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Machu Picchu Re-opens With Ancient Incan Thanksgiving Ceremony

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Major archaeology and cultural sites are starting to re-open across the world. Machu Picchu, one of the most famous archaeological sites in all of Latin America, has reopened with the spectacle of an ancient Inca ceremony.  It had been closed for nearly 8 months due to the current covid-19 pandemic and the restriction imposed to curtail its spread.

Machu Picchu: Stunning Legacy Of The Great Inca Empire

Machu Picchu is the best-known monument of the amazing Inca Empire , which ruled over much of western South America for a hundred years before the arrival of Pizzaro and the Spanish conquistadors in the early 16 th century. Machu Pichu means “old mountain in Quechua,” according to Mercopress and was built overlooking the Sacred Valley .

It is believed that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate in the 15th century for the Inca emperor Pachacuti but was abandoned sometime after the collapse of the Empire. Machu Picchu was largely forgotten about, except by local people, until the ruins “were rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham ,” according to RTE. Since then the mountain-top site has become a global favorite for tourists and it’s reopening, after an 8-month shutdown, is a great signal of hope for us all.

Peru's amazing Machu Picchu site, which reopened to tourists in early November 2020 after being closed to the public for 8 months. Source: vitmark / Adobe Stock

Peru's amazing Machu Picchu site, which reopened to tourists in early November 2020 after being closed to the public for 8 months. Source: vitmark / Adobe Stock

Peruvians Thank The Gods

The Machu Picchu reopening was marked by an elaborate Inca thanksgiving ceremony to the Gods. The huge ceremony took place under a spectacular light display on the high mountain plateau. It was organized by the Peruvian government and was conducted by local members of the indigenous community, who still speak Quechua the lingua franca of the Inca. 

During the ceremony, local people performed ancient rites that have been handed down through the generations. Participants in the ritual were dressed in colorful Inca clothing that is still made using traditional methods and materials.

Close up of an indigenous Peruvian woman weaving a traditional textile near Machu Picchu. (Shannon / Adobe Stock)

Close up of an indigenous Peruvian woman weaving a traditional textile near Machu Picchu. (Shannon / Adobe Stock )

While most indigenous people in the realm of the ancient Inca Empire are today nominally Roman Catholics, they also still practice many ancient Inca religious practices. Traditional thanksgiving ceremonies, like the one at the recent Machu Picchu re-opening, remain an important event that is common throughout the Andean region.

Strict Pandemic Lockdown Destroys Peru’s Tourism Sector

To view the spectacular Machu Picchu re-opening ceremony, reporters and tourists made their way to the high mountain plateau from the Inca town of Ollantaytambo (Ullantaytampu in Quechua).

Peru’s Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Rocio Barrios stated at the ceremony that “Today, Machu Picchu opens. It opens with (health and safety) protocols, it opens to say that we are reactivating ourselves but with responsibility and great prudence,” reports the BBC.  The re-opening was only possible because of the decline in coronavirus cases in Peru. Mr Barrios is quoted by RTE as saying that “Opening Machu Picchu to the world shows that we Peruvians are resilient.”

Peru’s COVID lockdown was very strict and it lasted one hundred days. Machu Picchu is crucial for the Cusco economy and its closure has been devastating for local businesses. Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and the “modern” city is heavily dependent on the countless tourists who flock to Machu Picchu every year. The number of visitors to Machu Picchu each year has grown from the low 100,000s in the 1980s to more than 1.6 million tourists in 2019. That’s about 4500 visitors a day!

The colorful streets of Ollantaytambo, Peru which pass through the ancient Inca town and lead to the heights of Machu Picchu. (cge2010 / Adobe Stock)

The colorful streets of Ollantaytambo, Peru which pass through the ancient Inca town and lead to the heights of Machu Picchu. (cge2010 / Adobe Stock )

The historic town of Ollantaytambo, which is on the road from Cusco to Machu Picchu, was especially hard hit by the pandemic. The town is also famous for its Inca fortress. Before the shutdown, the town had 80 hotels catering to visitors from all over the globe.  Mercopress quotes Joaquin Randall, head of an association that represents the town’s hospitality industry, as saying “At least half of them have gone bankrupt.”

Tourism Numbers To Be Limited

After the Machu Picchu re-opening, the number of daily tourists to the site will be limited to 675 people per day, much lower than the 5900 limit set by the Peruvian government in January 2019.

The numbers of visitors allowed into the ancient and fragile Machu Picchu site has always been regulated but the daily limits have constantly gone up as the site’s popularity skyrocketed.

So, we can all be happy to know that the Machu Picchu World Heritage Site is open again after such a long break.  Japanese tourist Jesse Katayama was stranded by the pandemic during his Peru vacation. He was recently allowed to enter the site after waiting seven months for it to re-open. Surely, this trend will continue around the world when the pandemic is “finally” over.

Top image: The Machu Picchu reopening ceremony on November 01, 2020. ( Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism )

By Ed Whelan

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