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Aymara People

Pareja Aymara en el umbral del siglo XXI

The Aymaras are an ancient people of herders and farmers that use ancestral techniques.

They spread from the shores of the Titicaca Lake and the Andean Mountains to the northeast of Argentina. Their territory expands over the borders of several nations.

The Aymara economy depends on exchanges between producers from the higher and lower altitudes. In the Altiplano, people have abundant livestock but few plantations, while those living in the precordillera, produce plenty of vegetables, fruits and seeds, mainly due to their efficient system of traditional terraces.

Their geographical distribution stimulates an intensive trade between herdsmen and farmers.

Their economy is based on reciprocity, or ayne, that grants every Aymara the return of what is given.

Current Situation

Cholas. Conjunto Pacha Wayna

During the last decades there has been a growing process of acculturation, increased by the Aymara mobility.

There have been massive migrations to the ports of Arica and Iquique, as well as to nearby pampa villages.

As a consequence, this process has weakened the Aymara language, leaving uncertain its future.

From the Aymara view, the main causes of this process have been droughts, religious conflicts, educational problems, social pressure and the search for new job opportunities.

Currently, the Aymara population in Chile is 89.284 people, living mainly in the First and in the Metropolitan regions.

The Aymara conceive the Andean environment, where they originated and where find well being for their community, as their proper habitat. The natural environment and the supernatural world constitute their reality.


Bandera de la nación aymara

Droughts, children's education and religious conflicts are the principal causes for Aymara migration to the cities. Due to their great commercial ability and tendency to save money, they have improved their occupational opportunities, keeping a strong sense of autonomy in their businesses at local and regional.

Currently, there are 48.477 Aymaras (1992 census). Only 12.397 reside in the original territories, located in Parinacota - Putre and General Lagos Province. This shows a tendency to migrate from their ancestral habitat.

However, there are three Aymara groups that have lived for over 1000 years in the precordillera of Iquique.

These groups align along the axis of Isluga - Camiña, Cariquima - Tarapaca and Mamiña - Pica.

Geographical Location

Foto: Niños Aymara en Baile de pastorcitos

In Chile, the Aymara people are distributed in two main territories: most living in the province of Tarapaca and the others in the province of Atacama.

The first group are located in the precordillera and the higher plateaus, from north to south, between the national boundaries with Peru and Bolivia, and the small towns of Ayquina and Toconce.

In the east, the Aymara territory limits with Bolivia and expands to west along a line thar connects Visviri to Ayquina, crossing through the towns of Putre, Livilcar, Mamiña, Pica and Lequena.

The second zone corresponds to a small area in the Atacameño territory. From north to south, it stretches from the outskirts of Caspana to Talabre.

Through this territory, a complex cultural expansion has taken place.


Mujeres Aymara hilando

The extended patrilineal and virilocal family is the basic unity of traditional Aymara social organization. A man and his wife, his married sons, daughters-in-law and his grandsons and granddaughters, along with his single sons and daughters, compose the family.

In this extensive family, each nuclear unit is monogamous. The extensive family occupies several houses with separate facilities for each nuclear family. Inside the families, children are trained to be submissive to their parents, and to obey the adults. From them is expected, at an early age, some help in domestic simple chores. Later on, they will join the more complex shepherding, agricultural and domestic activities.

There are two different types of Aymara communities, or ayllus: Andean Aymara, the traditional altiplanic community, and the Hispanic precordillerean peasant community. Each ayllu is made up of a group of villages, composed of many extended families. The second form corresponds to the Spanish model, based on a main plaza surrounded by its church and several public buildings.