- Guano is originally a Quechua word coined by the Incas. It means quite literally ‘the droppings of sea birds’.
- It’s birdshit
- Experts recognize Peruvian guano as the best in the world, as the offshore islands where it has accumulated over the millenia are protected from rain, heat and high humidity by the Humboldt current. This means Peruvian guano has kept a very high level of its original nitrate content over the centuries.
- It’s still birdshit.
- Although prized by the Inca for the same fertilizing purposes, the heyday of Peru guano was between 1840 and 1880 when 22 million tonnes of the stuff was excavated and sold.
- That’s a lot of birdshit.
- There was a war fought over the guano-rich islands in the 1860s when Spain tried to flex its naval muscles.
- Death by birdshit
- At the turn of the 20th century artificial fertilizers were being created. By 1910 Peru’s guano trade had shrunk by around 90% to just 48,000 tonnes per year.
- Birdshit recession.
One of the bigwigs was quoted in El Comercio as saying, “This is a great opportunity to complement the desired development of tourism in Vegueta, a district that has everything needed to develop a productive and touristic zone.” And that’s because it has a lot of birdshit.
Ok, I’m being a teensy weensy bit flippant here, because there’s a lot of interesting history behind this story. Try clicking on this link for a short history of Peru’s guano trade (it’s in English) and you’ll find it interesting enough I’m sure (I did). But whichever way you cut it, I don’t think the Guggenheim is going to worry too much about its 2009 customer base being drawn away by Lima’s birdshit museum. Cos that’s what it is. Birdshit.