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Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes

Amy Eisenberg

Publication Year: 2013

Aymara Indians are a geographically isolated, indigenous people living in the Andes Mountains near Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the most arid regions of the world. As rapid economic growth in the area has begun to divert scarce water to hydroelectric and agricultural projects, the Aymara struggle to maintain their sustainable and traditional systems of water use, agriculture, and pastoralism.

In Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes, Amy Eisenberg provides a detailed exploration of the ethnoecological dimensions of the tension between the Aymara, whose economic, spiritual, and social life are inextricably tied to land and water, and three major challenges: the paving of Chile Highway 11, the diversion of the Altiplano waters of the Río Lauca for irrigation and power-generation, and Chilean national park policies regarding Aymara communities, their natural resources, and cultural properties within Parque Nacional Lauca, the International Biosphere Reserve. 

Pursuing collaborative research, Eisenberg performed ethnographic interviews with Aymara people in more than sixteen Andean villages, some at altitudes of 4,600 meters. Drawing upon botany, agriculture, natural history, physical and cultural geography, history, archaeology and social and environmental impact assessment, she presents deep, multifaceted insights from the Aymara’s point of view.

Illustrated with maps and dramatic photographs by John Amato, Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development provides an account of indigenous perspectives and concerns related to economic development that will be invaluable to scholars and policy-makers in the fields of natural and cultural resource preservation in and beyond Chile.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book presents our participatory ethnographic research and partnership with the Aymara Indians in the Andes of northern Chile that began in 1998 in an attempt to understand Aymara Indian perspectives on development within their sacred geography. Together, we developed a study design that would engage Aymara people directly in the assessment of their cultural and natural resources...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Nayax Aymar arst’irinakar yuspagartwa. I give great thanks to the Aymara people—my teachers and friends—for their kindness, patience, active participation, and collaboration in this study.

Nayax yuspagarsmaw to superb Aymara linguists Juan de Dios Yapita and Awki, Justo Llanque-Chana, for their friendship and invaluable expertise in Aymar aru. Sincere thanks...

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pp. 1-10

The Aymara Indians of Region XV, Arica y Parinacota, and I collaborated on an Andean ethnoecological investigation that documents Aymara Indian perspectives on development within the Aymara cultural landscape of northern Chile. From 1998 to 1999, we carried out a social and environmental impact assessment as well as a needs assessment in the extreme north of Chile to evaluate and...

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Chapter 1. The Aymara: Pre- and Post-Columbian History

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pp. 11-29

Tarapaca, also known as Tunupa (Rivera 1991:28), Thunupa, or Tuapaca, was an Aymara deity. The Indians say that he had such great power that he changed hills into valleys and from valleys made great hills, causing streams to flow from living stone. They called him Maker of all things created, Father of the sun who gave being to men and animals. Tarapaca traveled north along the highlands giving...

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Chapter 2. The Aymara Community Today

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pp. 30-59

The present-day realities of Aymara life are most effectively understood through knowledge of Aymara history, which is a profound source for understanding the people and their responses to development within their mountainous realm. The Aymara look to their history and the ways their people have lived and struggled for centuries in order to orient future action. Nayrapacha means the past is prelude...

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Chapter 3. Jaqin Uraqpachat Amuyupa — Aymara Cosmovision

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pp. 60-83

Jaqin Uraqpachat Amuyupa is the Aymara people’s thinking about the world (Justino Llanque-Chana, personal communication, 26 April 2002). The Aymara, who for centuries have lived in one of the most extraordinary landscapes on earth, amid glaciated peaks and active volcanoes, have developed and continue to sustain a relationship of mutual respect and exchange with the earth. The Aymara...

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Chapter 4. The Aymara Cultural Landscape

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pp. 84-148

Northern Chile is a land of diversity, with its verdant, irrigated agricultural coastal valleys; the expansive, virtually rainless Atacama Desert; and the high plateau or Altiplano, with its rising, perpetually snow-covered volcanoes. Region XV, comprising the provinces of Arica and Parinacota, encompasses the Pacific coastal plains, the Cordillera de la Costa, the Desert Pampa, the Andean foothills, the...

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Chapter 5. Social and Environmental Impact Assessment

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pp. 149-187

Chile has become the most vibrant economy in South America, but economic growth has come at a significant cost to the country’s natural resource base and environment (World Resources Institute 1994:242). The social and environmental impacts of highway development, national park establishment, and water diversion for hydroelectricity, irrigation, and mining on the Aymara communities...

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Chapter 6. Aymara Responses to a Changing Environment

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pp. 188-221

This chapter presents the perspectives and specific concerns expressed by the Aymara people of Region XV regarding development within their cultural landscape. The direct responses are based on interviews with Aymara agriculturists, pastoralists, artisans, educators, public and municipal servants, miners, proprietors, and shopkeepers. Every person interviewed was given the opportunity to...

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Chapter 7. Conclusion

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pp. 222-228

“Water is a human right” and “No one may be deprived of water,” the Aymara president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, declared at the Third World Water Forum (2006:22–23). He then asked, why are mining, logging, electric, and municipal companies plundering the water resources of indigenous communities? We must concretely and effectively support the Aymara in protecting their environment...


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pp. 229-246


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pp. 247-263

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386665
E-ISBN-10: 0817386661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317911
Print-ISBN-10: 0817317910

Page Count: 279
Illustrations: 38 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 856935484
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes

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Subject Headings

  • Aymara Indians -- History.
  • Aymara cosmology.
  • Aymara Indians -- Social conditions.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Ecology -- Chile.
  • Rural development -- Chile.
  • Economic development -- Chile.
  • Chile -- Environmental conditions.
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