of Understanding Between
The Government of the United States of America
The Government of the Republic of El Salvador
Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions
On Certain Categories of Archaeological Material from the
Pre-hispanic Cultures of the Republic of El Salvador
(Signed March 8, 1995)
The United States Cultural
Property Advisory Committee
archaeological sites in El Salvador represent three millennia of occupation,
from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1550, beginning with a culture that produced
some of the earliest known Mesoamerican pottery. Pre-Hispanic archaeological
objects include stone sculpture, ceramic polychrome vessels, figurines,
stamp seals, drums and effigies. As a result of the extensive looting
that the region has experienced, irreplaceable chapters of El Salvador's
archaeological record have been destroyed. By 1987 looters had dug more
than 5,000 pits in the Cara Sucia region alone, damaging or destroying
burials, remains of structures, and other archaeological features which
could have contributed to the knowledge of the region's pre-history.
The first bilateral
cultural property agreement within the framework created by the U.S.
Cultural Property Implementation Act and the 1970 UNESCO Convention
on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export
and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was signed on March 8,
1995, between the United States and El Salvador. This agreement restricts
importation into the U.S. of El Salvador's pre-Hispanic archaeological
objects unless accompanied by an export permit issued of the Government
of El Salvador. The agreement demonstrates a will on the part of El
Salvador to take measures that will improve domestic protection of its
heritage and increase public understanding of the heritage that is unique
to Salvadorans. It calls upon both countries to use their best efforts
in furthering long-term strategies to protect these non-renewable cultural
1997, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee conducted an interim
review of the subject Memorandum of Understanding, or agreement, pursuant
to Section 306(g) of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation
Act ("Act") and to Article IV of the agreement. The Committee had the
opportunity to review this agreement preliminarily on the occasion of
a historic joint meeting held October 1996 with the ministers of culture
of Central American countries during which presentations were made by
the delegation from El Salvador. [Note: This group of ministers forms
the Coordinacion Educativa y Cultural Centroamericana, CECC, which endeavors
to build regional cooperation in educational and cultural matters.]
Additional information was provided the Committee when it met again
in February and December 1997. Given the amount of information aggregated
at this time, a more in-depth interim review is now possible. According
to the Act: If the Committee finds, as a result of such review, that
(A) cause exists for suspending the import restrictions imposed under
an agreement; (B) the agreement is not achieving the purposes for which
entered into or implemented; or (C) changes are required to this title
in order to implement fully the obligations of the United States under
the Convention; the Committee may submit a report to the Congress and
the President setting forth its recommendations for suspending such
import restrictions or for improving the effectiveness of the agreement,
or for improving the effectiveness of this title. No such findings were
made and this interim review does not represent a determination for
possible extension of the agreement; it is a measure of the implementation
of the agreement at this point in time.
took into consideration that El Salvador, like other of its neighbors
in the region, has only recently come out of a protracted civil war.
In this crucial time of rebuilding and democratization, resources and
expertise are simply not in sufficient supply to enable full and immediate
implementation of all provisions of the agreement. The provisions subject
to review are found in Article II of the agreement, each repeated below.
Government of the Republic of El Salvador will use its best efforts
to permit the exchange of its archaeological materials under circumstances
in which such exchange does not jeopardize its cultural patrimony.
learned that El Salvador has loaned objects to Germany for an exhibit.
However, there are in excess of 10,000 objects in the collection of
the National Museum. The building housing the National Museum was destroyed
during an earthquake. As reported by Salvadoran cultural officials in
the October 1996 meeting referred to above, the objects are in storage
and plans are underway to properly catalog them in preparation for the
new museum facility. The Committee also learned that El Salvador's National
Council for Culture and the Arts (Consejo Nacional Para la Cultura y
las Artes, or, CONCULTURA) is moving to establish local/regional museums.
This will decentralize collections and enhance access by a larger segment
of the population as well encourage grassroots museum development initiatives.
