The historical remains include walls, ceramics, human and animal bones, which were found during the construction of the hotel, in what used to be a Catholic monastery built on top of Inca walls, in the center of Cusco.
Inca and Kilke walls were found under the convent of San Antonio along with human bones and ceramics.The exclusive J. W. Marriott hotel will be located in the historical center of Cusco, the capital city of the Indigenous civilization of Tawantinsuyu. Cusco is a unique city of such importance that is included in the UNESCO's World Heritage list, and is the most important tourism destination in Peru
This inexcusable destruction has been done with knowledge of the Peruvian owners and government authorities, but it was kept secret until it was denounced by civic organizations in Cusco including a neighbors association, an attorneys group, independent media reporters, and local residents.
Lima-based company Inversiones La Rioja SA has excavated and destroyed the walls built by the Indigenous civilizations Kilke and Inca, and architectural structures from the Colonial and Republican times of Peru’s history. So far, local authorities haven't acted strongly enough to enforce their heritage protection legislation or to correct or stop the destruction.
The historical remains were discovered last April and October 2009, after the construction work begun in January. Inside the abandoned convent of San Agustin, Archaeologists found several walls along with 25 kg. of ceramics, and human and animal bones. Later on by mid October some of those remains were found dumped at the nearby Huatanay river.
Construction continues after destruction of historical heritage.
(*) Photos posted at SkyscraperCity. September 2009
(*) Photos posted at SkyscraperCity. September 2009
After months of protests and suspensions, last Friday December 25, a group of Council members of the Municipality of Cusco ordered the revoking of the construction license for the hotel J. W. Marriott, due to allegations of destruction of the heritage, however the initiative lacked of support from local authorities, and the Executive branch in Lima.
The non profit groups Juntas Vecinales del Centro Historico de Cusco [Neighborhood Boards of the Historical Center of Cusco] (JVCHC) and the Center of Population Research Documentation and Consulting (CIDAP) have asked the General Attorney to appoint a special Prosecutor to protect the heritage of Cusco. These groups have organized vigils, dialogues and protests before but were widely ignored especially by the local media.
I contacted the Provincial Municipality of Cusco and I was told that the construction was suspended partially but in general they will continue. Also I called Inversiones La Rioja S.A. but a message said they are in vacations until January 4, 2010.
Plan shows existent walls before the construction started, color shows antiquity
The planned J. W. Marriott hotel will have 150 rooms in a seven-stories building, with a 3-level underground complex. This requires excavations that are usually forbidden by the law in a city that was built on top of rich unstudied archaeological remains, left mostly by Native civilizations thousands of years ago. The old convent of San Agustin is located in downtown Cusco, and it was declared a historical monument in 1994 by the National Institute of Culture (INC) of Peru but it was neglected for years until the INC approved the privatization of the property.
The J. W. Marriott in Cusco was announced in March 2008 by representatives of Marriott International in Peru. The first stone was laid on January 19, 2009 by the then Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Mercedes Araoz (today’s minister of Economy), the current INC director Cecilia Bakula and by the directors of La Rioja SA who promised they would respect the historic heritage of the site.
Months later the Provincial Municipality of Cusco ordered the suspension of the project on June 5, under the recommendation of the Judiciary’s Anti-Corruption Attorney office after the April discovery and after local protests, and recommendations from professionals including the Cusco branch of the Association of Architects of Peru. But the construction has continued, and the Peruvian government seem to have little interest to enforce a restoration and protection process.
This week I contacted architect Virginia Mendigure-Sarmiento, who is a member of the "Neighborhood Boards of the Historical Center of Cusco", and she confirmed that Cusco residents have witnessed the destruction of the historical walls. Most importantly, architect Virginia Mendigure mentioned that because of the recent tourism industry boom, Cusco is becoming a segregated city where the local residents are facing economic and racial discrimination, as a result of the privatization of historical sites.
Most of the jobs created by the tourism industry are benefiting workers that come from other cities, and we the people of Cusco have limited access to most of the new private businesses opening in the city. Also she lamented that there is not enough awareness among the Cusco population about the importance of their historical heritage, and the destruction it faces.
