- Making Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism in 20th Century Peru by Mark Rice
Historian mark rice brings to light the rich backstory of one of the world's best-known tourism destinations in his recent masterpiece, Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism in Twentieth Century Peru. His in-depth analysis extends well beyond the political sphere to offer an intriguing, multi-faceted perspective on Machu Picchu's meteoric rise to represent a tourism symbol "as problematic as it is powerful" (p. 156).
In the book's five chapters (plus Introduction and Epilogue), Rice uncovers in detail the evolving actors, partnerships, policies, trends, events, and resources which make Machu Picchu what it is today. Beginning with the turn of the twentieth century, he describes ongoing socio-political tensions characterizing competing visions of development in Cuzco and beyond, providing readers with crucial lessons about tourism, Machu Picchu, and what it means to be Peruvian.
These lessons remain salient for pursuing effective tourism governance not only in [End Page 271] Peru, but in other tourist destinations around the world. Indeed, Rice delves into countless tourism issues which researchers, practitioners and policy makers are still struggling to understand and address: over-tourism, strategic planning, destination marketing and branding, pollution control, tourist behavior, host/visitor satisfaction, historic site endangerment and preservation, park and protected area management, leakage effects, the tourist gaze, discourse and ideology, and, inclusive development.
These topics point to the complex interplay of people and processes shaping Machu Picchu's twentieth century political economy. While Rice moves between such complexities in predominantly chronological fashion, he fluidly draws from broader considerations of time and place (i.e., pre-twentieth century Peru, supranational institutions, etc.) to deliver deeper insights into the hows and whys behind Machu Picchu's evolution as a destination and symbol. To offer one amusing example, consider the historical ramifications of forgotten Machu Picchu maps, ostensibly left unshared and sitting on a dark office shelf for some 50 years prior to the arrival of famed but controversial Yale explorer, Hiram Bingham.
Rice explains the complexities of the politics of tourism in Peru and an alluring display of dates, names and places in conjunction with an enticing narrative. Readers are likely to appreciate the book's vivid descriptions of Machu Picchu in the context of both Peru's constantly-changing socio-political milieu (e.g., strikes, coups, terrorism, regime changes) and transnational dynamics characterizing Machu Picchu's relationship to other Latin American countries, the United States, and the United Nations. These descriptions culminate, perhaps, in the suggestion that Cuzco's tourism imagery at large has become an "elite-oriented cultural project constructed to serve the outside gaze" (p. 161).
Readers may be similarly drawn (as I was) to the mutually transformative relationship between Machu Picchu tourism and Indigenous people, Cuzco or Lima-based elites, tour guides, visitors (both domestic and international), officials, ex-pats, and other groups. Rice also highlights hippies from Peru and around the world descending upon Cuzco en masse in the 1970s, generating notable tensions with local populations.
The book helps readers to contextualize an extensive array of dates, names and places by providing two maps, a graph on tourism arrivals, and a smattering of delightful images highlighting people, places, and media/marketing efforts from the era under consideration (the book's chapters are divided into key themes characterizing five successive time periods between 1900 and 1996). While these accompanying images are certainly helpful, Rice would do well in future editions to also provide something of a timeline summarizing key dates, events, leaders, etc. for each chapter, since much of the content will be new for people even moderately familiar with Machu Picchu or Peruvian history.
Overall, one can sense the years Rice must have spent pouring over government records, historical documents, media files (newspapers and guidebooks), and notes from long conversations with officials, community residents, tourists, and experts on Latin American [End Page 272] tourism, politics and history...