pre-Hispanic and historical artifacts, more than half of which were recovered from abroad.

Mexico has long had a problem with collectors or traffickers taking artifacts out of the country, even though that has been illegal since 1972.

But 881 of the sculptures, vessels and other artifacts on display in Mexico City were returned, either voluntarily by foreign collectors or through police seizures abroad. They were returned from the United States, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

For most, it is the first time they have been seen in Mexico.

Many of the other 644 pieces had been seized in Mexico or had long sat in warehouses. Forty-six of them are on loan from museums abroad.

“What is being gained here is the possibility for us Mexicans to see these pieces again, or even to see them for the first time,” said Miguel Angel Trinidad, one of the curators.

One example, an impressive Mayan stela, shows a warlord grasping a captured rival. It had previously been on display in Los Angeles, California.

The show is called “The Greatness of Mexico,” and the pieces on display come from pre-Hispanic cultures like the Mayas, Aztecs and Olmecs, as well as later pieces. The pieces will be on display in Mexico City’s National Anthropology Museum and the colonial-era museum of the Public Education Department.

The show coincides with the 500th anniversary of the 1521 conquest of Mexico City by the Spanish, and the 200th anniversary of the consummation of Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821.

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