A Thousand Years Before Inca
Part III of our Peru Dispatch is very special to me. The dynamic in Peru is one that is quite unique, with one region completely reliant on tourism and other parts of the country barely connected to tourism. Open up any media piece or marketing campaign on Peru, and what do you most often see? Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain, right? Well, that is what makes Part III so special. This is an area of Peru that is relatively unknown, and few see it. Yet, it is where pre-Inca history is concentrated. Here, you go back in time and see enough evidence to make you question the accuracy of what you knew about history.
My first visit to Chachapoyas was really by accident when I was visiting Peru with my family years ago. An incident on the train to Machu Picchu prevented us from seeing the Incan Marvel that year, yet we were able to get up to Chachapoyas… and wow, I still remember how amazed I was. It was a few months after that visit that I found myself in Chicago in the Mummy Room at the Field Museum. What I saw shocked me – mummies from ancient Rome and the mummies of Peru, now mostly stored in an amazing museum in Leymabamba. The similarities were too hard to ignore, so I started a detailed conversation with the historian involved in the exhibit, who told me that he believes that the Romans and Peruvians of Chachapoyas were interconnected back then as there was overlap in the time both empires existed. I couldn’t shake the words and woke up the next day fully embracing that perhaps geography didn’t keep these empires back.
Well, this time, returning to the north was actually more magical as we met with experts who provided an in-depth lecture on the mummies in the Leymabamba museum and how they were discovered. Seeing the timeline combined with the recently re-opened ruins of Kuelap, combined with the fifth-highest free-standing waterfall in the world, made for what is still one of my favorite parts of Peru. They complement the hidden gems one finds up here; however, these properties and those who run them… their lives are so much harder. They don’t have three flights a day coming here but just three a week, which sometimes makes connecting this part of Peru with the Sacred Valley a real challenge. Rumor has it that a delegation is working on changing this, which is great.
That is why this dispatch is so important. It’s not just a video and a report. It is an open letter to the tourist board and the tourism ministry to engage.
Follow in the steps of South Africa, Colombia, and other active, thriving destinations. Treat the remote parts of the country just as importantly as the known parts, diversify your message, and most importantly, Engage.