500-year-old manuscript signed by Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés returned to Mexico

25 July 2023

BOSTON (AP) — A nearly 500-year-old manuscript signed by the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés in 1527 has been returned to the Archivo General de la Nación de México – Mexico’s national archives in Mexico City, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The manuscript is a payment order signed by Cortés on April 27, 1527, authorizing the purchase of rose sugar for the pharmacy in exchange for 12 gold pesos.

It is believed to be one of several pieces unlawfully removed from a collection of documents concerning a Spanish expedition to Central America in 1527 that is housed in Mexico’s national archives.

Last week officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the FBI participated in a formal repatriation ceremony at Mexico’s national archives, where the manuscript is believed to have been unlawfully removed sometime before 1993.

It is a violation of federal law to transport or receive stolen goods valued at more than $5,000 that have traveled in foreign or interstate commerce.

According to investigators in early 2022, a person consigned the Cortés manuscript for online auction at a Massachusetts auction house. Mexican authorities alerted federal authorities in the United States that the manuscript being auctioned appeared to have been stolen.

The auction house removed the manuscript from the upcoming auction, and the manuscript was recovered, officials said.

“After missing for decades, thanks to incredible international collaboration and persistence the Cortés manuscript is finally where it belongs back in Mexico, where it will remain a treasured part of Mexico’s history and heritage,” acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said in a written statement.

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