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Culture & History | July 18, 2011 [ 6:47 ]

Peru government honors National Geographic for its help


Machu Picchu (Photo: archives )
The Peruvian government decorated National Geographic Society Chairman and CEO John Fahey and National Geographic Executive Vice President for Mission Programs Terry Garcia with the Order of the Sun in the rank of Grand Officer for helping retrieve a collection of ancient artifacts taken from the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu nearly 100 years ago.

The award ceremony took place on Friday, July 15, at the Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C.

The "Orden del Sol del Peru" is the highest civilian award given by the Peruvian government to its citizens and foreigners who have excelled in fields such as arts, literature, culture and politics, or who have provided extraordinary services to Peru.

The order was created by decree in 1821 by General Jose de San Martin, while he was Protector of Peru, to reward services rendered in favor of independence.

The National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world, and it has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888.

Throughout its 123-year history it has encouraged stewardship of the planet through research, exploration and education, raised public awareness of the importance of natural places and promoted environmental and historical conservation.

The commitment to conservation and preservation has been promoted with especial dedication under the leadership of Mr. Fahey, who had an instrumental role in aiding the repatriation of Machu Picchu's archeological pieces to Peru.

Mr. Garcia has had a close relationship with Peru for many years and also played a key role in the recuperation of the Machu Picchu archaeological pieces. He was recently nominated by President Barack Obama to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce.

Following a long campaign by Peru, Yale University agreed to return some 45,000 items for the centennial of Machu Picchu's rediscovery by U.S. archaeologist Hiram Bingham. The items began arriving in Peru in March 2011 and the repatriation is expected to be completed by December 2012.

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Culture & History | July 15, 2011 [ 9:49 ]

Peruvians to eat 2 million chickens on Pollo a la Brasa Day

Pollo a la brasa (Photo: Carsten Korch )
Peruvians will consume close to two million chickens this Sunday, in honor of Pollo a la Brasa (Rotisserie Chicken) Day.

So estimates the Ministry of Agriculture, speculating that on this date, chicken consumption will rise anywhere from 15% to 20%

In a report published in Los Andes, Victor Noriega, director of the Ministry’s department Agrarian Competitiveness, stated that the production of chickens comes to 45 million per month, or a 1.5 million per day.

This allows national consumption of the bird to come to 32 kilos per capita, one of the highest in South America.

He figured that going by this data, poultry dishes, such as the emblematic  pollo a la brasa are among the most eaten by Peruvians in restaurants. Peruvians who go out to eat, said Noriega, are more likely to go to chicken restaurants than to chifas (Chinese restaurants) or cevicherías. Chicken, Noriega said, is a favorite in Peru’s “national table.”

Noriega also added that Peru’s distinct rotisserie chicken is one of the principal international representatives of Peruvian cuisine, and that Peru’s government is attempting to introduce it to markets in Europe and Asia.

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Culture & History | July 14, 2011 [ 9:55 ]

LA Times profiles Susana Baca and Afro-Peruvian identity

Susana Baca (Photo: Los Angeles Times )
Susana Baca, the Grammy-winning Peruvian folksinger, was recently profiled by Tracy Wilkinson in the Los Angeles Times.

The 67 year-old artist is currently visiting the town of Santa Barbara in northern Peru, where her mother grew up, and which, as Wilkinson states, “is the cradle of its multi-ethnic history, where the descendants of black slaves and Chinese and Japanese field hands have lived together for generations, intermarried and even now continue to work the land.”

Baca’s wants to redress the racism in Peruvian culture, which she feels has habitually diminished the value of Peruvians who were descended from African slaves. "Official history is white," states her husband, Ricardo Pereira, a sociologist."The idea is to make visible a hidden history.”

The article can be read here:

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Culture & History | July 12, 2011 [ 14:42 ]

Novalima brings Afro-Peruvian beats to North America

Novalima is consolidating its success as the most successful Peruvian band with a North American tour.

