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Every time that pre-Hispanic goods are offered at an auction of the famous houses in New York, London or Paris, the authorities of our country wrap themselves in the flag demanding that it be suspended as illegal and that these objects be returned to Mexico for being part of the national heritage. All these attempts fail, because if there are no reports of theft of the objects offered, these sales are not illegal. The last one was last week, when 27 pre-Hispanic pieces were auctioned by the Casa Millon in Paris.

Secretary of Culture Alejandra Frausto, between the emotional and the ridiculous, declared that “the cultural heritage of Mexicans is not a luxury item to decorate a house. We reiterate a call to stop the sale and recover them and bring them closer to current living cultures.” The call was seconded by Beatriz Gutiérrez. They are wrong in their assessment. Those auctioned pieces are usually acquired by museums or collectors and philanthropists, most of whom do not intend to decorate their living room. On the contrary, these private collections are constantly loaned for public exhibition. That is the satisfaction for the collector and the museums: to be able to offer the works for universal delight.

Mexico does not have the economic capacity to curate the collection of hundreds of thousands of pre-Hispanic objects. Years ago, an INAH official told me that the number of pieces stored and uncatalogued is enormous.

What the Ministry of Culture must avoid, together with the INAH, is the looting and theft of current pieces that are going to give to a black market. Also, preserve the existing cultural heritage. However, many museums have deteriorated, reaching deplorable conditions. It is not only due to a lack of budget, but also due to a lack of capacity given the mediocre profile of the Secretary of Culture. Traditionally, this show was led by characters with a respectable cultural background such as Víctor Flores Olea, Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, Sergio Vela and Consuelo Sáizar. Secretary Frausto, on the other hand, only held various positions of cultural diffusion in institutions of medium importance. Ah, but he’s a member of Morena, that’s what counts.

Since October 2020, an Otomi community has taken over the headquarters of the Indigenous Art Collection of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI). That valuable collection of more than 20,000 pieces is deteriorating because it has not been maintained. The leader of those who maintain this blockade has stated that much of the collection had previously been looted by the authorities, and now they want to hold them responsible for the disappearance of pieces. It’s been almost 17 months since Frausto has negligently refused to engage in dialogue and attend to their petition to resolve their demands, which include the expropriation of four properties they have occupied for more than two decades.

It would be much more profitable for Secretary Frausto to dedicate herself to solving this conflict than worrying about recovering the “Perrito de Colima”, one of the pieces auctioned in Paris for 5,000 euros.

Twitter: @frubli

Federico Rubli Kaiser


IMEF Magazine

Economist graduated from ITAM. He has a Master’s degree and doctoral studies in monetary theory and policy, and international finance and trade. Columnist for The Economist. He has been an advisor to the Governing Board of Banxico, Director of Institutional Liaison, Director of External Relations and Coordinator of the Governor’s Office, Manager of External Relations, Manager of Macrofinancial Analysis, Deputy Manager of Macroeconomic Analysis, Deputy Manager of International Economy and Analyst.

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