Peruvian blasts Yale

As a crowd of students, faculty and even a few Peruvians hissed and clapped, Eliane Karp-Toledo, the former first lady of Peru, called for the immediate return of all Inca artifacts housed at Yale last night.

Speaking to a full house at the Yale Political Union, Karp-Toledo was characteristically outspoken; though she thanked the University for allowing her to speak, she was quick to criticize Yale for being, in her words, “the only institution that cannot recognize Peru’s ownership over the artifacts.”

Eliane Karp-Toledo speaks in SSS at a YPU debate on whether Yale should return all Machu Picchu artifacts to Peru. (She was in favor.)
Eva Galvan
Eliane Karp-Toledo speaks in SSS at a YPU debate on whether Yale should return all Machu Picchu artifacts to Peru. (She was in favor.)

“Why the reluctance to send back the Machu Picchu artifacts immediately and unconditionally?” Karp-Toledo asked at one point during the spirited debate. “Why not reach a reasonable agreement based on the facts that the artifacts belong solely to Peru and are to be returned unconditionally?”

Karp-Toledo mainly rehashed existing arguments about the rightful ownership of the artifacts. Indeed, much of the evidence she presented at the YPU was also included in the lawsuit Peru filed against Yale in December.

But the arguments were new to Yale students who have not followed the complex back-and-forth between Yale and Peru over the last few years.

“In my many years in the Union, I’ve never seen this body so close to relevance,” said Carmen Lee ’09, the first speaker to rebut Karp-Toledo.

Richard Burger, a Yale archaeologist who has studied the artifacts, was visibly annoyed during Karp-Toledo’s address. But he and other Yale faculty and administrators could not respond to Karp-Toledo’s accusations. Because of the litigation that is pending against Yale, University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson has asked University employees not to comment on the artifact dispute.

Still, there was no shortage of student opinion both for and against the resolution, “Yale should return all Machu Picchu artifacts to Peru immediately.”

David Trinh ’12, a member of the Independent Party, was one of several speakers at the YPU who brought up the question of how far universities and museums should go in returning objects.

“The question is whether it is appropriate for one nation to go to another and knock on the doors of its museums and universities and demand back any artifacts that belong to its people,” Trinh said.

Another speaker asked whether Karp-Toledo thought the French government could demand the return of the Statue of Liberty. Karp-Toledo said no, explaining that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to America.

For some of their more serious arguments, Yale students were coached by the same Yale professors who were forbidden from commenting on the dispute.

Trinh, for one, said in an interview earlier Monday that he had met with Burger to discuss the history of the Machu Picchu collection at Yale and also some of the arguments that Karp-Toledo was likely to make.

“The lawsuit that Peru has filed against Yale has no merit and is a political ploy on the part of Ms. Toledo,” Trinh said in the interview, channeling Burger and other Yale officials.

Per Karp-Toledo’s request, no vote was held at the debate. But, judging from hisses and claps, the majority of the YPU did not buy Karp-Toledo’s arguments. Those who did were mainly members of the Conservative Party and the Party of the Right.

In a nod to her own personal history, Karp-Toledo showed a picture of her husband, Alejandro Toledo, at his 2001 presidential inauguration in Machu Picchu. Historically, such ceremonies have taken place in Lima, Peru’s capital; Karp-Toledo and her husband, though, were always interested in making the return of the artifacts a priority of Toledo’s administration and wanted to use the inauguration as an opportunity to bring attention to the artifact dispute.

Even since her husband left office, Karp-Toledo has continued to pressure Yale to return the artifacts immediately. Speaking bluntly at the YPU, she noted that she has never been one to “keep my opinions to myself.”


  • Also Present

    Oh, come now, Paul.

    We were there, too. Are you serious in your claim that "the majority did not buy [her] arguments"? Admittedly, it was not lop-sided either way, but the Liberal Party and Party of the Left looked to be mostly in favor of Karp-Toledo's argument. Also, the Conservative Party was not at all in favor of returning the artifacts.

  • Camila

    As a member of the Party of the Right, I have no idea where the YDN got the idea that most of the support was coming from the PoR, or the Conservative party for that matter (given that i believe only two or three conservative party members were present at the debate). I would very much like to know how the YDN reached that conclusion.

