Eliane Karp-Toledo, the former Peruvian first lady, spoke last night at the Yale Political Union. Before her talk, she sat down with staff reporter Paul Needham to discuss Peru’s lawsuit against Yale over the Inca artifacts at the Peabody Museum, as well as her future and that of her husband, former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.
Q: Why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish with your speech?
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A: I’m just coming to give a talk. To show some very hard evidence of our patrimony and how we relate to it … this of course has nothing to do with the lawsuit and I definitely don’t come as a representative of the government of Peru. This is a process that of course belongs to the academic world, and I’m here to be a part of that.
Q: Are you satisfied with how things stand now between Yale and Peru? What do you hope will happen next?
A: I think Washington’s a good place for the lawsuit. I hope that Yale will realize it’s on the wrong track and that it will be inspired by its dignity and status as an academic institution and follow the path of the [J. Paul] Getty Museum and the [Metropolitan Museum of Art] and [Museum of Fine Arts] in Boston who have returned the pieces.
Q: Do you get the credit for pushing the Garcia government to sue?
A: I think there’s been a very strong reaction from society in Peru; they’re usually very militant about their belongings. The Garcia government is just facing the truth that there’s nothing to negotiate. Three more additional years of negotiation is not going to help us, because it doesn’t seem like the Yale administration wants to see things through. I’m sorry we have to go to court — it’s a waste of time and money for everyone — but there’s no other choice.
Q: Why didn’t you want students to hold a vote at the end of the YPU debate? Are you setting the stage for your husband to run again in 2011?
A: It was not very clear what would have been voted against or in favor. And it’s such a sensitive issue. As for the future, we’ll see. Right now I’m teaching at Stanford … we’ll see what happens after that.