Pavel Štěpánek, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Art History at the UP Faculty of Arts, was granted the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican President. He received the highest Mexican state decoration awarded to foreign citizens at the Mexican Embassy in Prague.
“It is a nice surprise, really unexpected, and also a certain moral satisfaction that my efforts have not not been in vain, even though I focussed on themes that are mostly neglected and unappreciated by Czech art historians despite the fact that Mexico is part of the Euro-American world and has had amazing civilisations in its history,” said Pavel Štěpánek.
Although he has received a number of honorary awards, the latest one from Mexico is something extraordinary. “I am approaching my 80th birthday, and yet so far most of my awards have come from Spain. The granting of the Order of the Aztec Eagle is an exceptional thing,” added the expert on art history and architecture of the Hispanic and Lusophone cultures.
The Order of the Aztec Eagle is the highest Mexican decoration, awarded since 1932 as a reward to services given to Mexico or humankind by foreigners. The historian Pavel Štěpánek received it for his popularisation of pre-Columbian, colonial, as well as modern Mexican art in the global context for students and the public alike.
His first article on a Mexican theme was published in 1965 in Slovakia, followed by his regular various publications of information acquired from the foreign press and his visits to the embassy – for instance, about the Prague exhibition of the Mexican painter José M. Velasco, and reviews on the lively folk tradition of fine arts in Mexico.
After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Pavel Štěpánek was named a professor in Spain and then became a diplomat at the Czech Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2013 he also worked at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City. He is the member of the Order of Isabella the Catholic. He is the author of numerous studies (such as on St. John of Nepomuk) and several books, e.g. on artistic relations between Czechia and Mexico and the art of Mexican Indian civilisations.
Previous laureates of the Order of the Aztec Eagle include Queen Elisabeth II, the former Dutch Queen Beatrix, Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez, Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo, American film producer Walt Disney and Irish singer Bono from U2.