Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of two books authored by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to the people of Spain. A self-educated woman fluent in Latin and Nahuatl, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a Hieronymite nun who published a wide range of writings, poems and other works during the 17th century. The books were stolen from the library of the Seville-based Convento Santa Ana, which was built in 1641. The Sor Juana books then surfaced on the international art market in 2011 when they were sold by a Barcelona-based auction house to a Mexican private collector. After being passed between two Mexican private collectors between 2011 and 2021, the Sor Juana Books were ultimately consigned for auction in New York in 2021, where they were seized by this Office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit.
The books were returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso, Consul General Caridad Batalla Junco, Colonel of the Guardia Civil Alfonso Lopez Malo, and Mike Alfonso, Acting Deputy Special Agent in Charge from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York.
“Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a remarkable woman who has influenced generations of thinkers and writers,” said District Attorney Bragg. “Unfortunately, these books were ripped away from the library where they were housed, the result of a selfish and brazen theft. I thank our law enforcement partners at HSI, the Guardia Civil, and the Government of Spain, for working collaboratively with our Office to track down and return these items.”
Consul General Caridad Batalla Junco said, “On behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain, I would like to thank the District Attorney’s Office and their excellent cooperation with our Ministry of Home Affairs that led to the recovery of two precious literary masterpieces that should have never left our country. The tenacity and commitment shown by the District Attorney’s Office equals that of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a remarkable woman, pioneer in many areas back in the XVII century, whose outstanding works were recorded in the books now recovered. Our National Library, as the final destination of the works, will undoubtedly rejoice at having back what should have never left our dear land.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel said, “Today, HSI is a proud partner in the repatriation of the Sor Juana Books to their homeland of Spain. Sor Juana is recognized as one of the most outstanding literary figures of the Spanish American colonial period. These books are intrinsically linked to the people of Spain and their value is more than monetary, they are also instrumental in providing insight into the history of their home country. With the increase in illicit trade of national treasures around the globe, it is important HSI New York and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office maintain our strong relationship to identify and disrupt the smuggling of these antiquities and ensure they are returned to their rightful home.”
The investigation was conducted by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, Assistant District Attorneys James Edwards-Lebair, Supervising Antiquities Trafficking Analyst Apsara Iyer, and Special Agent Megan Buckley of Homeland Security Investigations. Investigative support was also provided by Homeland Security Investigations-Spain, the Guardia Civil, and Dr. Ana Yanez.
District Attorney Bragg would also like to thank Swann Auction Galleries for their assistance and cooperation with this investigation.
If you have information about stolen or trafficked antiquities please contact 212-335-9323.