Culture vultures: Peru haz them.

Oh, for SHAME:


If you go to Peru to see the Gate of the Sun, you will be sorely disappointed. You have to cross the border into BOLIVIA. That’s where you will actually find Tiwanaku and this ancient indigenous landmark.

If you ever wondered why Bolivians complain so much about Peruvians stealing their cultural patrimony, the answer is simple: Because that’s just what happens. Happens all the time. Never mind that Peru has Machu Picchu, Cuzco and all those other Inca treasures, which ought to make them feel pretty damn secure about their own cultural patrimony. No, they just won’t be content until they claim all the Quechua and Aymara treasures too…and if that means a stealth-plundering of Bolivia, so be it.

Good luck getting that big, heavy stone gate across the border, though, guys.

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5 Responses to Culture vultures: Peru haz them.

  1. Ben Gruagach says:

    Sometimes the t-shirt manufacturers are just ignorant and don’t realize they are making basic geography mistakes.
    My mom has a sweatshirt with an illustration of the Rideau canal in Ottawa (with skaters on it) but the shirt manufacturer mixed things up and printed, “Manitoulin Island” on it.
    My mom thought it was so funny when she saw it in a store that she just had to have it.

  2. Normally, I’d chalk it up to something like that, too. But there really is an ongoing cross-border culture war between Peru and Bolivia. A recent Miss Peru wore a Bolivian costume (for the Diablada dance, which is native to Oruro, Bolivia) as her “patriotic” entry in the Miss Universe pageant. There was quite the uproar over it. Even the Bolivian minister of culture had to weigh in. And Peruvian hawkers on the street have no problem passing off CDs that they know come from Bolivian groups, like Kalamarka, as Peruvian, and aren’t a bit ashamed when someone who knows points out the “oversight” to them. Bolivians are getting quite militant over Peruvians stealing their culture on the Internet, too–just look up YouTube videos of Bolivia and you’ll see various dances posted, with the phrase “100% BOLIVIAN!!!” loud and clear on top.
    This shirt looks like some serious effort went into the making of it. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d buy it myself, because it’s clearly a cut above the usual tourist kitsch. It has a nice, effective use of color, rather than the usual black or white background. It was designed by someone, and they had to know what they were doing.

  3. Matteo says:

    I haven’t heard about the Bolivian groups CDs sold as if they were Peruvian. However, it could be the same case as in the t-shirt.
    In the case of the diablada I must say that you are at least inaccurate. There are cultural traditions that aren’t related with just one country, mostly because of how the boundaries were made. Just as there are people speaking quechua and aymara both sides of the border, there are traditions shared by people in both countries. In the case of the diablada, while there is a dance called that from Oruro, there are similar dances, called the same, in Peru and Chile as well ( It’s not cultural patrimony stealing, it’s shared traditions.
    Of course I understand Bolivians complaining of a shirt showing Tiahuanaco as Peruvian, but it’s just a shirt made by an ignorant shirt maker.

  4. Matteo, thanks for the comment.
    Unfortunately, I’ve heard and read those arguments before. While there’s some accuracy to the part about there being Quechuas and Aymaras on both sides of Lake Titicaca, and that there are also some Aymaras in Chile (the Altiplano spans three countries, after all), still–I haven’t heard anything about Chileans trying to claim that the Bolivian culture is just the younger and inferior version of theirs, or to pass off the Diablada as a Chilean dance. Particularly not with a very white Miss Universe candidate in the costume. (I’ve seen the wiki, BTW, while researching this entry. Thanks.)
    The WSJ claims that there is indeed an ongoing culture war, in which the “Miss” spat is just one skirmish, but that it’s Evo Morales’s fault. I’d say they got it only half right.
    As for passing off Bolivian groups as Peruvian on the streets, yes, it happens. Check out the comments on this thread:
    This one in particular leapt off the page at me:
    “El ultimo argumento peruano es que toda la musica que se realiza en Bolivia tiene raices peruanas, es decir grupos como los Karkas Awatiñas kalamarka etc etc, se inspiraron en compositores peruanos y la musica tradicional que existe en ese pais.
    “Algunos amigos bolivianos que vienen de puno o cuzco se lamentan que muestran a los karkas o los demas grupos folkloricos como si fueran peruanos, hasta existen programas de television donde ya estan diciendo que la musica cultura y todo lo que existe en el occidente de Bolivia es de origen peruano y que somo los hermanos menores de los peruanos.”
    It seems to me that there IS some validity to my argument there, no?
    I’ll gladly go along with the notion that indigenous culture, like indigenous people, exists throughout the Altiplano in three countries. But when one of them tries to claim an exclusive ownership of a piece of that cultural patrimony that belongs to another, or makes insulting claims that its neighbor is “inferior”, then I have to say that there is much validity to the Bolivian objections about Peru. It’s no secret that Peru is trying to scoop up as much foreign cash as it can get its hands on–its economy is in trouble, thanks to Alan García’s disastrous neoliberal sell-out policies (which are doubly disastrous for the very indigenous people whose culture they’re using to attract tourism, BTW). It therefore stands to reason that they would try to milk ignorant tourists who don’t know their geography by deliberately misplacing the Gate of the Sun!
    And no, I do not buy the contention this is not just some stupid mistake on the part of the shirt printer. The fact that they put Tihuanaco and Peru in the same line makes it very hard to believe that this was anything other than fully intentional.

  5. Matteo says:

    Specifically about the diablada I don’t agree. It’s more than possible that the people making that costume didn’t even know the diablada was also a Bolivian -and Chilean- dance. And it’s as traditional in Bolivia as it is in Peru (despite the miss Peru has probably never even visited Puno).
    I do agree with you that it’s a form of culture stealing saying that bolivian groups are peruvian ones (see 30 de septiembre de 2009 11:10 comment in the link you posted). I didn’t know it happenned, and of course I don’t like Peruvians saying that (I’m Peruvian btw).
    However, I don’t think the diablada is a good example, as it’s a dance as Peruvian as it is Bolivian.
    I can compare this case with something going on in Peru regarding Chile. The demoninación de origen (I don’t know how to translate this) of Pisco, a traditional alcholic drink, is disputed between both countries. It’s clearly Peruvian, as its name comes from a Peruvian place. However, because of this dispute Peruvians think that chileans are always stealing our things. For an example of this, see
    While Peruvians obviously shouldn’t pass Bolivian groups as Peruvian ones, the diablada case is not a case of stealing.

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