Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Peru: Pointing Out Errors in the New Indiana Jones Movie

The latest in the Indiana Jones series revisits the odd relationship between these films and Peru. I say odd because this relationship is based on a type of serendipitous, incorrect and strange combinations, not at all in keeping with a fictional well-known archeologist like Indiana Jones. Those who've seen the first film in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, will recall those beginning scenes that, supposedly, take place in the Peruvian jungle, but that symbolically recall cultures like the Maya, among others. Additionally, two of Jones’ guides are named after Peruvian towns: Barranca and Satipo.

This most recent film in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, partly takes place in Peru (although, the scenes were really filmed in Hawaii). As mentioned earlier, there are geographical and historic errors abound. You can well imagine this has been quite the subject of discussion amidst Peruvian bloggers. I will attempt to extract the best from their posts.

Antolín Prieto, from Cinencuentro [es], a Peruvian blog devoted to film, quotes in his post, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Lies About Peru, one of the foot-in-mouth lines fast becoming a classic faux-pas, in which Jones said, “I learned Quechua from Pancho Villa.” Quechua, a native indigenous language from the Andean region of South America would not have been the language spoken by the Mexican revolutionary.

Pedro Ortiz Bisso, from Notas desde el lado oscuro [es], comments on the matter in his post, I was wrong: Indy 4 is a good film and points out the error where the southern city of Nazca is said to be in the Cusco region.

Dinorider, from El Pensieve de Dinorider [es], recommends that executive producer George Lucas irmprove his research skills in the post Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: UNCLE GEORGE USE GOOGLE!!

Eso sí NO me gustó eso de que acabaran metiendo en medio de la Amazonía un templo alienígena con look maya mezclado con tiawanaku conteniendo restos de Sumeria, Grecia, China, Egipto, Tiawanaku, etc. para que saliera el platillo volador aquel. Sólo faltaba Mel Gibson y el tipo del casco de papel de aluminio. Creo que con Indiana debieron evitar ese tipo de cosas.

A propósito el cuadro de Orellana es el que suele salir en las enciclopedias escolares locales como ¡Francisco Pizarro! Por cierto, las imágenes de Nazca parecían más bien las de un mercado de las alturas de la Sierra con gente vestida con trajes de diferentes sitios de Perú (a grandes rasgos reconocí de Huancayo, Cajamarca, Chincheros, Cuzco) y Centroamérica! hasta la música era ¿ranchera mexicana? Me recordaba en algo al del pueblo de El Zorro. Sólo faltó alguien gritando “Joder! weon, vos sabés que coño fue del pinche wey del libretista po!?”

This is something I did NOT like, the fact they ended up placing an alien temple resembling from the Mayan culture with Tiwanaku, containing elements from Sumeria, Greece, China, Egypt, Tiwanaku, etc., in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, just so that flying saucer could take off. The only thing missing was Mel Gibson and the guy with the aluminum helmet. I think Indiana should avoid those type of things.

In fact, the Orellana painting is the one that usually appears in local school encyclopedias like Francisco Pizarro! By the way, the images of Nazca looked more like a marketplace in the Andean highlands, with people dressed in clothing from different parts of Peru. In general terms, I recognized [the traditional clothing of] Huancayo, Cajamarca, Chincheros, and Cuzco. And, Central America! Even the music was Mexican ranchera-style! It reminded me somewhat of El Zorro's hometown. All that was lacking was someone yelling, “Bloody hell, dude! D'you know what ‘appen'd to the whack bro’ who was the scriptwriter, eh?”

Roberto Bustamante in El Blog del Morsa [es], provides a number of links to interesting posts about the film and in his post, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, comments that Peru's appearance in the film has not been fully taken advantage of by Peruvian politicians:

la visión exotista del Perú (¿por qué Big Meche no dijo nada sobre esto? ¿qué? ¿nadie va a capitalizar la aparición de nuestro querido país en la última entrega de Indy? ¿no que pensaban en grande?)

the exotic vision of Peru (Why did Big Meche (Tourism Minister) not say anything about this? What? No one is going to capitalize on the appearance of our beloved country in the latest Indy fare? Didn't they say they thought big?)

