President Obrador requested that his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Mueller, on her trip to Europe, petition the Austrian government to return Moctezuma’s crest, which is currently in the Anthropological Museum of Vienna. She, however, admitted that it was an almost impossible mission since the Austrian government has denied lending the crest on more than one occasion.
Beatriz Gutiérrez Mueller, is in charge of managing the return of historical Mexican pieces, planned for exhibition in Mexico in 2021.
Gerard Van Bussel, curator of the North and Central American collections of the Anthropological Museum in Vienna, explained that the removal of the crest will not be possible due to the fragility of the historical piece. He noted that the organic materials that compose the crest could be destroyed with any vibration in the air or on the road during the transfer.
Van Bussel pointed out that there is no intention to move the crest in at least 10 years–not even within the museum–for fear that the historical piece can suffer damage.
According to the International AFP agency, between 2010 and 2012, expert personnel from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, together with scientific restorers from Austria, restored the crest which is made up of 222 feathers from various birds in gold plates, inlaid with semi-precious stones.
After the restoration, the plan was to exchange the crest for the chariot of Maximilian of Habsburg, second emperor of Mexico, which is in the national history museum, Castillo de Chapultepec. However, for fear of damaging the crest, the agreement was cancelled.
President Obrador commented, “The Austrians have completely taken possession of Moctezuma’s crest; they did not even want to lend it to Maximiliano of [Habsburg], who was born in Vienna.” The president also offered to communicate which pieces Beatirz obtained for possible exhibition in Mexico in 2021.
Although there is no official version of how the crest arrived in Austria, Mexican historians suggest that Moctezuma gave it to the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés, who would have sent it to the Austrian house of the Spanish King Carlos I.