High in the Andean mountain range, nestled on a ridge between two mountains high above the valley floor below sits the amazing city and archaeological site of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is about 1400 kilometers south of the Equator on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes. The site lies near the head waters of the Amazon River and is on the ridge between two prominent mountain peaks Machu Picchu and Hauyna Picchu about 500 meters above the valley bottom (Wright and Kenneth, 2-3). Machu Picchu, believed to be the royal estate of the Inca ruler Pachacuti, is the most well-known of all the Inca archaeological sites. Professor Hiram Bingham discovered the site in July of 1911 and excavated it with the help of National Geographic and Yale University (Bingham, "The Story of Machu Picchu," 172). When Professor Bingham discovered the Incan city it was hidden by a thick layer of forest vegetation, but after years of excavation, he uncovered and documented the findings of Machu Picchu (Bingham, Lost City, 223). Now, 94 years later, thousands of tourists fly from around the globe to visit the sacred and awe-inspiring site each year. The effect of tourism on the people of Peru, the site, and the countries economy is staggering. More than 300,000 people a year go to Peru to make the trek to Machu Picchu where they marvel at the 500 year old structures built from blocks of granite chiseled from the mountainside (Roach). Tourists travel by helicopter, train, foot, and bus and the reasons for visiting the site are variable and many in number to fulfill a romantic dream, a spiritual quest, or simply because they want to visit one of the world's must-see sights to name a few. The question that needs to be asked and researched is: How is tourism affecting the archaeological site of Machu Picchu? The reasons for visiting Machu Picchu are not as important as is to understand the impact that the tourists and tourism industry is having on the site, the people, the country, and the environment. It is also important to investigate the possible implications of what will happen in the future and whether Machu Picchu will be preserved for future generations to come. There are both costs and benefits to the impact of tourism on Machu Picchu and to the community. Social Costs and Benefits
The social costs and benefits to Machu Picchu are an important part of the puzzle when investigating the full impact that tourism has had on the community and the site. One of the benefits of tourism is that it brings in money from outside the community that helps to support community facilities and services that otherwise might not be developed or supported. It also encourages civic involvement and pride from the people. The tourist industry helps to provide cultural exchanges between local people and tourists from around the globe. There is also the immense benefit from the encouragement of and preservation of the celebration of local festivals and cultural events that might otherwise be lost over time. The final benefit to the social aspect of Machu Picchu's community is that the tourism industry helps to facilitate the infrastructure and facilities that are used by tourism (e.g. the railway) and in doing so, it can prove to also benefit the residents as well (e.g. transportation maintenance and support). (Barcelona Field Studies Centre S.L., Machu Picchu: Impact of Tourism)
Tourism also has its costs/down-sides. One of the social costs to the community because of tourism is that it may attract visitors whose lifestyles and ideas may conflict with the community's (which commonly happens throughout the world, a good example of this can be seen in the settling of North America, and the effect it had on the Native Americans). Tourism could also lead to the overloading of porters which would lead to health problems. A loss of traditional values and culture is a possible outcome as well, through imitation of visitor behavior or cultural...
Bibliography: Bingham, Hiram. 1952. Lost City of the Incas: The Story of Machu Picchu and its
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Hadfield, Peter. "Slip Sliding Away." New Scientist. 10, March, 2001: 20.
"The Americas: Road to Ruin; Tourism in Peru." The Economist. 21, July, 2001: 29.
Wright, Kenneth R. and Alfred Valencia Zegarra. 2000. Machu Picchu a Civil
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