The Aymara are a set of individuals whose native language to the Aymara and those individuals and groups who claim for themselves their identification as such. They are located mainly in the highlands of Bolivia , Chile and Peru . Its greatest presence is in Lake Titicaca . It is one of the most important ethnic groups in South America .


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  • 1 Origin
  • 2 History
  • 3 Economy
  • 4 Culture
    • 1 Music
    • 2 Dance
  • 5 Sources


There is no ethnic subgroup exclusive to Aymara and, conversely, the Aymara language cannot be considered exclusive to any ethnic subgroup. This is because different ethnic subgroups such as the Qullas , Lupaqas , Qanchis , Carangas , Lucanas , Chocorvos , Chichas , etc., spoke Aymara from pre-Inca times to post-Inca centuries.

Geographically, these groups were settled in different places of the current departments of Lima , Ica , Huancavelica , Ayacucho , Arequipa , Apurimac , Cuzco , north of Puno and areas of Cochabamba and Potosí, localities, today, Quechua-speaking.

The surnames Mamani and Quispe , linguistically, are of undisputed Aymara origin and are among the most numerous in different Andean regions and even cities of Peru , Bolivia , and Chile . However, due to the historical process of advancement of Quechua and Spanish over Aymara, many people with these surnames cry out for a Quechua identity before Aymara . Others plan to change Mamani or Quispe for a European surname .


Made up of more than 3 million people that are distributed between Peru, Bolivia and Chile, the Aymara people are today one of the most important ethnic groups in South America . Endowed with a strong ethnic cohesion that is based on the use of their own language and social organization, the Aymara have survived centuries of economic exploitation and forced acculturation, successfully adapting to the most diverse political contexts.

The first Aymara language peoples settled in the areas around Lake Titikaka and the South Andean highlands in the 12th century , after the destruction of the great ceremonial center of Tiwanaku . A century later, they formed the lordships and ethnic confederations that, based on the highlands, colonized the valleys to the east and west of the Andes Mountains , thus accessing different ecological levels. Towards the middle of the 15th century , the Incas conquered the highlands and subdued the Aymara manors.

The Spanish conquest, carried out by Francisco de Pizarro in 1532 , began a period of profound changes for Aymara society. The Indians were distributed in encomiendas , while the new diseases brought from the West wreaked havoc on the native population.

The colonial system reached its maturity with the reforms introduced by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in the 1570s , who ordered the reduction of indigenous peoples into towns , the transfer of encomiendas to the Spanish crown , and the annual dispatch of workers to the mines of silver of Potosí . Likewise, in that same decade the first stable missions were installed in Aymara territory, which began an active campaign to eradicate idolatries. In the highlands of Tarapacá You can still see the hundreds of churches that were built during the colonial period, some of which are true architectural gems.

During the 19th century , the Aymara population was divided into three different countries . The new national borders that were established after the Pacific War cut the historical ties between the Aymara people of Tarapacá and those of the rest of the highlands , preventing access to the different ecological floors characteristic of the Aymara territorial organization.

At the beginning of the 20th century , the Chilean authorities began an intense campaign of Chileanization of the Aymara population of Tarapacá, through public education and military service, which was reinforced by the growing migration to the cities , which would have profound consequences social. The process became massive in the middle of the 20th century, due to the impoverishment of the Aymara communities in the interior, and the boom that Arica experienced after the creation of the free port.

The Aymara who migrated to the coastal cities of Tarapacá created complex exchange networks with their peasant relatives, while taking advantage of the opportunities opened up by economic integration with Peru and Bolivia in the 1990s .

Predominantly urban, the Aymara population of today has managed to recreate its own identity in a difficult transition to modernity.


Most Aymara depend on agriculture for their livelihood. They grow potatoes , barley, and quinoa .

Animal husbandry is another significant activity: sheep , llamas , cattle and alpacas stand out , being the most domestic animals.

The fishing is another important activity and is especially developed around the Lake Titicaca .



Bolivia, Prú and northern Chile

The main cultural contribution of the ancient Aymara culture to humanity is the domestication of the potato (potato). When the Spanish conquered the Inca empire they found the potato cultivated and consumed throughout the territory. However, on the Titicaca plateau, like nowhere else, they found more than 200 varieties.

