INC destroys Machu Picchu

November 17th, 2006

You may have read my previous criticisms (1, 2) of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura Cusco (INC), and if those were not enough I have yet more to add. I think this reflects poorly on the work they do, or rather don’t do.

Where oh where do we begin…

INC destroys Machu Picchu’s star attraction and unique artefact (CNN, BBC)
In September 2000 the greedy INC accepted a large payment to allow a company to enter the sacred ruins of Machu Picchu to film a beer commercial. The fact this might ruin the day of thousands of tourists who paid through their teeth to be there for this one and only day didn’t bother them, why would it, they had already taken their money.

The money paid for the permit to film didn’t completely blind the INC to its responsibility. With bare minimum respect for the ruins they ordered the company not to use any heavy equipment. But a few bribes most likely cleared that restriction out of the way, as when the day came to film, heavy cranes turned up at the gates and were let straight through.

Filming began, but was soon brought to a halt when a crane collapsed smashing a chunk off of the famous Intihuatana. The American company, J. Walter Thompson who were filming for Cervesur/Backus cheerfully declared they they did not feel responsible for the accident, but were willing to offer help to repair it out of kindness.

Neither did the INC feel responsible it seems, as they lied their way out of trouble. Gustavo Manrique, Cuzco’s INC director, assured people that only “light equipment” was mentioned on the permit and that the film crew had somehow sneaked the large crane into the sanctuary at dawn after the INC had explicitly told them not to. How they got through the heavily guarded and quite small gate at opening time was not admitted to. ($).

Scientific Advice is flat-out wrong if it gets in the way of INC revenue
(Article A, Article B)
A team of Japanese geologists travelled to Machu Picchu to carry out tests on the peak. They were worried to find movement in the ground below. Not slight movement, but extreme movement. So much so that they say the famous ruins could slip off the side of the mountain within a decade or so.
The Inca walls of the city are perfectly tight fitting – so much so that you couldn’t even slide a sheet of paper between the bricks. But this is not the case with some of the walls now. The Japanese found the earth to be moving so fast, 1cm each month, that large gaps have begun to appear in the once-perfect Inca walls.

The scientists needed to carry out further studies to give a closer estimate as to when any landslide might happen, but on hearing their findings the INC promptly kicked them off the site.

You can see from Article B, that in the following weeks this created quite a storm. Dr Frederico Kauffmann demanded the INC set up an inquiry to look into the Japanese expert’s results. But the INC refused, branding geologists like Kauffmann and the Japanese “alarmist”. “As of now, we have no report that there is an imminent danger,” they decreed, concerned only with the short term. They then attempted to teach geology to the qualified geologist, “The geological process takes a very long time, and Dr Kauffmann knows this.”

A plan to build a cable car sparks anger among those with brains (BBC)
Looking for ever more ways to increase tourist numbers and revenue back in 1999, a policy that almost lead to the UN heritage body Unesco removing Machu Picchu from the world heritage sites list in protest, a plan was born to build a cable car system up to the ruins.

This insane idea was drawn up after the INC were forced to ban low-flying helicopter flights over the citadel (which of course you had to pay the INC to be able to do) due to public outrage.

Ignoring the potential damage to the environment, and the massive damage construction work on the mountain could do to the ruins, the INC pressed ahead with the plans. Thankfully they fell through due to protests and UN threats.

INC restorations damage the character of the ruins they are charged to protect
This image is what constitutes restoration to the INC, a few tacky stones to fill in the blanks. I think this is very disrespectful to the Inca’s who spent hundreds of years building what they built, striving for perfection. For the INC to come along a put such crappy stones in the holes, even trying to imitate the Inca blocks, is laughable. Why not let the ruins be ruins, instead of trying to rebuild everything – poorly?

I am not alone in thinking this. Our guide at Sacsayhuamán even apologised to us while walking along side these walls. Numerous other tourists pointed spots like this out. Its just silly.

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