Throughout history, people have traveled to the region of South America now known as Peru for a number of reasons. At first, adventurers were interested in the prospects of a new world to expand a great empire. The land was then visited to somehow find a better life or start anew. Often Peru was admired for its beauty and culture. Slowly as time passed, a new wave of conquistadors came to find the next world wonder or the tourist attraction that would bring them fame and the region an economic boom. While these were all the obvious potentials in the Peruvian air and soil, there’s one group that is often left unrecognized: those who come to Peru to find something in themselves.
The MOCHE staff provided us with a paper published in The SAA Archaeological Record in January 2004 called “Tomb Raiders of El Dorado” by Warren B. Church and Ricardo Morales Gamerra, which for me sparked these thoughts. The article outlines some of the problems that exist in archaeological exploitation in regions of Peru and how they can be solved. Once many of these historical sites are discovered, looters come in and destroy what is left to be learned. The “adventure tourism” that mimics heroes such as Indiana Jones, or non-fictional Hiram Bingham has made Peru a land of fantasies, the pursuance of which sometimes more important than the prosperity of the history itself. MOCHE as an organization has worked hard to ensure the maintenance of these bastions of fragile information by offering something more to these developing regions. In exchange for the protection of these sites from looters, MOCHE promises to provide communities with funding and volunteers for improved infrastructure and services. Thus, we are here this summer contributing to one leg of this non-profit’s mission, promoting and allowing the maintenance of public health through a clinic so that MOCHE is able to safely extract information from the priceless ruins that exist in the area, later in turn bringing waves of tourism for ruins to a region that would benefit immensely from the money and job opportunities such a sector brings.
So for many this is a trip hopefully accompanied by the discovery of key historical information that explains Moche culture by finding a certain pot or engraved tablet. Others admire the slower speed of life on the Pacific Ocean where a smaller amount of money can buy a whole lot more. Maybe a few are even looking for someone or something to love. But whether we know it or not, and whether we’re part of MOCHE’s archaeology team, UNC’s Engineers Without Borders, or Yale’s Nourish International, we’re all finding something only Peru could expose in us. Without a doubt, each one of us in Peru this summer is finding something within ourselves that like Maccu Picchu before 1911 had yet to be discovered. And unlike the adventures of the day that we put to paper each night or the shard of pottery placed in a box in the staff house for documenting after a long day of work, these additions to our lives may not have a description.
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