The ancient Aymara were also pioneers in inventing the technique of dehydrating potatoes for storage purposes. This dehydrated potato is obtained and consumed massively until today and is known as ch’uñu (chuño). Depending on the particular procedure used it may have other names: tunta, muraya, etc. This potato dehydration technique is based on taking advantage of the climatic conditions of the 4000 meters high of the Titicaca plateau. The potato is exposed alternately and constantly, for 2 weeks, to the burning daytime solar rays and to the freezing cold at night.

After the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, the potato was rejected as food by the Spanish for approximately 2 centuries. In some parts of Europe it was a decorative plant .

It was in Ireland , which had no other food alternatives, where the potato quickly became an exclusive food. This dependence manifests itself dramatically when a plague appears that kills entire Irish crops. Until now that calamity is remembered as the Irish Famine .

From the acceptance of the Irish, after the English (English potato), the potato is accepted worldwide as a food of the first order. The term potato, and its derivatives such as potato, sweet potato, etc; It is of Caribbean origin and it was the English who coined it.

Ancient Aymara societies were necrotheistic, that is to say, each dead person became a God who had to have his chullpa. The finishing of the chullpa was according to the hierarchy of the deceased, the higher the hierarchy, the better the chullpa. The Sillustani and Cutimbo ensembles are examples of tombs of the ancient elite of the Collas and the Lupaqas .

These vestiges of Sillustani and Cutimbo allow us to establish that the ancient Aymara independently developed the great architecture of stone , with fine finishes and colossal sizes. As the construction of the elite chullpas required great precision, it is easy to deduce that instruments of mixed metals such as bronze were the full domain of the ancient Collas and Lupaqas. In addition, other cigars such as copper , gold , etc.


Obviously in the Andes music has always been cultivated . But recently, Andean music is known as music whose executing core is composed of 4 instruments: siqu ( siku ), charango , bombo and quena . The siqu is of Aymara origin and the group of musicians who play / dance it are known as siquris. This is because in Aymara -iri is a suffix denoting actor / executor, so siquri, in Aymara, means the player / executor of siqu.

The charango is created after the Spanish conquest, since originally stringed instruments were unknown in the Andes. Formerly they were made with the shell of the armadillo that in Aymara is known as khirkhinchu. most historians hold that khirkhinchu was created in the Aymara area in the 17th century .

Until the 1960s these instruments were rejected by urban dwellers and were only played by indigenous people in rural and remote areas. From the second half of the 1960s, Chilean youth began a political-cultural movement of a rebellious nature. This attitude takes as a symbol a musical movement called a new song or also a protest song that is exclusively performed by the 4 indigenous musical instruments.

The first exponents of this new song are Víctor Jara , Inti Illimani , Kollawara and Quilapayun ]. Later this music is disseminated and accepted by students from other Andean countries, especially Bolivia and Peru , which were under military / dictatorial governments at the time.

At the beginning of the 80s the new song put aside its political message and was commercially accepted, transforming itself into Andean music. Now there are hundreds of groups practicing this music trying to achieve some commercial success. In this endeavor, it is very common to see them performing in the squares and subway stations of European cities and the US . Only few of them see these efforts crowned.


There are many dances of Aymara origin. They are classified into two groups: native dances and mestizo dances. The origins of native dances go back to times before the Spanish conquest, therefore they have few elements of European origin. Unfortunately, these dances are scarcely accepted in the cities, being only practiced by rural Aymara. Examples of these dances: sikuris , pinkillus , chaqallus , lawa k’umus , chuqilas , k’usillos , etc.

On the other hand, mestizo dances are dances with origin after the Spanish conquest. Thus, they have Aymara and European elements in a balanced way. The best known of these dances as diablada , the tuntuna (Tundiqui) and morenada , originate Oruro , are widely accepted and implemented in urban centers plateau Titicaca.

Their clothing, called a suit of lights, similar to the costumes of Spanish bullfighters, is richly ornamented by fantasies, making its acquisition / freight at a high cost. A curiosity is that until the 1950s these dances with costumes of lights were unknown in Puno . Until then, the feast of the candelaria puneña was only celebrated with native dances.


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