1,294 Pre-Columbian Artifacts Repatriated by a California Museum to Mexico

A whopping 1,294 pre-Columbian artifacts have been returned to Mexican authorities by American officials during a ceremony at the San Bernadino County Museum (SBCM) in Redlands, California on September 15.

The collection includes such ritual and everyday objects as statuettes, wind instruments, necklaces, ceramic and copper bells, arrowheads, and burial remains.

As part of the ceremony, they were returned to the Mexican consul in San Bernadino Itzel de Leon Villard. The restitution was a coordinated effort between the Mexican ministries of foreign affairs and culture under the National Institute of Anthropolgy and History (INAH), the San Bernardino County board of supervisors, and the SBCM director David Myers and deputy director Tamara Serrao-Leiva.

The event coincided with both Mexican Independence Day on September 16 and the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month in the US from September 15–October 15. Additionally, the SBCM debuted its exhibition “Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America” on September 15.

This is not the first time the museum has repatriated culturally significant objects. In 2021, the SBCM returned dozens of artifacts to the San Manuel Band of Mission Serrano Indians that had been acquired without proper provenance records in the 1980s.

As part of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ongoing “My Heritage is not for Sale” campaign to recover national cultural heritage objects, more than 11,500 pieces have been returned to Mexico since 2018. One such recent example includes the sale of pre-Columbian objects at a French auction house.