It is discomforting to realize that some Yalies are willing to write op-ed pieces based on deliberate lies. After reading Noah Mamis and Frederick Mocatta’s column “University, not Peru, is best place for cultural treasures” on Sept. 19, I feel the need as a Peruvian to respond, by saying that the authors’ argument that Peru is not fit to house the Incan artifacts is flawed, considering that most of the evidence they presented in the article is absolutely false.
With respect to the Andean collection “bequeathed to us nearly a century ago by Hiram Bingham III 1898,” it must be clarified that these artifacts were lent to the University for research purposes, rather than given as farewell gifts for the rediscovery of Machu Picchu. The fact that the University has recognized that Peru holds title to all of these pieces nearly 90 years later is not “capitulation” or “betrayal,” but rather proof that the University stands by the law and will take the necessary steps to honor an agreement and return the artifacts to their lawful owners: Peruvians.
Regardless of the authors’ views of the agreement, it is their portrayal of Peru that I find most upsetting. Calling the country one with “a tradition of endemic corruption, political instability [and] occasional restraints on academic freedoms,” as well as the home of a concerted 30-year terrorist militia “that has left 70,000 Peruvians dead” is preposterous in light of the booming economic conditions the country has been experiencing in the last few years. In economic terms, real GDP growth has averaged 5 percent a year since 2000, among the region’s highest, while average inflation, at 2 percent, is among the lowest. Per capita income has increased notoriously. The communist militia known as the Shining Path, to which the authors attribute the death of 70,000 Peruvians (real numbers are around 23,000), was eliminated more than 15 years ago following the capture of its leader, Abimael Guzman. The specific event that occurred on June 6 was not a terrorist act, but rather a confrontation between smugglers with no political intentions. The IMF has categorized Peru’s democracy and economy as one of the best in the region, far from the chaotic and unconstitutional picture painted by the authors’ false allegations.
Disaster has not befallen the great Machu Picchu. Anyone who has ever visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site knows that the “threats from unregulated urban development in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes” are completely absurd, taking into consideration that the small town is only accessible once a day by train and consists of a flea market and a few restaurants. Even then, the small community living in Aguas Calientes does not pose any threat to Machu Picchu, simply because the Wonder of the World is located 8 kilometers away, on a mountaintop. Having been in Machu Picchu only weeks ago, I can only reinforce that there is no unregulated urban development, and that rather than a “disaster,” it is a cultural jewel treasured by more than 900,000 tourists who visit Peru every year.
Lastly, I would like to say that the authors have been irresponsible in asserting that “the Andeans of old who made [the artifacts] have about as much in common culturally with those of us in America as they have with the Peru of our day.” Millions of people in Peru still speak the Incan language, Quechua, and preserve Incan traditions like the veneration of the Sun God at the ceremony of Inti Raymi. As a sign of respect to the direct descendants of the Incan culture, the authors should refrain from making unfounded generalizations about Peruvian culture without having any knowledge of the beliefs of the Andean populations.
Rather than having “blackmailed” the University for art, Peru has reached an exemplary agreement with Yale that recognizes the rule of law and promotes research, education and development. The new museum to be opened in Cuzco will undoubtedly attract more tourists and strengthen Peru’s position as the rising star in Latin America while simultaneously promoting cultural exchange with Elis from around the world. As for Mamis and Mocatta, I encourage you to visit Peru and discover that the country that you depicted as chaotic and unstable is in fact a nation with a rich past, dynamic present and very promising future.
Francesco Ciabatti is a sophomore in Branford College.