Machu Picchu is closed due to anti-Boulevard protests in Peru

Machu Picchu is closed due to anti-Boulevard protests in Peru
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Peru’s Machu Picchu, a city about 20 minutes from the 15th-century Inca ruins, says the Lima government has long ignored them. They marched in the city on Tuesday to demand the resignation of President Dina Baluarte. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)


MACHU PICCHU, Peru — If it were a normal day, thousands of tourists would step off the train to this picture-book town in the Andes, the gateway to ancient Inca ruins.

But on this day, the 15th-century castle was closed, its magnificent stone terraces barred to visitors. Tracks that bring tourist trains to one of South America’s most iconic attractions have been removed or blocked, cutting the city off from Peru. And hotels and restaurants and handicraft markets that normally buzzed with paying customers were silent.

Then a man in the central plaza started beating a big drum. People carrying bright red and white Peruvian flags form a crowd. And a woman with a megaphone urged neighbors to demand that their country’s government—and the world—listen to them.

“Good morning, neighbors,” shouted Irma Perera, 49, who sells handicrafts at the market. “A radical strike begins today!”

Residents of Machu Picchu closed businesses and marched through the streets on January 23 in solidarity with nationwide protests. (Video: The Washington Post)

Peru has been rocked by weeks of protests demanding the resignation of President Dina Bouluarte. After the death toll passed 50 last week, those who depended on Machu Picchu tourists’ money voted to feed their families.

A town of about 7,000 people, often marketed As for Aguas Calientes, the announcement was agreed last Friday A “total strike”, shutting down all businesses in solidarity with nationwide protests. They called on the country’s culture ministry to close the ruins to the public, to prevent protesters from neighboring towns from attacking their ancestral sanctuary. Ministry officials closed the fort on Saturday citing the safety of tourists.

The UNESCO World Heritage site, which generates tens of millions of dollars for Peru each year, was just restored. coronavirus Epidemic. The severing of the rail link has already reduced the flow of tourists and cut off the city’s only food and fuel supply. Now the strike has stalled the local economy indefinitely.

But the sacrifice will be worth it, people here say, if it sends a message to a central government that has long benefited from the city but ignored its demands. According to Peruvian law, the Machu Picchu municipality receives 10 percent of revenue from the park. But for years, townspeople say, corrupt politicians have allowed big business to monopolize tourism here, leaving little to push to the public.

This democracy is not a democracy! Dozens of people shouted slogans as they passed shuttered hostels, restaurants and massage parlors towards the ruins’ entrance. They circled the shuttered gates covered with black-and-white anti-corruption flags.

“If there is no solution,” they said, “we will occupy Machu Picchu!”

David Moreno Riveros, a strike leader, said he wouldn’t let it go that far. That night, he told the crowd, the townspeople would meet with their mayor and decide to continue the strike.

He argues that they should. Weeks of protest and at least 56 deaths did not bring the ball down. If they could make a statement about the world’s beloved wonder, Moreno hoped, governments, organizations and individuals abroad might start paying attention.

“Here we are,” Moreno shouted. But no one is listening to us.

The only way for Washington Post reporters to reach the city other than by train was on foot.

We traveled at night to avoid roadblocks. First, our driver, Pit Bull, drove our Toyota SUV around the sharp bends of a mountain road lined with rocks planted by protesters. The next morning, led by a 62-year-old chain-smoking guide, We began our journey: along about seven miles of disused train tracks, followed all the way by a small black stray dog.

The only way Washington Post reporters reached Machu Picchu was on foot, aided by a small black stray dog. (Video: The Washington Post)

We would find empty campsites and restaurants and occasionally, people with wheelbarrows or burlap bags carrying food and supplies back to their towns. A trek that would normally take a fast train ride that costs locals about $1 now requires a two- to three-hour walk each way.

“Tourism sustains us all,” said Carlos Sonko, 54, who usually runs a small bar in town. “Strike hurts us all.”

Juan Carlos Duran, 39, sells postcards at the entrance to the ruins. On Monday morning, he spent hours buying chicken to take home.

After about three hours, we arrived in the town of Machu Picchu, its hotels and restaurants densely packed along the narrow streets along the Urubamba River. The municipality, a 20-minute walk from the ruins, was founded just a few generations ago, in 1941, 30 years after American explorer Hiram Bingham III brought the site to the world’s attention.

The site soon began to attract tourists and the town grew. But in recent years, people have grown frustrated with what they see as a market controlled by railroads and big hoteliers. Tourists increasingly book their trips through agencies, not local businesses, and many travel to and from Cusco on the same day. Locals say very few tourists spend much time in the city.

The pandemic shut down tourism for seven months. When the fort reopened, the government limited the number of tourists to 2,244 per day. After city residents protested, the limit was raised to 4,044, but locals say that’s not enough.

Machu Picchu, normally buzzing with thousands of tourists, sits quietly in the Andes Mountains as nationwide protests limit travel. (Video: The Washington Post)

Peru’s rural poor believed they finally had their champion in Pedro Castillo, the left-wing former schoolteacher who is running for president in 2021. But once in office he proved incompetent, disorganized and allegedly corrupt. When he tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree in December, Congress impeached him.

Boulwart was its vice president. Since he was replaced, his supporters say he has been captured by the right wing.

On Tuesday, Boluarte called for a ceasefire with the protesters. But he is also accused of having ties to “radical groups that have a political and economic agenda based on drug smuggling, illegal mining and smuggling.”

Hours after he spoke, on the tracks just outside the town of Machu Picchu, residents burned cardboard coffins emblazoned with “DINA” and accused him of murder.

Outside Machu Picchu, residents burned cardboard coffins emblazoned with “DINA” after protests demanding the resignation of President Dina Boulouart. (Video: The Washington Post)

But their protest comes at a high price.

People are struggling to pay rent as businesses are closed. Some have begun preparing a daily communal meal in the town plaza to feed newly needy families. Prices have increased due to food shortages. Tomatoes, which used to cost about 75 cents per kilogram (2.2 pounds), now cost more than $2.50.

Felicitas Vilca Ochoa, a 62-year-old who sells juice at the market, said he has considered leaving Machu Picchu in search of new sources of income elsewhere.

Yushara Roque, 33, kept her shop open. He felt he had no choice—he used the last of his savings to pay his bills that day. He supported the idea behind the protest, he said, but he didn’t see the point.

“From here, I don’t think we can do anything,” she said while breastfeeding her 6-month-old.

After three days of protest, the crowd said Machu Picchu packed the city’s theaters Monday night to make a decision: Was it worth it to keep fighting?

Major Elvis LaTorre gave a word of warning. Tourists were canceling plans to visit. The city was in crisis – and the strike was making it worse.

“Our kids need to eat,” she said. “We are killing the gold streak, and that will have serious consequences now and in the coming months.”

But as resident after resident began to speak, it was clear their minds were made up.

Even if they call off the strike, Perera said, tourism will not return to normal levels and the city will continue to struggle. This was their chance to demand change.

“Machu Picchu is its people, and the people have to benefit from our wonder,” he said. “It can’t just serve adults. Tourism should benefit us.”

Vote Unanimous: The strike will continue. The crowd cheered: “A united people will never be defeated“-“A united people will never be defeated.”

The next day, officials said, a humanitarian train would take residents most of the way to nearby towns to buy food and supplies. But when the day came, there was no train Arrived we found an alternative way back: a small wooden rail cart driven by a motorbike The previous day it had transported the mayor.

With no trains running, Washington Post reporters left Machu Picchu in a small wooden rail cart driven by a motorbike. (Video: The Washington Post)

Photo and video by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

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