Restoration of Cultural Heritage Damaged by 2017 Earthquakes Reaches Milestone in Mexico

The restoration of cultural heritage sites affected by the September 2017 earthquakes has reached a significant milestone, with roughly 900 ongoing restoration projects. These efforts involve the dedication of over 5,000 individuals and are primarily focused on the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, Morelos, and Mexico City, which endured the most severe impact from the earthquakes. Diego Prieto, the General Director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), emphasized the commitment to complete the restoration of all affected buildings and properties by the end of the year, with a total expenditure of 10 billion pesos.

These restoration initiatives have been primarily concentrated in the aforementioned states, with completed work in Veracruz, Tabasco, Hidalgo, Chiapas, and Guerrero. The states of Mexico and Tlaxcala have also initiated restoration projects. Additionally, the Ministry of Culture has established agreements with certain states to execute restoration projects under the supervision and guidance of the INAH. This collaborative approach has allowed for a more extensive restoration effort and has fortified preservation strategies.

The INAH encountered an unprecedented challenge following the earthquakes, as there was significant damage to numerous cultural assets, historical monuments, and archaeological sites. The scale of the damage surpassed the INAH’s capacity and affected not only federal properties but also properties owned by municipal, state, and private entities. This damage extended to movable assets, including altarpieces, sculptures, paintings, religious furniture, architectural decorations, and mural paintings.

Diego Prieto underscored the necessity for meticulous intervention, diagnostic work, and supervision for each property, which was an immense undertaking due to the extensive number of affected assets. In total, 2,340 historical and archaeological monuments at the federal level were damaged, along with a substantial number of other properties. The restoration process has made significant progress, with 73% of the work already completed, resulting in the restoration and delivery of 2,386 pieces of furniture and their contents.

The experience of the 2017 earthquakes has highlighted the importance of prevention and the necessity for a response protocol to address contingencies of various natures that could threaten Mexico’s cultural heritage. Collaboration with society and organizations responsible for the care of cultural assets remains vital. Private entities and international support have played a role in funding and facilitating restoration efforts.

Despite the challenges and the scale of the restoration work, there is a steadfast commitment to preserving Mexico’s historical heritage, and the INAH aims to serve as a reference for institutions dedicated to the protection and recovery of cultural heritage in the years to come.

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