By now, most of you have undoubtedly heard of the ongoing saga regarding Yale and the government of Peru. The issue at hand is the liberation of several thousand artifacts from Peru in the early 1900’s by the fearless Yale explorer Hiram Bingham III, for whom several buildings around campus, including Connecticut Hall, are named. He is, without a doubt, the greatest man to ever pass through Yale, but the controversy, no thanks to the reckless and inconsiderate government of Peru, continues to rage on.
For those of you who don’t know the specifics of the affair, the long and short of it is this: in 1911, the valiant Hiram Bingham III and a merry band of Yale archaeologists voyaged south to Peru. While there, they set about constructing the ancient city of Macchu Pichu, with the intent of making it a themed amusement park for thousands of middle- to upper-class white tourists wearing silly hats and cargo pants. The city would be the ultimate in all-inclusive vacations: a Disneyland of the Andes featuring architecture hitherto unseen in South America and a creative, whimsical narrative starring the “Incans,” a mythical ancient people first described in one of the greatest works of fiction of all time, the Book of Mormon.
Peruvians, of course, would not be able to visit the site since it has nothing to do with their cultural history, and the cost of visiting was, accordingly, made prohibitively expensive. Instead, Bingham rightly insisted that Peruvians would just have to make do with the fertile deserts that hug Peru’s Pacific coastline, and the flourishing Amazonian port of Iquitos, which doesn’t routinely suffer from Cholera outbreaks.
And so, in the process of constructing his so-called “EuroDisney of the Andes”, the honorable Bingham, in his spare time, indulged in his most passionate hobby: handcrafting thousands of replica artifacts that could presumably have been used by these “Incans.” He would then disperse them around the freshly constructed mountain sanctuary, gently giving Americans wearing Patagonia cargo vests and hiking boots the illusion of authenticity.
Bingham’s tenure as director of his so-called “Disneyland Tokyo of the Andes” was profitable. But, like so many good amusement parks, Macchu Pichu was forced to shut down following a freak accident on Wayllaqawaqa Chufirsi, a popular ride whose name, when translated from the “Incan” language of Quechua, means “Space Mountain.” The accident, involving the death of a young boy whose North Face walking stick became lodged in the tracks of the roller coaster, was ill-timed, as Macchu Pichu had only recently moved past an embarrassing outbreak of E. coli that affected nearly thirty swimmers in the park’s Pirates of the Caribbean-themed water ride.
So, when Macchu Pichu shut down in 1926, Bingham collected what remained of the replica artifacts he had made 15 years before and headed back to Yale, where they were put on display at the Peabody Museum as a nostalgic testament to Yale’s brief, but ultimately unsuccessful, foray into the amusement park business.
But in the last few years, Peru has gotten greedy.
The government of Peru now claims that it has full entitlement to all of Bingham’s hand-made replica artifacts, saying that it “lent” them to Yale, that they comprise an integral part of its “cultural heritage,” and that Yale was being culturally insensitive to the nation of “Peru.” This is unbelievable. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Peruvian government thinks it has rights to the remnants of Macchu Pichu.
I mean sure, if Peruvians or their ancestors had had any role in the construction of the park, then yeah, maybe Yale could maybe cut some deal with Peru wherein Peruvians were allowed to see, but not touch, the artifacts. But that is obviously not the case, and instead, what we have now is a South American country with very little history of its own making a flagrant attempt to mooch off the rich, illustrious traditions of our proud educational institution/amusement park consortium.
Frankly, this is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of tiny Latin American countries thinking they can take what they want from Yale. If they had any perception whatsoever, they’d realize that Yale is way out of their league, and that they simply can’t compete with us. What’s worse is that Peru doesn’t seem to be letting go of its illegitimate claim to our cultural and educational heritage, which leaves but one option for confronting this problem and, in the process, the flagrant ignorance and irresponsibility that plagues their country: Yale needs to colonize Peru.
Now, I understand that this appears to be a radical solution to a relatively simple conflict of interest, but I firmly believe it’s the only way to show Peru the error of its ways. After all, we took a bunch of Britain’s art — that, mind you, was actually theirs — and you don’t see them bitching about it. I figure there’s no better way to promote cultural sensitivity than to impose it, and we very clearly know what’s best for the tiny island nation of Peru. Moreover, we have a physically fit student body that would make the perfect occupying force, and we’re experienced colonizers, since almost all of us were extremely active in Yale’s colonization of China.
Most notable, however, is that I’m positive we would be welcomed with open arms by the Peruvian people who, desperate for cultural enlightenment, are in dire need of Yale’s storied academic traditions and reputation as a locus of intellectualism and brick-oven pizza. Also, Peru has large deposits of Cobalt that Yale could mine and use to build fighter jets, which we could then use to bomb China if it decides to get rowdy on us.
I urge you, fellow Yalies, to stand up for your university and to think about the future. Peru’s insolence is, ironically, providing us with a wonderful opportunity to do what Yale wants to do most: expand. If the Peruvian government were a rational entity, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But instead, they’ve forced Yale into the awkward but necessary role of modern colonizer. I say we relish the opportunity, particularly considering Peru has a lot of gold, which we could mine and use to purchase nuclear weapons. Yale could use nuclear weapons, you know.
Daniel Zier is in fact wearing a tilly hat as he writes.