LIMA, Peru – Peruvian cultural artifacts illegally sold on the international black market are being returned to museums and archeological sites from where they never should have left.
The joint efforts by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have led to the repatriation of 3,018 pieces belonging to Peru’s cultural heritage since 2007.
Alongside the repatriated items, an additional 31,640 artifacts were recovered in Peru, according to Katie Navarro Vásquez, the director of recoveries in the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage Defense at the Ministry of Culture, which is dedicated to preventing and controlling the illegal trafficking in artifacts, and recovering and repatriating them domestically and internationally.
Prevention and security measures are carried out at three units the Ministry of Culture has established in Peru – at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport, the Santa Rosa complex on the southern border with Chile and in the Postal Services office (Serpost) in the Peruvian capital.
“Our figures for rescued and repatriated items lead us to believe that our control units at strategic exit points from the country have definitely deterred traffickers from trying to smuggle heritage items through these points,” Navarro said.
Ongoing luggage and parcel checks at these three places are carried out by Ministry of Culture personnel alongside officers from the National Police and Customs, she added.
“Peru realized that the loss of its heritage is like somebody ripping out the pieces of our living jigsaw puzzle,” said Cecilia Bákula Budge, former director of the National Institute of Culture of Peru – today the Ministry of Culture – and current head of Peru’s Central Reserve Bank Museum. “I am confident that though we still have a lot to do, we are making progress on an uphill battle in terms of recoveries.”
Thanks to this, 340 cultural pieces destined to be smuggled out of the country were prevented from leaving Peru between January and May after 1,044 pieces were kept from being smuggled out of the country in 2013 and 1,870 in 2012.
“There has been a downward trend since 2007 in trafficking of cultural artifacts,” Navarro said. “This [is due to] our three units’ work. Now, [those] trying to smuggle cultural heritage are aware that we are at the main departure points in the country and that deters them. For us, it’s important that cultural heritage does not cross the border since, once outside, rescuing the pieces – though not impossible – is certainly more difficult [due to] long repatriation processes.” . . . .