19 | ABR | 2019
Moctezuma's Headdress at the in Vienna - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

A man's fight to recover “the sacred crown”

Iván Ruiz
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This Mexican activist has spent 15 years trying to recover Moctezuma's Headdress

Since 1993, Xokonoschtletl Gómora, traditional dancer and indigenous culture activist, embarked on a mission that has turned out to be impossible: secure the return of Moctezuma's Headdress to Mexico. It's a “sacred crown" that, according to him, holds infinity in its 400 quetzal feathers and “represents political, economic, social, and spiritual power.”

“For me, this a full-time mission, it's the reason of my existence because, as a Mexican, one of my obligations is to make sure Mexico becomes a better place but it cannot improve unless it grounds itself on ancient knowledge,” he said during an interview.

This activist has spent 15 years trying on his own to recover this majestic piece, under the protection of the Weltmuseum – formerly the Museum of Ethnology – in Vienna, Austria, since 1880.

In his book, “En busca de un impossible” (“Searching for an impossible”), Gómora talks about all his journeys to Austria seeking the return of Moctezuma's Headdress, his financial struggles, the troubles he has faced, and the obstacles set by the Mexican government – he claims – in Austria.

“I'm ashamed to say Mexican authorities haven't supported me at all. They send [Austria's] cops for me, they shun me, they even apologize on my behalf for the trouble I cause in Viena,” says the activist.

In 2012, a group of researchers from Mexico and Austria determined, after assessing the preservation status of the piece, that the possibilities of the Headdress to return home were almost zero since its transportation could damage the delicate material it is made of.

The study was made by the Museum of Ethnology of Vienna in partnership with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Nevertheless, the activist insists the “crown” must be returned to Mexico and considers the study was a “pretext” to justify the Headdress remaining in Austria.

“If the United Nations studies it and proves the crown cannot be transported, I'll leave everything here and return to Mexico. [The study] was made from the point of view of the Austrians, not of the Mexicans,” he claims.

Gómora says he will meet with representatives of the United Nations in order cities to continue the negotiations of the Headdress and its return to Mexico.


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