Their “Summer Tour 2011″ kicked off with a performance on July 2 at Montreal’s Jazz Festival, and concludes tonight in Chicago. In between they also played Quebec, New York, Boston, and even Burlington, Vermont, attracting positive press along the way.

Andrew Gilbert in the Boston Globe writes that their music “was laced with a supple electronica beat, creating a rhythmic mesh perfectly at home in the hipster-haven of the SoMa district.”

It is perhaps appropriate that the four young musicians who make up Novalima actually formed the band while dispersed across the globe. Though they were friends with shared musical interests in high school in Lima, three of them, Grimaldo Del Solar, Rafael Morales, and Carlos Li Carrillo, relocated to Barcelona, London, Hong Kong respectively, while Rámon Perez Prieto remained in Lima. Yet they remained in touch via the Internet, and it was their sharing song ideas via email that resulted in their 2002 debut, entitled simply “Novalima.”

With their third effort, “Coba Coba”, in 2009, they finally achieved global success, topping the College Music Journal (CMJ) New World and Latin Alternative Charts, winning at the Independent Music Awards, and earning Latin Grammy nomination. In 2010, Hollywood called when Robert Rodriguez asked them to provide a theme song for his film, “Machete.”

Novalima’s music has been categorized as “Afro-Peruvian”, a style that combines the African rhythms heard in reggae and salsa fused with the melodies of Spanish and Andean songs.

Previous to Novalima, some of its most famous exponents were Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Eva Ayllon, and the group Peru Nego. However, Novalima represents the largest reach ever for this genre.

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Culture & History | July 12, 2011 [ 10:00 ]

Peru's Humala and de Szyszlo discuss the Place of Memory

Fernando de Szyszlo
President-elect Ollanta Humala met with one of Peru’s most venerated artists, Fernando de Szyszlo, last Monday to discuss the Place of Memory.

De Szyzslo is currently serving as commission head for Peru's Place of Memory, which is to be a monument and museum dedicated to the victims of Peru's internal conflict.  As reported in El Comercio, Humala affirmed his support for the institution during the meeting.

 De Szyszlo, a modernist painter and sculptor, a leading Latin American figure in the “plastic arts” movement of the 20th century, stated that “with satisfaction, I have seen the president’s enthusiasm for the Place of Memory.”

Previously known as the Museum of Memory, this project will serve to honor the victims of the conflict between Sendero Luminoso and the government in the 1980s and 1990s. Architects, as well as a site on the coastline of Miraflores, have been selected for the project.

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Culture & History | July 7, 2011 [ 22:46 ]

Opinion: Machu Picchu – What are we celebrating?

Opinion: Machu Picchu – What are we celebrating?
One of the first Peruvians to photograph Machu Picchu was Martín Chambi. He shot this image of the Inca citadel in 1931.

By Eliane Karp for La República
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo

In middle of the grandiloquent official celebrations organized by the current administration in honor of the so-called “Machu Picchu Centennial,” I have the need to make a reflection from a historical and social perspective about the creation of a myth called the “Discovery of Machu Picchu.”

The first thing that should be said is that Machu Picchu was not discovered by Hiram Bingham a hundred years ago. To this date, the most accepted hypothesis by archaeologists about the construction of Machu Picchu, probably named originally as Pata Llaqta, is that it was commissioned by Pachakuteq after he became Inca (most probably after his victory over the Chankas). This event situates us approximately in the year 1430.

This huge architectural complex evidently took some time to be built. By the excellence achieved in its architecture and edification, it reflects a synthesis of stone, mountain, and river; the philosophy and mysticism of the Incas in their height.

When Pachakuteq died, it became a mausoleum, where his mummy was kept and venerated fervently. It was believed to continue to exercise power over the people, giving advice to the descendants of the royal panaca, in charge of the mummy’s custody and of relating the events, certainly embellished, of his reign.

