Influential figures in Peru felt that it was time that the country officially acknowledged the role Yma has played in promoting the music of Peru all over the world. A campaign was launched, receiving massive support, and as a result the government agreed that Yma should be awarded the country's highest distinction, the Orden del Sol (Order of the Sun), as a fitting tribute to her achievements.
A documentary shown several times on Peruvian national television generated a phenomenal interest in Yma, winning her legions of new fans in her homeland, discovering for the first time her incredible voice. While her recordings are readily available in the U.S. and in Europe, they have been less easy to obtain in Peru, but this has all changed because of the huge demand that was created.
At the beginning of May, Yma flew to Peru for two weeks of ceremonies and accolades. Upon her arrival, she was immediately surrounded by the press and the media and throngs of old and new admirers. "Welcome home, Princess" was the headline of one of the countless articles that have been published, detailing every step of her visit. Everywhere she went, she was overwhelmed by the reception she received. She gave press conferences and radio interviews and there were exhibitions and television reports showing highlights of her trip.
She was awarded the highest grade of the Orden del Sol on May 6 in the Palacio de Torre Tagle, headquarters of the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who paid tribute to Yma. She was described as a genuine musical ambassador for the country, introducing thousands of people throughout the world to Peruvian culture, traditions and civilization. Yma herself said that wherever she had traveled in the world, Peru had always remained in her heart.
But this was not the only honor she received. She was also given awards from the oldest university in the Americas, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, the Ministry of Education, the National Institute of Culture and at the end of her visit, the mayor of Lima awarded her the Medal of the City. In between all these ceremonies, Yma also found time to visit Cuzco, once the capital of the Incan empire.
Yma, looking resplendent throughout the visit, could not hide her tears of joy and emotion at being back and being given this recognition which many commentators have observed is long overdue.
written by Alan McDonald
edited and updated by Don Pierson