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U.S. gives head to Mexicans (yes, this is safe for work)

25 April 2007

A detached head… Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Customes and Border Patrol, the Mexican Consulate… crime in Arizona… gringo smugglers… how could I pass this one up, even if all the bureaucrats turn out to be good guys?

Phoenix, Arizona.-The Immigation and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the United States returned to the Mexicna Consul General in Phoenix Arizon a granite precolumbian sculpted head, which a person tried to bring into the United States this past december.

If he could speak, I imagine the archeological artifict would say I want to go home. These types of treasures are not trophies for personal pleasure, nor art for a collection, but illegally smuggled good,” said Alonzo Peña, Phoenix supervisor for ICE.

Peñs made the comments at a press conference where he spoke with Mexican Consul General in Phoenix, Carlos Flores and Florentino Castro, representing the government of Sinaloa, where the artifict originated.

Flores received the precolumbian head as the represenative of the Mexican government during a brief ceremony at ICE offices, where both Flores and Peña signed documents to formalize the transfer.

I would like to express my profound gratitude on behalf of Mexico and the Mexican peoples to the U.S. authorities, and to ICE in particular for recovering this piece, which is a part of the cultural patrimony of Mexico and Sinaloa,” Flores said.

The Mexican diplomat emphasized that this incident underscores the importance of collaboration between the two countries in fighting the illicit trade in archeological artifacts. Peña said that the 20 by 10 cm. Monolith, which weighs nearly eight kgs. Was confiscated last December by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents from a man trying to smuggle it into the United States from Sinaola at the San Luis, Arizon border crossing.

He added that the alleged smuggler could only be charged with administrative sactions, because they were unable to authenticate the artifact at the time it was discovered at the border.

However, he added that ICE would cooperate with Mexican authorities if criminal charges are eventually brought against the smuggler, who was not identified.

The Mexican Consul indicated that possible criminal charges were being explored in his country. Flores emphasized that the country’s patrimony has been looted for years, and that cooperation with the United States and other countries is essential to fight this type of crime.

For now, the legation will have charge of the archeological piece, whose exact date of origin is unknown, until it is turned over to researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Anthropología e Historia (INAH) in Mexico

The precolombian head will be returned to Mexico together with several pieces that came from the Ferrería Durango Archeological Zone presently at the State University of Arizona.

The Mexican official said that in the three years he has served in Phoenix, this is the first time that U.S. authorities have turned over an archeological find. Peña, for his part, said that while he didn’t know the black market value for the piece that was recovered, he figured it was invaluable in terms of Mexican cultural patrimony.

Notimex, translated from Milenio (24 April 2007)

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