Morton auction house sells historic papers written by the great heroes of the Mexican Independence

Federal prosecutors in Mexico threatened Tuesday to bring criminal charges against a local auction house for a planned sale of historical documents

Morton auction house sells historic papers written by the great heroes of the Mexican Independence
The documents are part of Mexico's historical legacy - Photo: Taken from Morton's Facebook account
English 09/09/2020 15:56 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Antonio Díaz/EL UNIVERSAL & Newsroom/AP Actualizada 13:13
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Federal prosecutors in Mexico threatened Tuesday to bring criminal charges against a local auction house for a planned sale of historical documents including letters from the country’s Independence heroes.

The Attorney General’s office said just hours before the planned auction that the sale was illegal and that it could seize the lots. It said the documents were part of Mexico’s historical legacy.

The Morton auction house said the documents included letters signed by Miguel Hidalgo and other leaders of the 1810-1821 independence struggle. The company did not respond to a request for comment, but the online auction indicated that the Hidalgo letter had been withdrawn from the sale.

Prosecutors said that while private individuals can own such documents, they cannot sell them and that the auctioneers could face fines or criminal charges.

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On September 8 at 17:00, Morton held the “Auction of Books and Documents on the Independence of Mexico, the First Empire, and the First Republic, History of Mexico, Explorers, Travelers and Maps” that was comprised of 251 lots “that give a testimony of our history, from the conflagration to the consummation of the Independence,” said the auction house in a statement.

The documents that were auctioned included a letter written by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and addressed to Coronel Narciso de la Canal on October 4, 1810, and worth from MXN $110,000 to 130,000.

The Mexican Committee of Historical Sciences (CMCH) sent a letter to Carlos Enrique Ruiz Abreu, director of Mexico’s General Archive (AGN) requesting the AGN to report if it had confirmed the intention of moving the historical archives that were auctioned by Morton.

Experts from the Michoacán and San Luis associations, as well as from the Institute of Historical Research, argued that according to the General Law of Archive, documentary heritage is defined as “the documents that, due to their nature, are irreplaceable and give an account of the evolution of the State and of the people and institutions that have contributed to its development (…) including those who have belonged or belong to the archives of federal agencies, federal entities, municipalities, Mexico City boroughs, priest’s houses, or any other civil or religious organization.”

That same law considers “documents or archives whose contents are of importance or relevance for the knowledge of national history” to be of public interest.

Moreover, it mentions that “in case of alienation due to the sale of a public interest private archive, owned by an individual (…) the individual that pretends to move the property must send a written notification to the General Archive (…) The omission of the notification by the individual will be a cause of invalidity of the domain transfer and the archive or document in question will be expropriated (…) Auction houses, analog institutions, and individuals who pretend to purchase a historical document will be obliged to confirm, previous to the transfer of domain operations, that the General Archive was notified.”

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The letter was also sent to Diego Prieto, director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH): Javier Garciadiego, director of the Mexican Academy of History, and Eduardo Villegas, coordinator of Mexico’s Historical and Cultural Memory.

The auction also included a letter written by José María Liceaga, José María Morelos y Pavón, and José María Cos addressed to Commander Juan Antonio Romero on November 22, 1914, informing him of the creation of a Military Academy, as well as mail that belonged to Agustín de Iturbide, Nicolás Bravo, and Vicente Guerrero, as well as other documents.

 

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Morton held the auction despite Mexico’s General Archive said 75 lots of the auction had elements that would classify them as Documentary Heritage of the Nation.

Lot 77, which was valued between MXN $100,000 and 150,000 was the only one removed from the entire auction. Several documents were sold, including the letter written by José María Liceaga, José María Morelos y Pavón, and José María Cos.
 

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Lot 99, comprised of two letters written by Agustín de Iturbide – one from 1808 addressed to Coronel Conde Casa Rul and another one addressed to Captain M. Agustín de Elorza with a message to Lieutenant Coronel Manuel de G. y Zamora in 1816 – was sold for MXN $19,200.

However, not all lots were sold, including a letter by Vicente Guerrero, one by Manuel Flores, and another one signed by Miguel Hidalgo.

Although they were not sold, the auction house said those interested in purchasing the documents could contact them.

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