Colombian court orders return of indigenous treasure gifted to Spain in 19th century

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Colombia’s Constitutional Court has ordered the government to recover more than 120 pieces of indigenous treasure given to the Spanish royal family by Colombia’s president in the 19th century.

Colombian court orders return of indigenous treasure gifted to Spain in 19th century
One of the pieces of the quimbaya treasure in the Museo de AmĂ©rica in Madrid 
[Credit: Bernardo Perez/El Pais]

According to the high court, the gift violated the constitution, which states an item of cultural importance cannot be given away.

It ordered the foreign ministry to undertake all necessary negotiations to bring back the pre-Colombian artifacts from the South American Quimbaya civilization, known for their gold work.

Colombian court orders return of indigenous treasure gifted to Spain in 19th century
Gold Quimbayas caciques donated by the Colombian government to Spain 
[Credit: Gerard Julien/AFP]

In 1893, President Carlos Holguin gifted the pieces — part of a collection of over 400 including masks and human figures — to Spain’s queen regent Maria Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena.

“Holguin gifted the treasure to the queen of Spain, as she had helped him with a boundary dispute we had with Venezuela,” Jaime Lopera, of the Quindio Academy of History, in the western region of Colombia where the Quimbaya lived.

Colombian court orders return of indigenous treasure gifted to Spain in 19th century
Six of the 122 pieces of the quimbaya treasure, given by the Colombian government to the Kingdom of Spain, 
exhibited at the Museo de América in Madrid [Credit: Bernardo Perez/El Pais]

“He should not have given away that treasure, since it was bought with the nation’s money and belonged to the national heritage,” added the historian, who played a part in a campaign to recover the artifacts lasting over a decade.

The Colombian government did not immediately respond to the decision.

Source: AFP [October 22, 2017]

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