Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Aymara live in the Bolivian and Peruvian altiplano around Lake Titicaca. They make up a quarter of Bolivia's population. Their language is closely related to Quechua. The Aymara are primarily dependent on agriculture and secondarily on animal husbandry and fishing. The lineage or Ayllu is the basic kinship and political unit. Leadership is based on prestige gained through community service, sponsoring rituals, and specializing in magic.


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South America --Central Andes




OWC Code


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Collection Overview

The ethnographic literature on the Aymara may be divided spatially between works focusing on Peru and those focusing on Bolivia. This division reflects important differences between these two countries in terms of political linkages and government policy affecting the Aymara. The literature may also be divided temporally, with the major break in the twentieth century ethnographic accounts of the Aymara falling between those studies done from 1900 to 1942 and those done in the 1950s and 1960s. This temporal aspect is important, both in relation to shifts in government policies toward the Aymara and also in relation to changes in ethnographic interests and methods.

The SF05 Aymara collection consists of 16 documents, two of which are translations - one from French and one from Spanish - the remainder all being in English. The basic works are 1: and 2: Tschopik supplemented by 3: LaBarre. 1: Tschopik presents a comprehensive survey of Aymara history and culture, and is probably the best available culture summary despite its length. It incorporates data from the author's own field works as well as that of LaBarre, who allowed Tschopik to use his manuscript prior to publication. However, 12: Buechler and Buechler is also a good summary for Bolivian Aymara culture.

2: Tschopik is a complete monograph focusing on magical beliefs and related behavior. Tschopik and his wife resided in the Aymara community of Chucuito (Department of Puno in southern Peru) for approximately two and one-half years in 1940-1942, and spent an additional period of time in Arequipa, revisiting Chucuito about once a month. The author spoke Spanish but "very little Aymara", and employed as his interpreter and field assistant a young Mestizo who spoke fluent Aymara (2: Tschopik, p. 143 A). 3: LaBarre is a good general ethnography based upon the author's field work in 1937-1938. His research seems to have covered a broad geographical area in Bolivia, primarily in the Department of La Paz, and secondarily southward and eastward in the Departments of Oruro and Cochabamba. Documents 4, 5, and 6 by LaBarre are articles covering respectively, the classification and use of potatoes, folktales, and animal and mineral remedies, including some data on sorcery.

7: Forbes is by a traveler who observed the Aymara during the years 1859-1863. He describes the area, material culture, and has a long section on anthropometry. 8: Chervin is a secondary document incorporating previously unpublished primary data on living facilities and means of livelihood obtained by questionnaires in the early 1900s. Data on physical anthropology, gathered in the field in 1903, are also included. 9: Metraux presents field data collected in 1930-1931, and is devoted to the religious practices and beliefs of the Aymara living in the province of Carangas, Bolivia. 10: Bouroncle Carreon is a translation of two long articles in Spanish written by a physician who participated in a medical program on the Peruvian altiplano for six months in 1960. This is an important document presenting a fairly comprehensive study of the Aymara in the Department of Puno.

11: Carter is by an ethnologist who did field research in 1953 and 1960-1961, mainly in Ingavi Province on the Bolivian altiplano. This is a functional study of cultural differences between the HACIENDA and the "free" community system, both prior to and following the Agrarian Reform Movement of 1953. The field work focused on the "free" community of Irpa Chico and the landed estates of Huacullani, Rosapata, and Viliroco, while archival data were gathered on the HACIENDAS of Chacoma, Kakani, Causaya, and Korpa. Carter used a team of Bolivian field assistants from various government agencies, and an Aymara assistant who also functioned as a key informant. The author obviously spoke fluent Spanish, but his only comment concerning the indigenous language is a mention of his "still quite rudimentary Aymara" (11: Carter, p. 4). 13: Hickman is a doctoral dissertation in anthropology from Cornell University based on fieldwork in Chinchera, Peru, in 1961 and 1962. Chinchera is a community adjoining Chucuito, the locale of Tschopik's fieldwork and much of the same cultural pattern pertains to both communities. The work contains a general ethnographic description of Chinchera, emphasizing ceremonies, magic, divination and acculturation. 14: Cole, a doctoral dissertation in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, is based on fieldwork in the community of Pumasara near Lake Poopo in central Bolivia, in 1957-1959. This document contains extensive data on dreams, their meaning and social significance, the soul, death, funeral customs, and eschatology. 15: Collins examines a particular process of Aymara market participation in southern Peru, in which peasants travel long distances to produce coffee for sale, but on a seasonal basis and in conjunction with continued self- provisioning cultivation in their home communities. Collins reviews the history of this migrational pattern and examines the nature of the social relationships in the highlands that make such migrations both necessary and possible. 16: HRAF is a bibliography on the Aymara.

AINI -- reciprocal labor -- Categories 431, 476, 571

Agricultural social interest societies -- Category 474

ALCALDE -- a local official -- Category 624

ASUTI -- a childbirth ritual -- Categories 846 and 851

CACERAS -- special trading relationships -- Category 437

canton -- a district --Category 634

CORPUNO -- a departmental development corporation -- Categories 179, 654

CORREGIDOR -- Category 693

INTENDENTE -- Categories 634 or 693 (depending on context)

MESA -- burnt offerings -- Category 782

PRESIDENTE DE LA JUNTA VECINAL -- Categories 622 or 624

TAWANTINSUYU Pro-Indian Rights Society -- Category 668

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