Commentary

Celebration of Machu Picchu

Wilfredo Huaman Vargas who works on the pass above Machu Picchu

Cuzco celebrates today 100 years since Machu Picchu was found by the explorer Hiram Bingham. Declared one of the “Wonders of the World” and a established as a marvel on the world’s tourist itinerary, Machu Picchu throbs daily with throngs of visitors. Located splendidly, it is a beautiful city attached to a mystery and a lost empire.

While Cuzco celebrates with cultural events, and the ruins are outlined in lights, a dean of Peruvian anthropology Luis Millones reminds that there is much more to be known.

Though scores of tourist guides present set stories of the ruins that make them come alive to the people they guide, many of the archeological facts of the site remain under-explored in the face of Machu Picchu’s stones. It is as if their physical presence and evident reality were enough.

Yet Machu Picchu is located in a field of Inca, pre-Inca, and post-Inca sites, including the homes of the people who live all up and down the Urubamba valley that can provide much more of a context and background when their study is combined with the archeology of the site.

At the time of this anniversary, Cuzco Eats joins Cuzco in celebrating this amazing monument as well as the return of many of its artifacts from Yale University.  At the same time we join Millones in calling for a flood of archeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographical scholarship, an outpouring of information which can be of benefit to Peruvians in their self-understanding and to visitors as they seek to know and appreciate.

And in that celebration, we argue, the neighbors of Machu Picchu — those people who live on the hillsides and valleys of the great river basin in which it is found — must not be forgotten. Neither they nor their culture should be erased in the rush to celebrate a great monument, but should be celebrated and benefited as part of recognizing one of the great reminders of human history.

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