As a result of the lack of response from the authorities in regards of the J. W. Marriott case, -especially from the INC- the Neighborhood Boards of the Historical Center of Cusco has requested the Provincial Municipality of Cusco (PMC) to declare the city’s cultural heritage in a state of emergency, but both the PMC and the UNESCO have not supported the initiative. Meanwhile most local and national media are ignoring the crisis in Cusco.
Priviledge and discriminationThere is a reason for the privileged treatment that private investors are receiving from the Peruvian authorities, and that has to do mostly with economical benefits and the corrupting influence that powerful corporations have in a country like Peru. The powerful Inversiones La Rioja S.A. (ILR) -which owns the J.W. Marriott hotel in Lima– is a corporation well connected to the economic and political elites of Peru.
The ILR directors have close ties with the current Peruvian government, the Catholic church and the elites of Peru. This might explain the silence of the Peruvian media and press in regards of the protests and vigils organized by the Cusco population in the last several months. Also, this might have to do with the extraordinary support of the National Institute of Culture (INC) to the investors.
Inversiones La Rioja SA has a franchise agreement with Marriott International, and they claim that the new hotel will create more than 300 jobs during construction and more than 1,000 when completed at the end of 2010. Attempts to suspend the project have caused social unrest among the few benefited in Cusco, but opponents see it as a necessary measure to protect the city’s heritage.
Professionals in charge of the construction site have said the findings of historical remains were a surprise, because the old convent of San Agustin was located in "an agricultural area" during the Inca times. This is difficult to accept, considering that the project is located two blocks away from the main square of Wajaypata where is located the famous cathedral. In that same area the horrendous ‘Sumaq Ima’ Mall is being built.
Last September 2009, the mayor of Cusco Luis Florez Garcia, accompanied a delegation of the CVCHC for a meeting at the Congress of Peru in the capital Lima. In that meeting, Florez told Congress members that "Peru requires builders and not destructive people, predators that are secretly preparing laws against our cultural heritage."
Systematic privatization of the historic center of CuscoThe destruction and looting of historical Indigenous sites in today’s Peru is nothing new. It’s been happening for centuries since the European invasion of the XVI century. For instance, when Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1867 by the German treasure hunter Augusto Berns, he signed a secret deal with the government of Lima to extract the treasures and then ship them off to Europe, with a 10% commission for the Peruvian elite.
Cusco's rich historical and cultural heritage has become a curse to its residents, who are the descendants of the Indigenous peoples who built and created it. In the last decades, the historical center of Cusco, the surrounding towns and historical sites are undergoing a radical change that has changed the lives of its mostly Indigenous residents.
This is the result of a quiet process of privatization of the cultural heritage in the region, led by the government of Lima. The Peruvian Executive has the last say on the management of cultural and tourism resources. This has led to a property speculation market promoted by the tourism industry and also sponsored by the local Catholic Archdiocese which owns almost 50% of the historical downtown area. Today, big parts of the city of Cusco and many of its attractions are tourists-access only and the demand for properties in the historical center has caused the displacement of poorer neighbors to the hilly edges of Cusco.
Being Cusco the main destination of over 2 million foreign visitors that arrive to Peru every year, the important economic impact of the tourism industry is not benefiting the region, represented in the 56-70% poverty level of Cusco’s population. Most tourism companies in the city are either foreign or from Lima, including the only train that goes to the world-famous citadel of Machu Picchu.
Meanwhile, new projects like the hotel in Cusco like the J. W. Marriott and the Ima Sumaq Mall are destroying the historic character of the area. This also occurs in the outskirt neighborhoods of the periphery, where both formal and informal constructions copy the worst of Lima’s architecture creating ugly streets without a local identity.
Money, power, religion, and the Indigenous heritage of CuscoThe people of Cusco are mostly Indigenous and mestizo (mixed Indigenous). They are witnessing in horror as their historical heritage is being privatized and destroyed by people that come from outside of their territory, their cultural, racial and religious heritages. For the newcomers it’s about making profits, for the locals is about is a source of monetary gain. For others it’s a matter of pride, identity.