This history can be found in the texts of the Spanish Juan de Betanzos, one of Pizarro’s ex soliders that married the Inca princess Angelina Yupanqui. She was Atahualpa’s fiancée, but could not marry him since the Inca was assassinated. She told Betanzos, his husband, her memories about the use given to Machu Picchu, in the same way her panaca transmitted it in the oral tradition.

As with Hiram Bingham, researcher and traveler with more of an adventurous spirit than a scientific interest, he traveled Peru since 1909 searching for El Dorado. He was not looking for Machu Picchu because he ignored its existence.

Bingham was taken first to Choquekirao, from where he extracted archaeological materials that apparently were never returned (according to his own letters). It wasn’t until 1911 that he was taken to Machu Picchu. He did not discovered it; he was taken there by Peruvian scientists and farmers who were always in the area and knew about its existence. Machu Picchu never disappeared from the collective memory of the local indigenous people.

There are maps that locate Pata Llaqta way before the arrival of Bingham. Antonio Raimondi himself made a map – used by Bingham in his travel to Peru – where there is an exact geographical location of Machu Picchu.

As far as I am concerned, the only real virtue of Bingham was to obtain the money from the National Geographic Society for the expedition, a decision made after an intense lobby in Washington D.C. This society later revealed to the world the archaeological site through its magazine, with the first publication of the expedition’s photographs that they financed.

Bingham also obtained some special decrees through his connections in Lima with the Peruvian government. These enabled him for the first time to legally take the archaeological artifacts to Yale University, for scientific use only during 18 months. This period of time expired without Yale’s returning the pieces back to Peru.

What is really sad is that many of these boxes remained unopened for a long time in the university’s basements. Mr. Bingham decided to go to war in Europe and later he ran for senator in Connecticut. In reality, very little was obtained from this scientific exchange between Yale Univeristy and Peru’s scientific world.

We have many letters written between Bingham and the National Geographic, where he requests the money for the expedition and explains his relation with the Peruvian government of the time. His perception is very interesting and quite different of what some people expect to make us believe today. In any case, it is very clear that the artifacts belong to Peruvians and should be given back, something that Yale has refused to do, breaking agreements with the Peruvian government.

At the end, it is not quite clear what is it that president García wants to celebrate. The fake discovery of Machu Picchu? The exaggerated recognition to Bingham? The return almost a century later of some (not very many) pieces that remained illegally in Yale? Or the centennial of a misunderstanding that has not been overcome yet?

It shoud be remined that most of the artifacts are still in power of Yale University, that has promised to return them within two years. In exchange, there is a compromise of the Peruvian government to keep Yale involved through a contract of technical assistance. Are these grandiloquent celebrations about another concession made to Yale University?

In this case, my feelings go out instead to pay homage to the indigenous people of the region who are the direct descendants, as well as to the city and citizens of Cusco. They were the ones that, from a start, were always opposed to letting the artifacts being taken away from the historical monument.

I think it is important to demystify what is currently happening in Cusco  which does not pay a tribute to the real events – separating the pomp organized by this government – from the real and historic sense of things, reestablishing the celebrations of Machu Picchu in its real and fair dimension.

Eliane Karp is an anthropologist, and guest professor of the University of Salamanca, Spain, and the University of Stanford. She was Peru's First Lady between 2001 and 2006.

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Culture & History | July 4, 2011 [ 9:47 ]

Peru to pursue legal avenues in artifact dispute with Swedish city

Paracas textile (Photo: justsmartdesign )
Peru will intensify its efforts to retrieve one hundred Paracas textiles currently held by the Gothenburg World Culture Museum, Alan García announced at a conference for the repatriation of cultural artifacts.

The president said that the Peruvian government would pursue all available legal avenues, including cooperation with INTERPOL, in its case against the Swedish city. Andina reported that García accused Gothenburg of being an accomplice in the looting of Peru’s cultural heritage.

