It's the third week here in Peru and I'm just now writing a blog about the project at the Saqsaywaman archaeological park. Why? Because, as usual, it's taken me this long to have the necessary meetings to figure out how to move forward with my work here. This year the negotiations have been especially challenging. In summary, the situation here has become even more challenging than when I arrived in 2010. It's a long story, but I'll try to tell you all about it here.
TRUST. I can't escape the juxtaposition of watching the Impeachment trials, that center on the issue of trust on so many levels, and the challenges I'm having here in Peru keeping the trust of the communities that live on the active archaeological site of Saqsaywaman, and maintaining the trust of the Ministry of Culture who is in charge of protecting for the world the amazing site of Saqsaywaman.
All that aside, this site still needs to have the latest of archaeological techniques utilized to bring it's history to light. And, that's the main challenge that the Ministry of Culture and the communities living on the site face.
HOW DO YOU PRESERVE A WORLD CLASS ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE FOR HUMANITY WHEN PEOPLE LIVE ON THE SITE WHO WANT TO ENTER THE 21ST CENTURY BY BUILDING ROADS AND HOUSES?
Without exaggerating, Saqsaywaman, and it's surrounding archaeological sites (some known well and some obscure), have the potential to completely re-write our understanding of human history! I've been visiting some of these less-known sites on my trip this year. BUT...and it's a BIG but, these sites cannot help us understand how the Americas were populated and what role the Americas play in overall human history UNLESS they are preserved. And, that is a big challenge in this amazing country of Peru. Serious archaeological work needs to be conducted. Lidar studies need to be done. Ground penetrating radar needs to be completed. Funds need to be allocated. And, most importantly, communities where these sites live must be encouraged to preserve these sites, instead of building homes and communities that may threaten archaeological ruins. Bottom line, when you live on these sites, it's way too easy to destroy sites in the pursuit of building homes and growing crops. Stones and ruins don't feed families. Unless, artifacts can be sold that you find on your land. COMPLICATED!
Now to my work here. In 2010 I arrived in Cusco thinking all I was going to do was film a stakeholders meeting between the Ministry of Culture at Saqsaywaman and the communities that live on the active archaeological site. Well, their trust in each other was so minimal, that the meeting didn't happen. Instead, my team was asked to use our cameras to mediate between the two groups. We've been trying to do that since then.
This year, that whole process seems to have completely failed. The communities don't trust the Ministry. And the Ministry don't trust the communities. So many events have happened, over the last 10 years, that have eroded trust between the two groups. And, most concerning to me, THE COMMUNITIES HAVE LOST TRUST IN ME! I can't express how SAD I am about this turn of events. The communities seem to perceive me as someone who is more aligned with the Ministry and the fact that I only show up here periodically doesn't help them build trust in my commitment to their concerns.
Bottom line, I have lost the TRUST of the communities that live on the Saqsaywaman archaeological park. And, I will need to find other ways to assist here over 2020. My friend and team member, Fernando Sallo, had a meeting last night with the Union of communities and they basically said they were not willing to move forward working with me without a formal report of my work and reassurances that I have their best interests in mind. I cannot do that with the time I have left here, so I'll have to find another way to move forward.
Today, January 24th, I had a meeting with Director Francisco Solis Diaz at the main office at Saqsaywaman. The topic: Goals and objectives for my work in 2020. My team members Fernando Sallo and Fiorella Romero were with me. The meeting was difficult. The Ministry director realizes that the relationship between them and the communities isn't good night now. And, in fact it's at a critical stage. The communities are building without permissions and the Ministry is VERY concerned that archaeological ruins are being damaged or built over. This situation MUST stop and soon! And my ability to mediate between the two groups is non-existence at this point. The park officials and anthropologists don't have the trust of the communities. So, the situation is dire! Stories of inca walls being destroyed and used to build local homes are being told. The archaeological site is threatened. And, the future of the people who live on the site is up in the air. Personally, I fear for each side's safety.
There is a glimmer of hope. The park director has asked that I accomplish two tasks before my next visit to Saqsaywaman in April/May 2020.
How Can You Help? I'm not really good at asking for help and certainly not suited to admitting that I need help. But, I need HELP! This project is at a sensitive stage and it could continue to move forward or fail all together. I need emotional support, encouragement and words of wisdom and support. I need people to help me believe in myself. In whatever way you can do this is much appreciated.
And, I need financial support. I'm hoping this year to get some grants and find a academic partner who can help me with funds to continue my work here and in the USA. I have team members here in Peru to fund. I have equipment and online tools that need to be paid for. I have travel and daily expenses. I have paid all these myself since 2010. Anything you can donate will help me to continue my work here. And, my Andean jewelry sales also help on my site beaditforwardstore.com
And, if you want to travel with me to Peru, I have great opportunities to become part of the team and explore this amazing part of Peru.
I look forward to hearing from you all in whatever way is best for you. Send me a text, email, Facebook message. Call me on What'sApp. Or connect me to someone you might know who can help me along the way.
Abrazos to you all.
Maren Elwood is a visual anthropologist and founder of On-Site Expeditions...a field school that will provide scholarships to aspiring heritage professionals. The first field school session will be in January 2020.