I. Cultural Property Agreement with the U.S.
On March 14, 1989, the U.S. placed an emergency import restriction (PDF) on antique ceremonial Aymara textiles from Coroma, Bolivia. On May 5, 1993, the emergency import restriction was extended for an additional three years.
On December 4, 2001, the United States and Bolivia entered into a bilateral agreement (PDF), or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to impose import restrictions on pre-Columbian archaeological objects and Colonial and Republican period ethnological materials.
The MOU was extended for a five-year period and amended (PDF), effective on December 4, 2006. The MOU was extended (PDF) for an additional five-year period on December 4, 2011. It was extended (PDF) again for a five-year period, effective December 4, 2016.
II. Summary of the Basis for the Agreement
The MOU is in response to a request from the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia seeking protection of its cultural heritage under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (PDF).
The rich cultural heritage of Bolivia is evident in the materials produced during the pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Republican periods. The best-known archaeological materials from Bolivia include stone sculpture and ritual paraphernalia with Yayamama iconography, elaborate Tiwanaku style pottery, and pottery styles from the eastern valleys of the Cordillera Blanca. Colonial period ecclesiastical art from Bolivia incorporates indigenous ritual elements into unique altarpieces, statues, paintings, silverwork, and other items. Bolivia is well-known for expertly woven indigenous textiles for ritual, sumptuary, or funeral use.
Bolivian archaeological and Colonial and Republican period ethnological materials continue to be threatened by pillage to meet the demands of the trade, despite Bolivia’s efforts to control theft, looting, and trafficking. U.S. import restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for this pillage.
In addition to providing protection through import restrictions, the MOU also advances the agenda of the Summit of the Americas, where governments in the Western Hemisphere have pledged to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various collaborative means.
III. Categories of Objects Subject to Import Restriction
A. Current import restriction
The categories of objects from Bolivia subject to U.S. import restrictions are described in the Designated List (PDF) published in the Federal Register by the Department of the Treasury on December 7, 2001.
Restricted archaeological materials range in date from approximately 10,000 B.C. to A.D. 1532, and include objects of ceramic, textile, featherwork, metals, stone, shell, bone, wood and basketry, and human remains.
Restricted ethnological materials range in date from A.D. 1533 to 1900 (Colonial and Republican Periods) and include objects of indigenous manufacture and ritual use related to the pre-Columbian past, such as masks, musical instruments, textiles (including but not limited to textiles like those from Coroma), featherwork, and ceramics; and objects used for rituals and religious ceremonies, including Colonial religious art, such as paintings and sculpture, reliquaries, altars, altar objects, and liturgical vestments.
B. Emergency import restriction in place from 1989-1996
The emergency import restriction to protect Aymara textiles from Coroma expired on May 5, 1996. However, the description of object types that were protected while the restriction was in force is still available in the Designated List (PDF) published in the Federal Register by the Department of Treasury on March 14, 1989.
Restricted materials date from before A.D. 1500 to about 1850. Categories include tunics, ponchos, mantles, head-coverings, and shawls woven from camelid fiber and sheep wool.
IV. Import Restrictions
Materials from categories described in the Designated List associated with the 2001 MOU may enter the United States only with an export license issued by the Bolivian government, or documentation that the objects left Bolivia prior to December 7, 2001, the effective date of the restriction.
Although the 1989 emergency import restriction has expired, unauthorized removal and transport of the Coroma textiles into the U.S. may be cause for invoking Section 308 (Articles of Stolen Cultural Property) of the Convention on the Cultural Property Implementation Act (PDF), or other applicable laws. Each of the textiles has been photographed and documented.
V. For More Information
United States: The Cultural Heritage Center (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bolivia: Ministerio de Culturas y Turismo
Dirección General de Patrimonio Cultural
Calle Potosí Esquina Loayza
La Paz, Bolivia
Telephone: + 591 2 214 5690
Learn more about the agreements countries have signed with the U.S. to protect cultural artifacts.