Also, access to archaeological material continues to be provided to
foreign archaeologists who are granted research permits. A member of
the Committee said that dissemination of information through exhibition
exchange was important and expressed concern that the national collection
could remain "invisible" for a long period of time. The Committee found,
however, that among the immediate tasks facing El Salvador is an evaluation
of the collection. This must be undertaken before there can be serious
efforts to make loans for exhibition or research purposes. The Committee
recognized that a logical progression of professional practices had
to occur in view of the lack of trained museum professionals, conservators,
etc. in El Salvador. As the Committee's Chairman noted, the proper sequence
of steps seems to be unfolding: the security of the collection in a
climatically controlled environment; the cataloguing and intellectual
control of it; and the assessment of it for conservation purposes. Only
then, he said, can cultural officials think about opportunities to share
access to the collection through exchanges which will require agreements,
crating and shipping criteria, as well as the identification of partner
institutions that will have enough familiarity with the material to
be able to interpret it and install it.
representatives of the Government of the United States of America will
participate in joint efforts with representatives of the Government
of the Republic of El Salvador to publicize this Memorandum of Understanding.
ceremony for the agreement was held in Washington and was covered by
USIA's Worldnet television broadcasting service, the Voice of America,
USIA's wireless file, and Latin American press. A broadcast feed to
Latin American posts was made by Worldnet. USIA's Office of Public Liaison
distributed information about the agreement to domestic press and a
mailing was made to cultural officials and institutions both in the
U.S. and abroad. The diplomatic corps also received information about
the agreement. In San Salvador there was also extensive press coverage.
UNESCO distributed a special information sheet on the agreement and
an article appeared in IFAReports in April 1995. Ongoing distribution
of information about the
at various domestic and international gatherings concerned with the
illicit trade in cultural objects.
Government of the United States of America will use its best efforts
to facilitate technical assistance in cultural resource management and
security to El Salvador, as appropriate under existing programs in the
public and/or private sectors.
found that this agreement is very much a partnership between two countries
and the USIS post in San Salvador has been calling upon USIA program
support to implement this provision of the agreement. For example, the
director of CONCULTURA, Roberto Galicia, came to the U.S. at the invitation
of USIA to acquaint himself with comparable organizations in the U.S.
and become familiar with professional management practices. In addition,
a representative of the U.S. National Committee for the International
Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS) was sent by USIA to advise
CONCULTURA about establishing its new historic register. The expert
also focused attention on archaeological sites and offered a strategy
for using the GPS (Global Positioning System) to determine where, how
many, and how large the sites are. Archaeologists, the expert emphasized,
will need to develop plans for rescue archaeology and undertake other
scientific measures to safeguard the sites. He also discussed the need
for disaster preparedness (the national museum was destroyed by an earthquake),
and the need to produce and store archival photographs. Other technical
assistance was provided by USAID which sponsored rescue archaeology
projects carried out by U.S. archaeologists along areas where new roads
are planned in El Salvador.
new director of CONCULTURA's Cultural Inventory and Registers has come
to the U.S. as a guest of USIA to visit federal, state and local governments
having responsibility over historic sites and preservation, and to visit
historical societies to gain specific information on how to maintain
registers and records and how information is collected. A Smithsonian
Institution specialist in inventories and objects registration was sponsored
by USIA to advise CONCULTURA about an inventory and registry of objects.
A U.S. specialist in museum security has provided advice to CONCULTURA
on security design for the new museum.
Plans are for
a new director of El Salvador's museums to be named in the coming year.
In the interim, Maria Isaura Arauz of CONCULTURA is guiding the museum
work. USIA is assisting El Salvador in identifying a specialist in museum
collection management to provide expertise in this needed activity.
countries will seek to encourage academic institutions, non-governmental
institutions and other private organizations to cooperate in the interchange
of knowledge and information about the cultural patrimony of El Salvador,
and to collaborate in the preservation and protection of such cultural
patrimony through appropriate technical assistance, training, and resources.
learned that in addressing the need for private sector initiatives in
the area of
USIA sponsored a speaker program in El Salvador on the subject of fund-raising
for NGOs. El Salvador has created a new private foundation - FUNDAR
- dedicated to the promotion and support of archaeology in the country.
