Our research paper specifies on the impacts of tourism in Machu Picchu and indigenous communities. Furthermore, this project will describe the major effects tourism has brought to the site of Machu Picchu and how it has created a loss of identity in indigenous communities. This research paper will show that the popularity of Machu Picchu has led to geographical trauma because of pressure from incoming tourists. In addition, it will demonstrate the lack of culture present in indigenous communities due to the influence of new cultures from tourists. This project was conducted by 10th grade Colegio Menor students in Quito, Ecuador, who chose to investigate about a certain topic after the academic field trip to Peru.
The information to investigate on this project was extracted from sources such as organizations, visual primary sources and interviews to locals in Peru. The use of these sources helped us back up our research question with valid information. Also, the locals provided additional information based on their background knowledge of the citadel since they have experienced the growth of tourism in Machu Picchu. The research led to the conclusion that Machu Picchu and its surrounding communities have been negatively affected by tourism. Machu Picchu’s structures have been deformed or damaged due to the pressure from tourists walking on the site and indigenous communities have lost part of their cultures by adopting other lifestyles.
Machu Picchu with Una Picchu and Huayna Picchu in background (Photo Credit: Dominic Sherony)
Research Question: How has the popularity of Machu Picchu amongst tourists impacted the citadel and its surrounding indigenous communities negatively since its “discovery” in 1911?
Every year about 1 million tourists visit Machu Picchu, one of the most famous archeological sites in the Americas. The purpose of our research question is to find out how tourism impacts Machu Picchu and the cultural identity of indigenous communities that live nearby. The question is specific because it states the factors which we must investigate regarding the long-term effects of tourism on Machu Picchu, and its surrounding indigenous communities. This question allows us to meaningfully analyze the various impacts on the ruins, such as how the indigenous population and their identity may be impacted, the effects on flora and fauna, and the possible geographical changes on the citadel. Answering this research question will help us understand how tourism is impacting archaeological sites by creating damage and impacting local communities; this will lead to the questioning of what regulations should be enacted to preserve the citadel.
Woman dressed traditionally in Cuzco. (Photo Credit: Milagros Cortez)
Hypothesis: The popularity of Machu Picchu amongst tourists has affected the citadel negatively by creating geographical trauma in the area and has impacted indigenous communities negatively by provoking a loss of identity and authenticity.
By predicting that tourism has created a geographical trauma in the area around Machu Picchu and provoked a loss of identity in indigenous communities, the hypothesis directly and fully answers our research question. This hypothesis can be confirmed or rejected by researching about the impacts of tourism in Machu Picchu and interviewing locals about how indigenous people have been affected by tourism.
Early morning in Machu Picchu (Photo Credit: Pedro Szekely)
Research Methods: Analyzing sources accessed via Google Scholar, and field observations in Peru, allowed a proper analysis of tourism’s effects on Machu Picchu and surrounding indigenous communities.
The use of trustworthy sources for this research has guaranteed the credibility and legitimacy of our answer to the question. In class our research was based on online sources to start investigating our topic. Organizations like UNESCO and visual primary sources, such as pictures and papers published by universities, are all sources that have provided solid evidence to support the question. During the trip, we gathered visual evidence of the deterioration of the citadel. We also interviewed guides to collect their perspectives regarding tourism in Machu Picchu and surrounding communities. This information would then add on to our previous information researched in class. Visiting Machu Picchu significantly helped us reach a conclusion since we were witnesses of tourism and the lack of indigenous people. Moreover, the information provided by the tour guides enriched our evidence because they are locals who have experienced the growth of tourism to the site and seen its negative impacts. The use of notes during the discussions with guides about the damage on the citadel and cultures have helped the group to facilitate the research by strengthening our arguments.
The citadel of Machu Picchu. (Photo Credit: Isabella Channer)
Conclusions: The popularity of Machu Picchu amongst tourists has negatively impacted the archeological site, causing damage to its geography and archeological structures; likewise, the growing amount of tourism in the area has caused a loss of identity, negatively impacting the lifestyle and culture of surrounding indigenous communities.
We can confirm our hypothesis because Machu Picchu and its surrounding communities have evidently been affected by tourism in a negative way. Our findings during and after the trip state that the citadel of Machu Picchu has sustained damage because of pressure from tourists. The second part of the hypothesis is confirmed by evidence from the trip because we could experience the loss of identity amongst indigenous communities in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu.
Deterioration of rocks. (Photo Credit: Isabella Channer)
The popularity of Machu Picchu amongst tourists has caused negative impacts on this archeological site. Even though the site is protected by the Peruvian government and entities from the UN, such as UNESCO, who have limited access to the territory, the commercialization of the site has affected the area negatively. Thousands of people visit the site daily, exposing the site to ongoing pressure caused by the amount of people that apply weight to the site. Regulations will be incorporated to the site to control the number of people entering and leaving because about 5,000 people visit this site daily (“Machu Picchu Attractions”, n.d.). Certain areas of the Machu Picchu National Park have been closed due to the deterioration of some structures caused by the overcrowding of too many people visiting the place. Careless tourists carve symbols and names on the stone structure or leave garbage inside the citadel. The touristic purposes of the site have led to the deformation of various structures. For example, in the year 2000, during the filming of a beer commercial a mechanical crane fell on top of a giant calendar stone. As a consequence, the rock was deformed and damaged since it lost its original shape (Mink, 2009). The government faces a pressing need to preserve the site as it encounters problems throughout the site, leading to the idea of closing the National Park temporarily for maintenance and limiting the number of people who enter the ruins.
Calendar Stone damaged in Machu Picchu. (Photo Credit: Jorge Láscar)
Indigenous communities residing in the areas surrounding Machu Picchu, such as Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes, have experienced a loss of identity, culture, and lifestyle, confirming another negative impact of tourism. Most indigenous people in the area, who maintain their culture, work in public attractions for tourists or sell their products, benefiting from tourism by dressing in traditional attires or performing cultural traditions in order to win money. Indigenous people lose their identity by only presenting a small percent of their culture and traditions to tourists and leaving other non touristic traditions behind. This leads to the adaptation of the indigenous to modern lifestyles because of the influence from tourists. This explains the lack of ethnic movements in Peru, as indigenous communities assume a subordinate social and moral position (Cánepa 2008). The indigenous communities around Machu Picchu have been affected by tourism, causing a change in their life and a loss of identity.
Indigenous girls in Ollantaytambo. (Photo Credit: Isabella Channer)
The popularity of Machu Picchu amongst tourists has negatively impacted the archeological site, harming its geographical and architectural structures; the growing amount of tourism in the area has also caused a loss of identity. The increasing amount of tourists that visit the ruins and surrounding areas, generate concern about the damage imposed on the citadel, as in the years of 2015 and 2016 tourism increased by a drastic number of 12,536 tourists per day (“Peru Inflation Rate”, n.d.). Therefore, our research question leads to possible discussion about imposing regulations to control tourism in Machu Picchu. Moreover, tourism affects every social aspect and the cultural identity of the people that reside in nearby areas of the archeological site. For this problem we consider a temporary closure for the tourism to stabilize, followed by a restoration of this site in order to reinforce the affected structures. For many years the Peruvian government has tried to close certain areas of the Machu Picchu National Park, closing Huayna Picchu during the month of april of 2016 (Wanderlust, 2015). Moreover, this solution in future events can favor not only to the structure and preservation of the Machu Picchu National Park, but maintain the cultural identity of indigenous people who reside in the surrounding areas of this place.
Tourists in Machu Picchu. (Photo Credit: María José Vergara)
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