Looting Another’s Heritage

By: Daniel Nardini

                           Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary  Last week, the Albanian national police had arrested an art ring that had been stealing hundreds of sacred religious artwork and frescoes across Albania. The artworks had been taken from churches, and these artworks dated between the 15th Century to the early 20th Century. According to news reports, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama inspected 1,077 sacred art pieces, frescoes and other religious objects that had been stolen. The religious artworks had been secretly stored in two warehouses just outside Albania’s capital Tirana. Fortunately, none of the artwork left the country.
                              One may ask what has happened in Albania has anything to do with Latinos in the United States or in Latin America. Much more than you would think. This is, sadly, not an isolated incident. In Bolivia and in many other South American countries, there is a growing traffic in smuggling stolen religious artworks. These artworks, as in the case of Albania, were stolen from remote churches and have been smuggled out of their countries of origin to be sold in Europe and in North America. We are talking about the historical heritage of many countries not only in Latin America but also in poor countries in Europe, Asia and even Africa.
                                So many ancient art treasures are being looted and smuggled out to be sold to unsuspecting individuals or those who do know or suspect where these artworks are coming from. The main problem is that so many of the churches and public historical buildings where these pieces are stolen are in remote places in isolated towns and villages. Because so many of these towns and villages are poor, they have no way of affording any kind of security to protect their historical heritage. Even the efforts of so many Latin American governments trying to either protect or get back those historical pieces taken out of the country is an uphill battle since they do not have the resources to stop, let alone, get back what has been stolen.
                                  In this one particular case, the Albanian government has been lucky—they managed to be tipped off where the stolen art treasures were before they could be smuggled out of the country. To my readers, I give a warning that if you should come across an ancient art piece whose origin is not given, chances are it might have been stolen.

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