  • Frustrated

    Wow. Was the reporter there? The room was very split and the others posting here are correct; I think most of the support for Mrs. Karp-Toledo came from the Left side of the room. Also, it's kind of insulting that the reporter implies that the students who spoke against her could only do so because they were coached by Yale faculty, which is not true at all; especially since so many speeches were not prepared ahead of time. This was a great YPU debate, even if it only received mediocre coverage.

  • a PoL member…

    I mean, jesh, this was bad writing. The first student aff was from the PoL. We talked about it afterwards, and most of our party was in favor of the aff.

    Get it right!

  • Anonymous

    #1: There's a difference between agreeing with the principle of the arguments Ms. Karp-Toledo presented and agreeing with her evidence. On the Left side of the auditorium, it seemed to me, there was much more support for the former than the latter. I heard a lot of people questioning Ms. Karp-Toledo's evidence, but agreeing with her that the fate of the artifacts should ultimately be left up to Peru.

  • Cass

    The items belong to Peru, and according to this lady's exposition there are documents that prove that these items were supossed to be returned to the Peruvian government long ago:

    - a January 1916 contract by Bingham and the National Geographic Society, which joined Yale in sponsoring the explorer’s 1912 and 1914-15 expeditions, with the Peruvian government in which a time limit is set for return of the items.
    -the pieces were loaned so that Yale could perform research on them for a maximum of 18 months, and therefore they should have been returned in June 1917, at the latest.
    - Ninety-two years later!! Why does YALE keep holding on to something that does not belong to YALE, its professors or researches. It belongs to PERU, to the peruvians. These items are part of the peruvian history.

  • Observer

    The Administration seems to view the situation as akin to what Barry Goldwater said about the Panama Canal: "It's ours, because we stole it fair and square!"

  • IP

    In response to Class, the contract from 1916 pertained ONLY to artifacts extracted during the 1914-15 expeditions. These were returned in the 1920s. This was just one of the many factual inaccuracies in Ms. Toledo's remarks.

  • Hmmmm


    "But, judging from hisses and claps, the majority of the YPU did not buy Karp-Toledo’s arguments."

    Oh. Perhaps they instead stole them.

  • Mike

    I worked on several expeditions who, by law, had to turn over turn over the the gov't everything we found when our research was completed. What we found had to be kept in a facility guarded by Peruvian selected security. When we would go back to the next year, at last half our finds were missing. One guard was found guilty and then released - none of what he stole was ever recovered. This is a common occurrence in Peru. While one can argue we should not keep another country's history, Peru, among others, isn't doing it either.

  • Return for what?

    I wasn't at presentation but as a peruvian I would ask Ms Karp-Toledo what would the peruvian goverment or even the peruvian institute of culture do with all the inca's artifacts?? Show them at the National Museum?? I don't think so. The artifacts would probably end up stored in boxes away from the general public,the turists and the students. I think the artifacts -even if they belong to Peru by right- have a better use in a place where people can learn from them and appreciate them in adequate conditions. I don't share Ms Karp-Toledo's perspective of "not using something but don't let anyone else use it either" very common among small minded people.

  • not again

    Were these YDN reporters actually at the debate? Because what's written here is coverage of a different debate from the one I saw -- seriously, the POR and the CP in favor of the resolution?

  • Anonymous

    @#6 -
    Yes, there are documents. You can read them yourself by putting in a request at the archive section of Sterling. The first expedition occurred between 1909-1911, and the agreement with Peru basically stated that Yale could HAVE half of the artifacts recovered, as long as they gave the Peruvian gov't pictures or a replica. It also said that Yale could use these artifacts/sell them/basically do whatever they wanted. For the 1912 dig, the agreement changed to Yale keeping the artifacts for 2 years for research, and then returning them. However, Mrs. Toledo is skewing the facts by claiming that the artifacts recovered in the 1st excavation also belong to Peru (as the ones from the 2nd & 3rd excavations do). I'm fine with them claiming the artifacts that they have a legal right to, but I just don't agree with her tactics in attempting to mislead people.