Cultural objects returned to Mexico

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications,
28 February 2023, Australia

The two imported objects were seized by inspectors from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts with the assistance of Australian Border Force. The seizures took place under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, which provides for the return of foreign cultural property which has been illegally exported from other countries and imported into Australia.

The objects are an ex-voto painting traditionally made in Mexico to illustrate a miracle and honour the intervention of a saint, and a copper bowl dating back to the 13th century crafted by the indigenous Mixtec people.

The ex-voto painting was commissioned by a survivor of a mining accident which occurred in 1923 in San Fernando in southern Mexico; the miner credited his survival to the Virgin of the Lakes. The pre-hispanic bowl was crafted around the 13th century by the Mixtec people in the Valley of Mexico. It is decorated with a feathered serpent motif prevalent throughout the region.

His Excellency Mr Eduardo Peña Haller, Ambassador of Mexico received the objects during the ceremony at the Embassy.

The Australian and Mexican Governments are both signatories to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property 1970, which provides for international cooperation to prevent and abate the trafficking of cultural material.