The blankets were produced 2,000 years ago by the Paracas culture, and were used to enshroud dead bodies during burial. They were taken by grave-robbers in the early twentieth-century, and were smuggled out of the country, eventually ending up in Sweden.

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Culture & History | July 3, 2011 [ 17:33 ]

Thousands join in Machu Picchu centennial parade in Cusco


Thousands of people have lined the streets of Cusco for a parade commemorating the 100th anniversary of the scientific discovery of Machu Picchu, Peru's world-famous archaeological site.

Traditionally dressed dancers representing some thirty institutions such as universities, schools and police departments marched Sunday on the streets, drawing the attention of locals and visitors.

The parade commenced on Avenida El Sol, proceeded to the Andean city's main square and ended at the San Francisco square, where a food festival is taking place.

Centennial events will continue on Monday with a group of children from schools in the Machu Picchu district performing traditional dances at the Manco Capac Square.

The book 'Agustin Lizarraga, the great discoverer of Machu Picchu' by Americo Rivas Tapia will be presented later that day at 16.00 local time. The event will take place at the Convention Center of Cusco’s Municipal Palace.

The main day of celebrations is on Thursday, July 7, and will see an Art and Culture festival taking over the main squares in Cusco, while at Michu Picchu there will be a re-enactment of a traditional Tinkay ceremony and a Salute from the four corners of the Empire.

In the evening there will be a light and sound show which aims to show Machu Picchu as it was back in Inca times, while the celebrations carry on back in Cusco’s main square.

The festivities will continue on Friday in Cusco with traditional dance competitions, parades, music and fireworks and will culminate in a concert on the evening of July 9, boasting national and international artists.  

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Culture & History | July 2, 2011 [ 17:01 ]

Machu Picchu centennial celebrations kicked off today in Cusco


(Photo: archives)
Centennial celebrations for the scientific discovery of Macchu Picchu started today, Saturday, in Cusco with the opening of the photographic exhibition Remembrances of Machu Picchu.

The exhibit takes place at Manco Capac Square in the district of Machu Picchu, Cusco’s province of Urumbamba.

According to Ricardo Vega, president of the High Level Commission responsible for the organization of the event, the schedule of activities, which will last until July 9, includes parades, festivals, ceremonies, cultural events among others.

“It is a really nice and diverse program,” Vega told Andina news agency after inviting the Peruvians to join the celebrations.

The main day of celebrations will be on July 7 and will include the staging of the traditional Tinkay ceremony and a salute from the Cuatro Suyos.

In addition, later that day, a sound and light show called “Machu Picchu, history and homage to a wonder of the world” will take place from 18:00 to 20:00 hours at the Inca citadel featuring the Andean Orchestra and Cusco’s Symphony Orchestra.  

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Culture & History | July 1, 2011 [ 15:09 ]

Peru's Chan Chan ruins remain at risk

Chan Chan ruins. (Photo: archives)
Chan Chan, the famous Chimu archeological site near Trujillo, will remain on the UNESCO “World Heritage in Danger” list, according to a report from Andina.

Enrique Sánchez Maura, Cultural Director for the region of La Libertad, said that the site is in danger due to its fragile adobe construction, and that regardless of what preservation efforts are enacted, it will remain permanently at-risk.

“We can’t expect this situation to change overnight. Chan Chan is totally vulnerable; there are more than fourteen kilometers (8.7 miles) that we must protect from rain, humidity, wind, salt and humans themselves,” he told Andina.

To counter this last threat, a commission led by Sánchez Maura has proposed provisions for the relocation of 200 families occupying the northern zone of the site, in accordance with a 2005 law. Progress has been made on other fronts, as well. A new drainage system was recently installed at the Nik-An (formerly Tschudi) walled complex, the only part of the site open to tourists.

Sánchez Maura remains concerned, however, telling Andina that “Significant work has been accomplished, but it’s not enough.”

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