en Machu Picchu
Normally it is strikers --teachers, transportistas,
alcaldes, regantes, los pobladores de Aguas Calientes-- who block tourists from
getting to Machu Picchu. But today it is la autoridad misma in the shape of the
INC Cuzco, aka Direccion Regional de Cultura, which has in the past week stopped
thousands of tourists from their once-in-a-lifetime visit to our Maravilla.
The INC-Cuzco is suddenly enforcing a strict daily limit of 2,500 on the number
of tourists who are allowed to visit the Ciudadela de Machu Picchu. It might seem
symbolic that we are telling tourists to stay away at the same time that we have
been broadcasting to the world the MP Discovery Centennial.
but sadly only of the permanent confusion surrounding our management of the great
achievements of past civilizations in South America.
The INC Cuzco
says that a limit of 2,500 entry tickets per day has been imposed by UNESCO but
this is untrue, and the INC-Cuzco knows it. UNESCO has simply and rightly said
that Machu Picchu must be managed properly if it is to retain the Unesco imprimatur.
The fact is that the INC-Cuzco has over the past decade proved itself to
be incapable of managing not just MP but the other invaluable ruins which form
a basic part of the world's heritage. A new government is a good time to replace
a failed gestion with a modern, academicly respectable, world-class organization.
Just as one example, the INC, an everyone else, has completely failed to
protect the Sanctuario de MP against the uncontrolled expansion of the nasty,
dangerous, totally illegal barriada of Aguas Calientes which today controls entry
to the ruins.
The Sanctuario of MP includes more than 30,000 hectares
of belleza cultural y natural. But only 4.5 hectares --the central plazas-- are
seen by nine out of ten visitors. It is this that creates the shouting crowds
of tourists, not some arbitrary, un-studied figure drawn out a hat, as the INC-Cuzco
The sudden cut-off comes at the height of the tourist season and
has left thousands of rightly furious visitors from abroad stuck in long, miserable
madrugada lines in Aguas Calientes.
Everyone understands that the number
of visitors has to be controlled. But the INC has made no studies and its Plan
Maestro of several years ago was a botched, untechnical effort that was in any
case never put into effect.
Perhaps as the root of the problem/madre
cordero is that the INC is staffed by low-level local archaeologists totally unqualified
to manage a world-class tourist attraction. They are also unqualified to handle
the tough, often unscrupulous Cuzco entrepreneurs who in the past decade have
turned Aguas Calientes, which hardly existed until 1998, into a hundred disreputable
hotels, hostales, restaurants dominated by the noisy, smelly buses which have
an illegal US$20mn/pa monopoly on transport up to the ruins.
It is the two
thousand or so inhabitants of Aguas Calientes together with the bureaucrats of
the INC-Cuzco who completely control MP, our great national treasure, not to mention
the US$2bn tourism industry.
The INC people often reconstruct Inca walls and
buildings with little or no technical criteria. They have done no worthwhile research
and zealously block foreign archaeologists. MP remains a mystery partly thanks
to the INC.
There is no pretense of management. Visitors are not allowed to
take in even a sandwich. To go to the bathroom, they have to go all the way back
to the main entrance which involves checking their passports --to go to the loo!
The new government has an opportunity today to get rid of the INC --it is
beyond reform-- and put in a new modern management to save our heritage