Also, a prospective university affiliation is being explored between
Nashville's Vanderbilt University and Albert Einstein University in
El Salvador to develop a 2-3 year technical degree program in basic
archaeology. There is one trained archaeologist in El Salvador and that
individual is in the United States earning an advanced degree. Foreign
archaeologists continue to work in El Salvador under government permits.
Among the Fulbright scholars sent to El Salvador in 1997 under USIA
auspices, one was an archaeologist. Archaeologists from Harvard, as
mentioned earlier, conducted rescue archaeology operations where new
roads were proposed to be built.
publications were brought to the Committee's attention: El Salvador:
Antiguas Civilizaciones, William Fowler, Vanderbilt, published by
Banco Agricola Comercial, 1995; and Caluco: Historia y Arqueologia
de un Pueblo Pipil en el Siglo XVI, William Fowler, Vanderbilt,
published by Patronato Pro-Patrimonio Cultural, 1996.
learned that El Salvador has received some foreign support. For example,
Japan is sponsoring archaeological work at the Pre-Classic site of Casa
Blanca; and, the Spanish government is considering possible assistance
to the site of San Andres.
was pleased that El Salvador sent two delegates to participate in the
joint Cultural Property Advisory Committee/Central American Coordinating
Body on Culture and
Los Angeles, October 1996. This allowed El Salvador to share information
about its efforts with its regional neighbors. As a follow up, The Getty
Conservation Institute has sponsored another meeting for Central American
cultural officials in Los Angeles, August 1997. This conference, in
which El Salvador participated, focused on site management issues.
related to this agreement, a U.S. paintings conservator, under USIA
sponsorship, assisted in the restoration of 12 paintings in the collection
of the National Museum and in the process facilitated the training of
five Salvadoran restorers.
Government of the Republic of El Salvador will use its best efforts
to effect, as soon as possible, final approval and promulgation of its
regulations to implement its 1993 Special Law for the protection of
the Cultural Heritage, especially those related to the registration
and export of cultural property, and the granting of excavation permits;
and will use its best efforts to proceed expeditiously with the registration
of cultural property as required by its law.
learned that promulgation has taken place. A registry is being developed
of the public cultural patrimony (100,000 artifacts, buildings and archaeological
sites). A similar registry is being planned for items in private hands.
The director of CONCULTURA has indicated that this will be difficult
to accomplish fully until such time as the private sector has developed
a level of trust in the government authorities responsible for protecting
cultural heritage. Such a level of trust will enable the access needed
so that registration can be accomplished. Archaeologists in El Salvador
report that CONCULTURA is taking very seriously the matter of cataloging
cultural objects. (See previous information about relevant specialists
sent to El Salvador and professional visits by Salvadorans to the U.S.
to gather information and expertise.)
As noted, excavation
permits are granted to foreign archaeologists. The Committee learned
about an unfortunate incident concerning Guatemalan archaeologists who
were expelled for alleged pillaging. It was learned that export controls
are in effect but the Committee will want to learn more about their
Government of the Republic of El Salvador will continue, and strengthen
where possible, its efforts to educate the public regarding its 1993
Special Law and the importance of protecting archaeological sites.
noted, press and media coverage occurred in connection with the signing
of the agreement. Recently, the Director of Historic Records and a U.S.
objects registration specialist gave a public interview in El Salvador
about the importance of leaving archaeological objects in situ, warning
that otherwise there will be an irretrievable loss of information about
human development. As further indication of efforts to inform the public,
airport signage is now in place in San Salvador. The expulsion of foreign
archaeologists for alleged pillaging served to raise public consciousness
about the damage resulting from pillage, for this incident caused a
considerable public furor. Roberto Galicia and Maria Isaura Arauz of
CONCULTURA reportedly declared "war on cultural crime" indicating their
intention to crackdown on pillage. Galicia and Isaura publicly denounced
new evidence of looting and cited the US/El Salvador MOU in this interview.
