Peruvians took to the streets of Cuzco and Lima Friday to demand the return of Incan artifacts in Yale’s possession.
Peru has been fighting to regain the artifacts for almost a century, but efforts have increased in recent months as nationalist sentiments take hold leading up to the country’s April 10, 2011 elections. Aside from the march, nine Peruvian runners in the New York City Marathon wore shirts supporting their country’s efforts Sunday, and Peruvian President Alan Garcia wrote a letter to United States President Barack Obama Nov. 2, formally requesting his help in recovering Peru’s cultural relics. Obama has yet to issue a statement in response.
About 4,000 Peruvians took part in Friday’s march in Cuzco, the former Incan capital near the site of Machu Picchu, according to a Saturday report by the Agence France-Presse. Over 350 miles to the northwest, in the Peruvian capital of Lima, thousands more gathered in a similar protest led by Peruvian President Alan Garcia, Reuters reported Friday.
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“The items must be returned to Machu Picchu before a century passes,” Garcia said during the march. The country will celebrate the centenary of Bingham’s rediscovery of Machu Picchu in July 2011, whether or not Yale sends back the artifacts.
Garcia announced the marches Oct. 24 as part of a national effort to force Yale to return the artifacts.
Carolina Arvaiza, who works in the press office of Peru’s Ministry of Culture, said Oct. 26 that the marches were intended to demonstrate Peruvian solidarity on the issue of the artifacts.
“We are waiting for something that belongs to our people,” she said. “It is a way to show that our people are united in that cause.”
Garcia has not announced plans to run for reelection next year.
Frederic Truslow ’61, who lives in Peru, said in an Oct. 16 interview that he expects the coming election, like those in the past, will stir nationalist fervor over the artifacts.
“There’s a window to solve this thing now, we don’t know about later,” he said.
University President Richard Levin declined to comment on the recent Peruvian public displays last week.
Peru last held presidential elections in 2006. At that time, one candidate for president, Ollanta Humala, was widely viewed as more hawkish on the issue of the artifacts, but he lost to the more liberal Garcia.
Peru also threatened in October to file criminal charges against Levin on top of the ongoing civil suit it filed in Dec. 2008.
In an Oct. 17 interview, he said Yale remains committed to solving the dispute through negotiation, as it has been in the past.
“We’re happy to start with the agreement we reached before and try to understand if any of those terms need modification,” he said, adding that in the past three years, the University has reached two separate agreements with the Peruvian government, and Peru has withdrawn from both.
Archaeologist Hiram Bingham 1898 brought the collection of household items and human remains from Machu Picchu to Yale in 1912. When a Sept. 2007 agreement under which approximately 380 museum-quality pieces would return to Peru while others would stay at Yale fell through, Peru sued Yale in Dec. 2008 for their immediate return.
Yale’s lawyers moved to dismiss the case in Jan. 2010, on the grounds that a three-year statute of limitations period within which Peru could reclaim the artifacts had expired.