However, not everyone has a sense of humor. Ronald Vega, a Peruvian currently living in Bolivia who has the blog Voz Urgente [es], did not like the film at all, explaining himself in his post, Indiana Jones and the denigration of a culture:

Alguien podría decir que el cine es ficción, y como tal no esta en la obligación de estar estrictamente ligado a la historia de los hechos que narra, y claro, tendría razón, pero no deja de resultar algo sumamente curioso que siempre los discursos al respecto sean elaborados en ciertas partes del mundo y construyan una imagen, con clara intencionalidad, sobre personas de ciertas “otras” partes del mundo. Pero más allá de estas inconexiones ex profesas presentadas en la película, está un asunto de fondo. La deslegitimación del conocimiento histórico y ancestral producido en esta parte del mundo. Claro, el hombre occidental, con la historia soplando a su favor durante siglos, al pertenecer a civilizaciones como Grecia y Roma que alcanzaron altos niveles de desarrollo, sí fue capaz de realizar grandes y complejas construcciones para su época, construcciones que hasta hoy continúan asombrando al mundo, pero, el hombre andino – amazónico, el hombre perteneciente a aquellas culturas americanas que por carecer de escritura (Que sí la tenían pero resultaba incomprensible para la concepción del colonizador), en el caso Quechua Aymará, fueron condenados a la postergación histórica, ellos, esos hombres no pueden ser capaces de crear, de construir su propia cultura, su propio conocimiento, y es por eso que, en la película y muchos otros textos producidos por occidente, la construcción de todo este conocimiento se relaciona con seres de otros mundos, con extra terrestres, negando así el reconocimiento a la sabiduría de las culturas americanas, la misma que en gran parte fue destruida durante el proceso de colonización.

Someone could say films are fiction, and as such, are under no obligation to be strictly linked to the history of the stories they tell. That person would be right. But, that doesn't lessen the interesting fact that these discussions are carried out in certain parts of the world, where they construct a clearly intentional image about persons in certain “other” parts of the world. But beyond these clear disconnects presented in the film, there is a background issue. The de-legitimization of the historic and ancestral knowledge produced in this part of the world. Of course, Western man, with history in his favor for centuries by belonging to civilizations like Greece and Rome which reached high levels of development, was able to create great and complex constructions for the period, constructions that until now continue to awe the world. But, the Andean-Amazonian man, belonging to those American cultures who due to the lack of writing (which he did have, but incomprehensible to the minds of the colonizer), and in the case of the Quechua & Aymara peoples were condemned to historic postponement. Those men were not considered capable of creating, of constructing their own culture, their own knowledge. That is why,
in the film and in many other texts produced by the West, the construction of all that knowledge is related with beings from other worlds, extraterrestrials, that way denying the recognition of the wisdom of the American cultures, the same ones that were destroyed during the colonization process.

Carlos Quiroz in Peruanista [es] highlights the racism he sees and discusses it in his post, Indiana Jones movie about Peru is boring and racist:

Esta película presenta al Perú como un lugar miserable para vivir. Quizás muchos norte americanos que nunca van al extranjero puedan pensar que somos así: La ciudad de Nasca con un desastroso aeropuerto y pollos corriendo por ahí, y la bella Cusco con un sucio y desagradable mercado con gente loca tirada en el barro de calles asquerosas. Y de alguna manera los dos sitios son el mismo.

No pudo evitar pensar en el racismo luego de ver a gente cobriza presentada por esta película de un modo tan ofensivo, no una sino varias veces. Somos los malos por supuesto, y al final del film y luego que Indiana Jones logra reunirse con su familia -incluyendo un hijo que nunca había conocido- se casa en una iglesia blanca llena de gente blanca. Era la escena victoriosa luego de vencer a las malvadas y oscuras criaturas,

This film shows Peru as a miserable place in which to live. Perhaps most Americans who never travel abroad might think Peru and Peruvians are the way we are shown in this movie: the city of Nazca has a trashy airport full of chickens running around it, and beautiful Cuzco has a chaotic and filthy market with crazy people lying on the mud of tiny streets. And somehow both are in the same place.

I couldn't avoid thinking about racism when brown people are presented in such offensive ways, not once but several times. We are bad, mean, stupid and evil. Good thing there is a happy ending: after Indiana Jones gets reunited with his family -including a son he never met before- he gets married in a white-walled church with an all-white crowd. What a victorious scene after defeating all dark-skinned evil creatures!

A well-known film critic, Alberto Servat, writes a post titled, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in his blog La Soga [es], from which we republish part of the comments made by Daniel, one of many comments his readers left him:

¡Cuando mencionaron a Perú la gente aplaudió! Todo iba bien hasta que sonó la música mexicana en el mercado inca. Allí la emoción de la audiencia se desplomó y empezaron los susurros de críticas a detalles. Ojálá que para la versión en DVD corrijan ese error.

When they mentioned Peru, the audience clapped. Everything was fine until Mexican music started playing in the Inca market. From then, the audience's spirits began to fall, and whispered criticisms about the details began. Hopefully, they correct those errors for the DVD version.

