March 03, 2021

On Feb. 10, 2021, Ambassador of Mexico Martha Bárcena, and Ambassador of France Philippe Étienne — and their spouses Agustín Gutiérrez Canet and Patricia Étienne respectively — visited Catholic University Libraries Special Collections. The event was jointly organized by the University Libraries Special Collections, the Institute for Latin American and Iberian Studies (ILAIS), and the Office of Global Strategies (OGS). University Provost Aaron Dominguez and ILAIS Director Sandra Barrueco formally welcomed the distinguished guests to the University. 

Maria Mazzenga, curator of the American Catholic History Collections, introduced the guests to the Rare Books suite and the “El Plan de Iguala.” The Plan of Iguala, also known as The Plan of the Three Guarantees or Act of Independence of North America, was a revolutionary proclamation promulgated on Feb. 24 1821, in the final stage of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. 

The ambassadors viewed additional items from the Iturbide-Kearney collection comprising original documents from Emperor Agustin Iturbide I's reign until the death of his grandson, the self-styled Agustin Iturbide III. Augustin Iturbide I was a Mexican caudillo (military leader) who became the leader of the conservative factions in the Mexican independence movement. He was briefly emperor of Mexico.

The collection includes correspondence, Mexican governmental documents, military medals and coins, newspapers, magazines, and portraits. The collection also contains correspondence and portraits from Louise Kearney, Iturbide III's wife from 1915 until his death.

University Archivist and Head of Special Collections, W. J. Shepherd, displayed a special coin collection at the end of the visit. Ambassador Barcena surprisingly revealed that it was her great-great-grandfather, Claudio Jannet, who donated the core of the collection (about 800 coins, nearly half of the entire collection) to the University in 1894. The collection has more than 1,700 pieces, primarily from ancient Greece, the Roman Republic and Empire, and Byzantium, as well as medieval and modern specimens, including coins from Western Europe, Persia, and China. 

Ambassador Bárcena was deeply moved by the exceptional opportunity (in the last days of her tenure as Ambassador of Mexico to the United States) to see the founding document of Mexico as an independent country. She highlighted the commemoration of the 200th anniversaries of the signing of Plan de Iguala, on February 24, as a milestone of the historical celebrations of 2021 in Mexico.

Following the visit, Ambassador Philippe Étienne sent a letter expressing his gratitude. 

“My wife Patricia and I are so grateful for you taking the time to provide us with such an informative and interesting visit to the Special Collections and the Rare Books room. The collection is truly impressive and we are delighted that we were able to have the opportunity to see it in person. This visit will certainly remain a cherished memory from our time here in Washington, D.C.,” said Ambassador Étienne. 

ILAIS Director Sandra Barrueco expanded on the research breadth at the University, sharing findings from the first national study of its kind with migrant children and families with the Ambassadors. As noted by ILAIS Associate Director Livia Lopes, “The newly founded ILAIS has already begun to flourish in its objectives: to foster knowledge about the Latin American region; to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together scholars and stakeholders within and outside the University; and to showcase the depth of our unique collections and areas of expertise.”