Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Refreshingly unabashed promotion of tourism below Machu Picchu


The village of Aguas Calientes is the terminus of the rail line that runs through the valley of the Urubamba River from the regional capitol Cusco, Peru. The mysterious, hallowed Inca ruin, Machu Picchu, is located on a peak several miles above the river, accessible by bus from the end of the train tracks. Machu Picchu lives up to its UN designation as a World Heritage site, thoroughly worth the effort to reach it, whether on foot via the Inca Trail or by rail.

The town below seems scarcely a place of human habitation; rather it is a chaotic jumble of buildings where, as a friend remarked, "restaurants seem to spring from the gutters." A commanding statute of an Inca (ruler) towers over the main square, but there seems no living center. A couple of years ago a landslide swept down the overhanging granite slopes, leaving eleven people missing. The town's only purpose seems to extract dollars from tourist/pilgrims.


The municipality is refreshingly honest about its purpose and its relationship with its visitors. On every ticket on the bus to and from the ruins riders can read the following message, conveniently rendered in the town's English:

Municipality of Machupicchu

The mayor and councilmen of the Municipality of Machupicchu cordially welcome you to the Village of Machupicchu (mistakenly called Aguas Calientes [for example, by area maps]) . . . created by law 9396 in 1941.

The village of Machupicchu features hotels, restaurants, bus service to the Inca Sanctuary and the rich and varied production and sale of handicrafts which benefit the local people. Thanks to tourism it is possible to guarantee the local urban and rural economy.

We invite you to come to Machupicchu and stay longer . . . .

Our concern is the twelve peasant communities in that suffer the harsh blows of poverty, in spite of the precarious farming activity carried out on a small scale. We are looking for greater economic resources to socially attend to this rural sector and to carry though on the social development of its children, education, health, beautification, and the basic services of water, light, sewage and communications, in order to improve conditions of life.

We want that you be our strategic allies, helping us to help, promoting greater purchases of handicrafts, food and basically creating more tourism of longer duration in the Village of Machupicchu.

Consume and Purchase in the Village of Machupicchu.

The message reminded of me of the post-911 slogan promoted here in San Francisco: "America -- open for business."


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