Peru’s Ruins Highlight Battle Between Tourism And Conservation
April 28, 2011 By Matthew Barker
TRUJILLO, PERU — It looks like a builder’s yard but what is now little more than a mound of dust and earth was once a significant structure, part of the Moche culture — one of Peru’s most complex and enigmatic ancient civilisations.
The ruins of Galindo, outside the Peruvian city of Trujillo, some 560 kilometers north of Lima have long given up their secrets. Great pits have been dug into the earth and walls to expose deep layers of adobe bricks. The structure’s center has collapsed, leaving a crater where a tapering tower once stood.
Some holes are over four meters deep, abandoned when it became apparent that nothing of interest was to be found. Thanks to successive waves of huaqueros (looters) and lack of interest on the part of the authorities over the years, it will never be known what happened here when the Moche dominated Peru’s northern coast for some 650 years until their decline in 700 A.D.
Galindo is one of 250 historic sites in this part of Peru, but only five have enforced protected status.
“There are three of us and one truck for the region of La Libertad. It’s insufficient, but we do everything possible,” said Montes de Oca, a policeman in the department of environmental protection, who patrols a region with a population of about a million people.
The damage is not only from looters. After a catastrophic earthquake in 1970, nearby villagers had to resort to recycling bricks from the ruins to rebuild their homes.
“It’s impossible to guess how much was taken because we don’t know how much was there,” said professor Ricardo Gamarra, director of a 20-year-old conservation project.
Ten miles from Galindo, Gamarra and his team are restoring the colossal site at Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, two pyramid-like monuments which were once the largest pre-Columbian structures in the Americas and served as the administrative centre of the Moche.
When they started the work, the site had fallen into decay. But unlike the devastated Galindo site, here the team has been able to uncover fresh insights into the Moche way of life – and death.