The city of Qosqo was one of the greatest rewards for the Hispanics during the invasion of the Inca civilization in the sixteenth century. After murdering Inca Atawualpa in Caxamarca, those led by Francisco Pizarro arrived at the Inca capital and destroyed much of it in early 1534. Then they looted everything they could.
The supervisor of the looting representing the Hispanic monarchy was Jeronimo de Aliaga, Pizarro’s personal treasurer and one of the first Spanish who arrived to Peru. More than 475 years later, one of his direct descendants, Agustin de Aliaga Fernandini is one of the directors of the destructive Inversiones La Rioja SA.
ILR’s directors also include mining investor Alfonso Brazzini Diaz-Ufano, corporate attorney and mining lobbyist Ricardo Harten Costa, mining corporate owner Alberto Benavides de la Quintana (co-owns Yanacocha the second biggest gold mine in the world), and Chilean business mogul Eduardo Elberg. All of the Peruvians come from elite families in Lima of European origin.
Obviously, in a country as racist as Peru, the ILR ‘investors’ lack of any historical connection with the Indigenous and mestizo heritage of Cusco. They do not feel the moral and historical duty of first protecting the cultural legacy of Cusco, before his business interests.
The same way it happened in 1534, the outsiders came to Cusco to steal and make money from the Native’s resources and hard work. Some came for the gold; others came to evangelize the Indigenous peoples, by all means necessary.
Opus Dei in CuscoOpus Dei is a conservative, right-wing Catholic congregation, created with the support of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in Spain. The Opus Dei has grown rapidly in the last decades, with the strong support of the Vatican. The "Work" aims to gain political and economic power as means for evangelization, their members don’t tolerate religious or cultural diversity, they believe in one only God and faith. This group is seen as a dangerous cult by progressive thinkers in the world, but it was blessed by Pope John Paul II and currently by Pope Benedict XVI.
In some way, the Opus Dei has been the response of the right-wing Catholics, to the leftist movements within the Church especially in Latin America. Pope John Paul II promoted the movement to oppose the Liberation Theology of Peruvian priest and philosopher Gustavo Gutierrez. The Opus Dei doesn’t favor the resurgence of Indigenous movements in the continent; much less they would care about preserving our cultural and historical heritage.
The Archbishop of Cusco, Juan Antonio Ugarte is a member of the Opus Dei, he is white and was born and raised in a rich family of Lima. He is also a close friend of the Cardinal of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani one of the only two Opus Dei cardinals in the world. The director of the National Institute of Culture, Cecilia Bakula, is also a member of Opus Dei, like several of the leaders of the INC staff members she personally hired.
Religion and moneyAfter re-founding Cusco; the Catholic Spaniards built their churches and palaces over the charred and half destroyed walls of the Indigenous civilizations. Underneath remained buried thousands of years of human knowledge. Ever since, religion has played an important role in the cultural genocide of our Indigenous cultures in the Americas.
The founder of the Marriott corporation, J. Willard Marriott was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church, and he once said that "a man should keep being constructive and do constructive things" before his death. His son Billy Marriott, the current head of the corporation, wrote recently in his blog,
"I love the Bible as it teaches me about honesty, integrity and unconditional love for all people. But beyond that, I am very careful to separate my personal beliefs and how we conduct our business. [...] Marriott was built on the basic principles of respect and inclusion."So I had to wonder if the Marriott family knows about how their partners in Peru are doing business. Would they support the destruction of Cusco's heritage? I called Marriott headquarters in Maryland, and I got a call back promising that they will find out more information. Sure, they didn't know. We'll see what happens.
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An independent journalist in Cusco asks the Archaeologist of the J. W. Marriott hotel construction, why is she allowing heavy machinery and trucks in a site where historical remains have been found. She responded embarrassed that if it were under her control, she wouldn’t have ordered it.
Contact Inversiones La Rioja SA in Peru:
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Bethesda, Md. 20817
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