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Pablo Neruda in Peru:

the story behind the poem ´The Heights of Macchu Picchu´

Francisco Pardo

Cortesia: Arquivo Fundación Pablo Neruda, Shutterstok

In October 1943, the Chilean poet visited the Inca ruins in Peru. This trip yielded one of the most important poems in 20th-century world literature

Some travelers collect pop experiences: they declare their love for Istanbul with Orhan Pamuk’s book in hand; they smile at the corner of Avenida Ipiranga and Avenida São João in São Paulo while listening to Caetano Veloso; and they evoke Pablo Neruda in mythical Machu Picchu, Peru.

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American explorer Hiram Bingham introduced the Inca ruins to the world in 1911, eliciting scientific interest in the destination. But it was Neruda that elevated Machu Picchu to the level of ancestral Asian cultures. In 1943, after four days hiking the Inca Trail, Neruda arrived in Machu Picchu.

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Two years later, in Chile, the poet wrote one of his most studied and praised poems, The Heights of Macchu Picchu, which is part of the book Canto General, published in 1950. “I reflected on many things after I visited Cusco,” he said. “I thought about the old American man. I saw his old struggles related to current struggles.”