Sunday, September 30, 2012

CPIA Cultural Property MoU with Guatemala Renewed and Expanded

Endangered Maya carved bone subject to import restrictions.  U.S. State Dept.
The U.S. government has renewed and expanded its bilateral agreement with Guatemala protecting jeopardized cultural heritage.  Friday's Federal Register reports that, after a review of the recommendations of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), the U.S. State Department's Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs "determined that the cultural heritage of Guatemala continues to be in jeopardy from pillage of certain archaeological objects and is also in jeopardy from pillage of certain ecclesiastical ethnological materials dating to the Conquest and Colonial Periods of Guatemala (c. A.D. 1524 to 1821)."   The decision by the State Department follows a public hearing held by CPAC in April.

The adopted import restrictions are authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) and are effective until September 29, 2017.  The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) renews import controls on Pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts from Guatemala dating from 2000 B.C. to 1524 A.D.  Moreover, the bilateral agreement  has been broadened to include ecclesiastical objects from approximately 1524 to 1821 A.D.

The United States originally enacted emergency import protections in 1991 and 1994, covering Maya archaeology from Guatemala's Petén region.  The U.S. and Guatemala entered into a bilateral agreement in 1997 that covered pre-Columbian archaeological material. The countries later extended this MoU in 2002 and 2007.

Cultural objects covered by the bilateral agreement may legally pass through the American border when they have either an export permit or proof showing "that they left Guatemala prior to the effective date of the restriction: April 15, 1991, for archaeological material from Petén, and October 3, 1997, for archaeological material from throughout Guatemala," and September 29, 2012 for ecclesiastical material dating from the Conquest and Colonial Periods of Guatemala.

The 1973 Pre-Columbian Monumental or Architectural Sculpture or Murals Statute, meanwhile, also remains in effect.  That federal law forbids importation of designated Pre-Columbian cultural heritage into the U.S., except that monumental or architectural sculpture or murals may be imported when there is either an authorized export license or paperwork showing departure from the source nation before June 1, 1973.

Endangered cultural items protected by either CPIA import controls or the  Pre-Columbian Monumental or Architectural Sculpture or Murals Statute may be detained, seized, and forfeited by American authorities as contraband unless accompanied by an export permit or appropriate proof.  Criminal smugglers may also face potential prosecution.

It is best to speak with a cultural property attorney and/or seek a U.S. Customs ruling when importing cultural heritage from Guatemala.


This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com