Latin American countries, including Ecuador, condemn the French auction of pre-Hispanic artifacts

Feb 11, 2022

The Paris ambassadors of Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic condemned “in the strongest terms” the sale of pre-Hispanic artifacts organized by auction houses, scheduled for early March.

Ecuador has made numerous attempts over the years to repatriate shrunken heads held by European museums and private collectors. This head, of a Shuar warrior, was returned to the Pumapuno Museum in Cuenca in 2018.

In their joint statement, they called for the auctions to be halted. They denounced what they said was the “continuation of practices linked to the illicit trade in cultural property, which damage the heritage, history and identity of our native peoples.”

The ambassadors of Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Peru made a similar appeal last November.

On Monday, Mexico’s Lopez Obrador called on France to legislate on the issue, after the January 28 sale by the Millon auction house of 30 pre-Hispanic Mexican artifacts, despite protests from Mexico City.

In recent years, Mexico has been trying to recover artifacts in the hands of private collectors around the world, with only partial success. As well as calling for artworks to be returned, Mexico has accused major European fashion houses of cultural appropriation for lifting native designs for their clothes.

It is part of an ongoing debate over the ethics of cultural artifacts held by museums and private owners in former colonial powers, and questions about how they were acquired in the first place.

For years, Ecuadorian authorities have made numerous attempts to repatriate hundreds of shrunken heads held by European museums and private collectors. In a rare success, the Vatican Museum returned the head of Shuar warrior taken to Rome by a priest more than 100 years ago. The head was returned to a collection in Cuenca in 2018.




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