Mexico has a new special team composed of National Guard personnel dedicated to recovering stolen archaeological pieces and historical documents.

In a press conference Monday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the idea has come from Italy, Mexico News Daily reported.

"Italy has a special body to recover stolen archaeological pieces. We are going to follow that example, I have given the instruction for the National Guard to constitute a special team for the purpose," Lopez Obrador said.

Italy has recovered and sent artifacts to Mexico for the Grandeur of Mexico exhibition, which will display 1,525 archaeological pieces at the National Museum of Anthropology and the Education Ministry's headquarters in Mexico City for five months.

Aside from Italy, the Mexican president also thanked the U.S., France, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and the Vatican for lending and returning artifacts to Mexico.

Mexico Honors Italian General for Recovering Historical Pieces

As part of Mexico's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain on Monday, Brigadier General Roberto Riccardi, the head of the Italian carabinieri department that recovers artifacts, was awarded the Aztec Eagle for his work in the recovery of archaeological pieces.

Aztec Eagle is the highest distinction granted to a foreigner in Mexico. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard noted that Riccardi has exercised his leadership in safeguarding and returning heritage pieces stolen from Mexico. 

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Stolen Archaeological Pieces From Mexico

Roberto Riccardi's work has resulted in the return of 74 archaeological pieces, with 23 of those returned to the government of Mexico last year, Milenio reported.

Meanwhile, ongoing work is being done on at least 99 additional pieces ruled as national heritage. The Italian awardee is currently working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization to create the Cultural Blue Helmets.

According to Riccardi, they only do their duty and deeply believe in what they do. He added that the recovered artifacts are a piece of identity.

Mexico's Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said that in three years, Mexico had repatriated 5,746 properties. Out of those figures, 5,149 are archaeological and 547 historical, according to another Milenio report.

Frausto added that Mexico is making international alliances to return more pieces to the country.

In June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Mexico recovered 34 pre-Columbian artifacts that two German private collectors voluntarily returned, DW reported.

Mexican foreign minister's legal consultant, Alejandro Celorio, said two German citizens approached Mexico's embassy in Berlin to return archaeological pieces in possession of their families.

According to Mexican Culture Ministry's tweet, the items recovered include bowls, vessels, stamps, and an Olmec-style anthropomorphic mask, which was made of rock and dated from the period of 1200-600 B.C. It was also one of the objects dating back centuries.

An anthropomorphic clay figure and a three-legged Mayan clay pot from the period 1000-1521 A.D were also recovered. The recovered pieces were handed over to embassy officials last May.

Maria Villarreal of Mexico's National Institute of History and Anthropology said the return of the ancient items was very important for her country, USA Today reported.

Villareal said Olmec culture represents one of the first civilizations in ancient Mexico, adding that only 13 pieces exist with the same characteristics.

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Written by: Mary Webber

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