July 24 1911 is known as the date of the "discovery"
of the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, an
architectural treasure that had remained hidden for over four centuries
under the lush vegetation of the Urubamba canyon. This find was
made by the controversial American anthropologist and historian
with a penchant for archaeology (or, if you like, the explorer),
Professor Hiram Bingham of Yale University.
Although the discovery is attributed to Bingham, according to the Cusco researcher, Simone Waisbard, the find was a chance one, since its first discoverers were apparently Enrique Palma, Gabino Sanchez and Agustin Lizarraga, who left their names engraved on one of the rocks there on July 14, 1901. Moreover, the Anglo Saxon archaeologist was really looking for the city of Vitco, the last refuge of the Incas, and their last bastion against the Spaniards.
Thus, the importance of Bingham's discovery would lie in the scientific diffusion of the information. However, for the protagonist of this discovery, it was the crowning of an exhausting research effort, based on information obtained from local peasants, as well as on several years of traveling and exploring the area.
Before Machu Picchu was discovered, it probably
formed part of the Qollapani and Kutija estates. Over the years,
the Q`ente hacienda took possession of the property. The discoverers,
Palma, Sanchez and Lizarraga found a local indian, Anacleto Alvarez,
who had been paying a rent of twelve soles a year for farming rights
on the property during the last eight years, living there.
The owners of the fundo (farm) would never have been able to explore the
whole place, due to its sheer size, and especially because of its
jagged topography. People had, in fact, been living in Machu
Picchu without having an idea of its size nor of its importance,
let alone being able to inform the world of these things.