Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico Aztec headdress could go home from Austria

A replica of the headdress in the Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, 27 April 2012
Image caption Details of any loan need to be finalised, including how to protect the fragile quetzal feathers in transit

A headdress said to have been worn by an Aztec emperor could temporarily go back to Mexico from Austria after the Mexican Senate changed its rules.

The headdress is believed to be a gift from Moctezuma to 16th Century Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.

It is made of quetzal and other feathers mounted on a base of gold studded with precious stones.

Mexico usually sees pre-Conquest relics as national property, and if returned must stay in the country.

After agreeing to the change of rules, the headdress could be returned on an extended loan from the museum in Vienna where it is currently on display.

The amendments approved by the senate would allow for temporary loans, while acknowledging Austria's ownership rights.

Fragile feathers

It is thought Cortes sent it to the Spanish king in Europe. It is unclear how it ended up in Austria, although the king was a member of the Austrian Hapsburg family.

Details of the loan need to be worked out, including how the fragile headdress - which is more than a metre wide - will be protected during transit.

Mexico has tried to get the headdress returned for many years, at one point appealing to the UN.

Some Austrian experts say the feather-work crown did not belong to Moctezuma but was an ornament used by priests, although they do acknowledge the headdress's significance in Mexican culture.

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