Machu Picchu, or old mountain in Quechua, the primary indigenous language of Peru, has only been a tourist destination for about seventy years. Before it was a postcard, before it was one of the most recognizable archeological sites in the world, reaching the Inca sanctuary took days by mule. The roads were remote and the forest ridge was imposing, even for the most intrepid explorers. The inaccessible land changed hands many times in the colonial period, and were eventually donated to an order of Bethlemite monks, who held onto the property for many decades. The monks left during the 19th century, and a family of Cusco landowners, the Nadals, took over the land as their own through the recently inaugurated Public Registry of Cusco. When, in 1905, Roxanna Abrill’s great-grandfather bought the land from the Nadals, no one suspected he had also gained a priceless treasure. This new owner was a lucky man. His name was Mariano Ignacio Ferro, and when the explorer Hiram Bingham arrived in Cusco in 1911, it was Ferro who offered the American help.
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