|By Emily Guilmette, Kuoda Travel|
Dear Kuoda Friends and Family,
On July 24, Peru marks 100 years since Hiram Bingham, a Yale professor sponsored by the National Geographic Society, came upon the vine-covered ruins. Bingham and his team, with the approval of the contemporary Peruvian government, cleared the site, excavated and presented Machu Picchu to the world in high romantic style (you can read Bingham´s original National Geographic piece about the discovery and browse his incredible photos here). They also brought thousands of artifacts home for study, thus initiating 100 years of conflict.
Since that long-ago July, Bingham has been heralded as a hero and reviled as a looter. He has become known as the “scientific discoverer” of Machu Picchu as it has become clear that other visitors, Peruvian and foreign, gazed on those ancient stones prior to his arrival. Peru has hotly demanded the artifacts and cooled off when other matters pressed the nation. Attitudes about cultural patrimony have dramatically shifted. Ideas about what Machu Picchu was have changed.
Most spectacularly, Peru sued Yale for the Machu Picchu artifacts and won a victory that brought the vast majority of them home to Cusco this year.
Today, thousands of people flock to Peru to marvel at what has become a new wonder of the world. They surely contemplate the Inca stones and consider the ancient lives that were lived there. And on the eve of the anniversary of Machu Picchu´s introduction to the world, it is fitting to consider the more recent history of this special place. It speaks to the complex patrimony of Peru and its complicated relationship with its indigenous past and present. It covers nation-building in South America and the tense relationship with the United States. And, it addresses modern questions about the ownership of culture.
To help us sort through some of this, I called in Christopher Heaney, who graciously offered to answer some questions about the discovery of Machu Picchu.
Chris is a scholar of Latin American history and has trained his detailed researcher´s eye on the conflict between Yale and Peru. His investigation, both in Cusco and at Yale, resulted in an incredibly compelling book – The Cradle of Gold – that offers the best explanation of how the conflict between the university and the country came about. You can find the book (highly recommended!) on Amazon, and you can read an excerpt and learn more about Chris here.
And now, without further ado, THE INTERVIEW!
Who was Hiram Bingham and how did he come to be searching for Machu Picchu in 1911?
Are we accurate when we say Bingham “discovered” Machu Picchu?
How have the perceptions of what Bingham did in Peru changed over the years?
How have perceptions of Machu Picchu changed since Bingham first published about it in National Geographic? What do we know now, that Bingham didn´t know then?
How did Peru and Yale come to disagree over the ownership of the artifacts from Machu Picchu? And how was this disagreement resolved?
Why is it important for Peru and the world to mark the 100 years since this particular discovery of Machu Picchu?
Thanks so very much, Chris!
And to all of you, best wishes from Cusco!