They had discussions with airport officials about stepped up inspections
and placing an expert at the airport to assist in monitoring activities.
They have proposed to hold training sessions for security guards at
the airport and at ground border crossing points.
G. In order
to re-establish public and scholarly access to the collections in the
"David J. Guzman" National Museum which suffered structural damage during
an earthquake, the Government of the Republic of El Salvador will use
its best efforts to reopen the Museum at the earliest practicable time.
the most remarkable outcome of the bilateral agreement, CONCULTURA proposed
to the national congress of El Salvador the re-establishment of the
national museum, using this provision of the agreement as a stimulus
for action. The national congress approved the reconstruction of a national
museum and appropriated funds for it. CONCULTURA held an architectural
competition for the new museum project. Construction will begin soon
and is expected to be completed by early 1999. Exhibits for the permanent
installation are being planned now along with other preparations regarding
professional development as noted earlier.
initiative, the Committee also learned that a new site museum was established
at the San Andres pyramids by Patronato Pro-Patrimonio Cultural, an
NGO, with funds provided by CONCULTURA and private sources. The museum
has four exhibition rooms, an indoor theater, an outdoor amphitheater,
a souvenir store, restrooms and a restaurant.
Government of the Republic of El Salvador will endeavor to strengthen
cooperation within Central America, and especially with immediately
neighboring states, for the protection of the cultural patrimony of
is a party to the three regional cultural property agreements developed
among the nations of Central America. It is also an active participant
in the regional CECC meetings and has on occasion served as a venue
for these meetings.
noted El Salvador's participation, with its Central American neighbors,
in the Joint CPAC/CECC meeting in Los Angeles, October 1996, hosted
by The Getty Conservation Institute. As demonstrated at this meeting,
El Salvador has offered to assist any of its neighbors in the preparation
of a cultural property request to the United States in fulfillment of
the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1994 Summit of the Americas action
plan to protect cultural heritage. The Salvadoran delegates, Mr. Galicia
and Ms. Isaura made a visual presentation to their fellow delegates
about their own request and their efforts to self-assess what has been
done and what needs to be done to build stronger internal defenses against
looting. The Committee recalled Mr. Galicia as saying at that time,
"...We are the problem, too, and we have to educate our people."
Article I A,
below, is also subject to review.
A. Implementation of the import restriction.
As noted earlier,
export controls are in effect in El Salvador and U.S. import restrictions
are enforceable by U.S. Customs. On March 10, 1995, U.S. Customs published
notice in the Federal Register of the designated list
of representative objects that are restricted from entering the U.S.
unless accompanied by an export certificate issued by El Salvador. Cultural
property staff is not aware of any interdictions to date. Authorities
in El Salvador have identified certain individuals, Salvadoran and American,
suspected of illicitly exporting from El Salvador and importing into
the U.S. material protected by this import restriction. Names have been
provided to the Customs services of both countries. Currently, U.S.
Customs is conducting an ongoing investigation into the activities of
at least one of the individuals.
It is reported
that looting continues in parts of El Salvador, particularly the northern
and western sections. The Committee is concerned about ongoing looting
and will want to examine this problem more closely as more information
becomes available. The Committee understands the difficultly in quantifying
looting and recognizes that three years is not sufficient time to find
out or get an impression as to whether there has been a reduction in
looting. Nevertheless, it believes there must be a constant awareness
and re-examination of this problem and international cooperation is
important. The view was offered that if the problem was not getting
worse and is stabilizing, this may also have value.
found an abundance of good faith efforts and successes thus far with
respect to implementation of this agreement. It expressed its surprise
and pleasure for all the activities underway and found USIA's efforts
in partnership with El Salvador to be impressive. It commended the work
of the USIS post in San Salvador and the enthusiastic efforts among
Salvadoran cultural and political leaders for vigorous implementation
of the agreement in the face of scarce resources. The Committee considers
this interim report "good news" and hopes that it will be shared with
other countries and interested parties.