In a more informative vein, Arturo Gómez of Amautucuna de Historia [es] provides us some facts about the existence of a stone skull in his post, A crystal skull in Peru?:

las calaveras de cristal de cuarzo no son peruanas y ni siquiera son originalmente mexicanas. Pero ¿existen reales calaveras líticas en el Perú? Recuerdo que durante las excavaciones hechas en la Huaca Huallamarca en Lima, la arqueóloga Clide Valladolid y su equipo descubrieron en 1992 o 1993, una pequeña calavera tallada en piedra (¿sería cuarzo lechoso?, no recuerdo bien). Clide me la enseñó por esos años y estaba muy contenta con el hallazgo. Lamentablemente no se publicó nunca un estudio de la misma y no podría asegurar a que cultura pertenece. Así, que después de todo, el Perú tiene una calavera tallada en piedra original. Si quieres verla, está en exhibición en el Museo de Sitio Huallamarca ubicado en la Av. Nicolás de Rivera 201 a espaldas del Centro Comercial Camino Real, San Isidro.

Quartz crystal skulls are not Peruvian and are not even originally Mexican. But, do real stone skulls exist in Peru? I recall that during the excavations at Huaca Huallamarca in Lima, the archeologist Clide Valladolid and her team discovered in 1992 or 1993 a small skull carved in stone (was it milky quartz? I don't remember). Clide showed it to me at the time and she was very happy with the find. Unfortunately, a study of the skull was never published and I am unable to say the culture to which it belonged. So, after all, Peru does have a skull carved in original stone. If you want to see it, it is exhibited in the Huallamarca Site Museum located at Avenida Nicolas de Rivera 201, behind the Camino Real Shopping Center in San Isidro.

And, in conclusion, the opinion given by Jorge Moreno from El Reportero de la Historia [es], in his post Jones is Heston, Heston is Jones, tells people to lighten up:

sigo sin entender a muchos que critican acremente las inexactitudes culturales e históricas de la película, olvidando que se trata sólo de una película de acción y aventuras, puro divertimento. Tomarse en serio al doctor Jones resulta no sólo una tontería, sino también arrebatarle al cine el aspecto mágico y de ensoñación que tiene. Se va al cine a ver este tipo de películas para divertirse, a pasar un buen rato, con la novia o con los hijos, a disfrutar con aventuras y situaciones que por inverosímiles resultan atractivas, sugestivas, contagiante. Pretender querer aprender en ellas arqueología o historia es tan tonto como aquello de descalificar los libros, y películas, de Harry Potter con el argumento de que en ellos los niños aprenden hechicería. Una reverenda tontería que olvida que el mundo de fantasía que ellos presentan sólo está ahí para entretener y no para enseñar nada a nadie.

I still don't understand those who sharply criticize the cultural and historic errors in the film, and forget it is only an action and adventure film, sheer entertainment. Taking Dr. Jones seriously is not only stupid, but also removes the magical and dreamy aspect of the film. One goes to see these type of films to be entertained, to have a good time, with a girlfriend or the children, to enjoy adventures and situations that, due to their unlikeliness, appear attractive, suggestive, contagious. Trying to learn archaeology or history through them is as stupid as as discrediting the books and films of Harry Potter with the argument that in them, children learn witchcraft. It's really stupid to forget that this is the world of fantasy which is only there to entertain and not to teach anyone anything.

Translated by Alejandro García.

Thumbnail photo by H20 Alchemist

5 comments

  • JLN

    A few months ago I read a report in an Israeli source that “Indiana Jones” is based on a Dr. Jones, a real live archeologist active in Israel now. That the original story came from a volunteer working with Dr. Jones in some or another “dig”, actually seeking the hiding place of the “Ark of the Covenant” of the “Temple” built by King Solomon of ancient Israel. I tried to get followup information from the news source at that time but got no response. If anyone knows anything more about this, I’d be interested…

  • Don’t feel too badly, people of Peru. When “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” came out in 1984, I was in Seattle, WA., and the local Hindus there picketed the theater to protest his depiction of a bloodthirsty Kali Ma.

    Wonder how Spielberg would feel if some filmmaker depicted Jehovah as a bloodthirsty god demanding little baby boys’ foreskins?

  • Aun no he visto la pelicula :( sorry

  • Interesting about the alien source of Andean cultures. It seems a continuing fantasy, from Eric von Daniken to the Mormons, that southern cultures did not invent themselves.

  • If you really want to see what Indiana Jones looked like in Peru, try to get your hands on a copy of an old movie called SECRET OF THE INCAS starring Charlton Heston. This cult classic has terrific footage of Machu Picchu, Cuzco Airport and the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco. Heston as gringo Harry Steele was the template Spielberg used for Indiana Jones. There is fabulous footage of Yma Sumac giving it all she’s got. This movie is undiscovered treasure. I own a website on the movie:
    http://www.secretoftheincas.co.uk

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site