The Dark Side of Gold Production in Peru

Peruvian documentary photographer Marco Garro turns his gaze toward the juxtaposition between the sacred nature of gold in Peruvian culture and the oftentimes sinister side that comes with mining it.

Peruvian documentary photographer Marco Garro turns his gaze toward the juxtaposition between the sacred nature of gold in Peruvian culture and the oftentimes sinister side that comes with mining it.

Gold has fascinated humanity for millennia. What ancient civilization did not glimpse the sun in its yellow glow, nor seek proximity to immortality by bathing in its lasting brightness? In Peru, my native country, gold was used in the sacred ceremonies of pre-Columbian indigenous cultures as early as 2,000 BC and was then conquered by the strength of Inca temples by the Spanish conquerors. Italian historian Antonello Gerbi once pointed out, long before the man set foot in South America, the future of Peru was written in the past embedded in his land.

This is the legacy that we Peruvians have inherited. Today, Peru is one of the main suppliers of gold that circulates in the world, as it was during the Spanish colony. Gold continues to feed our dreams, forming events in the process. Global demand forgave in recent decades - from financial traders, banks, technology companies, and jewelers - they have supported legal and illegal mines in Peru that have enriched many while enslaving or dispossessing others and polluting the environment.

For this project, I turned my lens to focus on the big picture: the association of gold with both the sacred and the sinister in Peruvian culture throughout the centuries. I originally imagined bright photographs to imitate the golden glow of the sun. But I ended up being attracted to the darkness that surrounded the warm glow of gold that hints at the mystery, greed, and violence associated with it over time. That, too, I think, is part of the gold legacy in Peru. The yellow flash glimpsed in the darkness, the promise of riches for anyone willing to capture it.

Words and Pictures by Marco Garro.

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Marco Garro is a Peruvian based photographer who began his career as a photojournalist in locals newspapers. After that, he has been a freelance photographer and develops his personal projects focuses on social and environmental issues in his native country Peru. He holds a BA in Communication. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.

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This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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