The quetzal-feather headdress, or penacho, supposedly once worn by Montezuma somehow ended up in the collection of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand II von Tyrol and has been in Austria since 1596. It is currently housed at Vienna’s Weltmuseum. On November 2, the museum closed its doors in order to undertake a two-year rebranding. Its vast collection will now be placed into vaults. Now, as a beloved part of Mexico’s heritage disappears from view for an uncertain period of time, it is a perfect time to figure out how to get the penacho back home.
According to Gerard van Bussel, curator of Montezuma’s penacho, 5 percent of the museum’s attendees are Mexican nationals--who don’t have to pay admission. “It’s our little gift to Mexico,” Bussel says. Many Mexicans are surprised to learn that the penacho exhibited at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is a 1940 replica paid by President Abelardo Rodríguez. The president had seen the original during a state visit to Vienna and wanted Mexico to have a copy. “One can feel more the spiritual force seeing it here than the replica,” says Guillermo García Perez, a retired mathematics teacher who made the journey with his family. “I think about the greatness of the Mexica, the Aztecs. It should be taken to Mexico. It’s a treasure.” The reasons why it hasn’t been taken to Mexico are many. In a two-year joint study by Austria and Mexico between 2010 and 2012, it was concluded that moving the headdress could cause irreparable damage.Estimates of its value range as high as $50 million.
Milady Nazir, 'A symbol of Mexico’s pre-colonial grandeur fades out of sight', Fox News November 14, 2014