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Mexico Wants An Aztec Headdress Back — And Controversy Follows

MEXICO CITY — For years, many Mexicans have longed for the return of a 16th century Aztec feathered crown that lies in a European museum. The Mexican president’s wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez-Muller, went on a mission to try to get it borrowed — but the visit reignited a debate about its significance.

The headdress once belonged to King Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma the Second) of the Mexica, or Aztecs, who gave it as a gift to Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. 

Cortés later sent it as a tribute to the Spanish crown, but after a long history, it ended up in its current location at Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology.

Now, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants it back in Mexico for the bicentennial celebrations of independence next year. 

"I told my wife to insist because it's almost an impossible mission, as Austrians have appropriated the feathered crown, despite it belonging to Mexico," said López Obrador.

Nationalist followers support the president. But many experts say the headdress was a gift centuries ago, and it’s too delicate to travel, with a high risk of disintegrating. 

Critics of the president say this is another populist move from the president.

Rodrigo Cervantes is KJZZ’s bureau chief in Mexico City, where he was born and raised. He has served as opinion writer, contributor and commentator for several media outlets and organizations in Mexico and the United States, including CNN, Georgia Public Broadcasting and Univisión. Cervantes previously worked as the business editor and editorial coordinator for El Norte, the leading newspaper in Monterrey and a publication of Grupo Reforma, Mexico’s premier news group. In Mexico City, Cervantes served in Reforma as a reporter, special correspondent, editor and special sections coordinator. Cervantes also held the editor position at MundoHispánico, a division of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia’s oldest and largest Latino newspaper. He also participated as one of the first members of the Diversity Advisory Group for Cox Media. In 2012, Cervantes was appointed as fellow for the Leadership Program of The New York Times/Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, as well as for the "Líderes Digitales" program from the International Center for Journalists. In 2010, he was awarded with the Poynter-McCormick Leadership Fellowship. Cervantes graduated with honors in communication sciences and journalism from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), Mexico City Campus. Later, he was granted the Fundación Carolina Scholarship from the Spanish government to obtain an MBA degree at San Pablo-CEU School of Business (Madrid). Other awards include: the Power 30 Under 30 Award for Professional and Community Excellence in Atlanta, the Outstanding Alumni Medal from ITESM, and several José Martí Awards for Journalism Excellence from the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP). Cervantes enjoys music, books, travel, friendship, good mezcal and the occasional company of his guitar.