Colombia’s Constitutional Court does not believe that Spain will return the country’s Quimbaya indigenous treasure, despite the wishes of the country’s Ombudsman and Attorney General.
The gold hoard was given to a Spanish queen in 1893 by then Colombian president Carlos Holguín, it currently forms part of the collection at the Museum of America in Madrid.
“There is no mechanism that allows Colombia unilaterally and coercively to force the Spanish state to return the pieces that are in Madrid,”said Deputy Foreign Minister, Patti Londoño Jaramillo, Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper reports.
The collection consisting of 122 archaeological gold pieces have been in Madrid since the late 19th century.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court must now define whether or not to ask the Foreign Ministry to begin to enter into a convoluted and complex process for the repatriation of this treasure.
Violation of rights
The case was brought about after a lawsuit was filed by lawyer Felipe Rincón Salgado, who says the gifting of the treasure constituted a violation of Colombia’s rights.
Londoño commented that “President Holguin’s action had validility, legitimency and legality.”
She added that there is currently no possible legal remedy that “obliges Spain to return the Quimbaya treasure. ”
For Rincón, the claim is an act of cultural and historical sovereignty.
“We should not be ashamed or shy in claiming our cultural, archaeological and historical heritage. Peru, Mexico, Egypt and Spain itself have done it, it is a clear theme of identity.”
“We believe that the Kingdom of Spain will return it as it is consent that it is morally the Quimbaya treasure belongs to Colombian heritage.” he said.
“Quimbaya treasure has not been studied in depth in Colombia or in Spain, which means that there is a lack of knowledge of this culture.” Ombudsman delegate, Luis Manuel Castro Novoa commented.
Spanish citizen Vicario Fernando Leal, Director of the department of Culture at the Organization of Ibero-American States, said that in this case it is necessary to “defend the return by a symbolic intention for the creation of a new cultural reality.”
He made it clear that Spain should return the treasure as a “good gesture”, aiding Colombia to piece together the puzzle behind the country’s little known Quimbaya culture.
Gonzalo Castellanos Valenzuela, an expert on American cultural heritage, says that in this case “treaties that protect cultural property in the case of armed conflict, do not cover up this illegal situation in which a president delivered public heritage to another country.”
In recent years, Colombia has launched a customs based campaign preventing the illegal trafficking of items belonging to the country’s national heritage. The illegal transport of archeological goods and artefacts became increasingly popular after the Second World War, as private owners and museums looked to increase their collections.