BOSTON - On January 31, 2024, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations, and the Consul General for Mexico gathered for a ceremony marking the repatriation of a cultural artifact. The item in question was a clay pot crafted between 900 and 1521 A.D. in Northern Mexico. The repatriation ceremony concluded with the custody of the item being turned over to Alberto Fierro, consul general for the Consulate of Mexico in Boston, MA.
"On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, it is my honor to return this piece of cultural heritage to the people of Mexico," said Julio Caravia, CBP's Area Port Director in Boston. "CBP will not stand idly by while smugglers attempt to profit from the theft of other countries' historical and cultural property. CBP will use its border authority to identify, rescue, and return these precious antiquities to their rightful homes."
Michael J. Krol, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New England, participated in the repatriation. CBP partners with HSI in detecting, interception, investigating, and repatriating cultural property. Read more about HSI Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Program investigations.
"This is a beautifully crafted item, created by a highly skilled artisan well over 600 years ago. Although the 600-year journey of this piece is unclear, what we do know is the future resting place of the artifact will be its rightful home in Mexico," said Michael J. Krol, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England. "Sadly, the antiquities trade is a billion-dollar industry, whereby cultural artifacts are often looted or purposely stolen and sold for personal profit. HSI is committed to applying our unique investigative skills and our global reach to track down lost pieces of history and ensure their return to their rightful owners— in this case, the people of Mexico. When we stand together, we can create real change in the world of antiquities trafficking."
In July 2016, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) received a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request from Mexico regarding specific property claimed to be part of the cultural heritage of Mexico and removed illegally from Mexico. Among the items was the clay pot at issue, which was sold at auction by Skinner, Inc. in 2011. The purchaser of the clay pot abandoned his interest to HSI agents, and the Consul General of Mexico in Boston filed a petition, which the Office of Trade, Regulations, and Rulings granted on March 20, 2023.
This repatriation was made possible via the Treaty of Cooperation for recovery and return of cultural property between the United States and Mexico, an agreement between the two nations to protect, recover, and return items of cultural importance. Read more about the Treaty of Cooperation for the Recovery and Return of Stolen Archaeological, Historical, and Cultural Properties.
CBP's border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation's safety and economic vitality.
For photos from the event, please contact Ryan.Brissette@cbp.dhs.gov.