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Identification. The name "Aymara" is of unknown origin. Historically, the Aymara referred to themselves as "Jaqi," meaning "human beings," or as "Colla." This term "was extended loosely by early Spanish chroniclers to include all the Aymara-speaking tribes of the 'Collao' or Collasuyo division of the Inca empire" (La Barre 1948).

Location. The Aymara are presently concentrated on the altiplano, the Andean high plateau, a geographical zone of approximately 170,000 square kilometers at a medium elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level. Although located in the center of the South American continent, the altiplano has far from a tropical climate, owing to the extreme elevationsurrounding mountains range up to 7,000 meters. The temperature varies more between night and day than between seasons. Normally the summer season (November to March) has daily rainfalls, the winter (May through September) a complete drought. The population is mainly spread around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, extending into southern Bolivia, southern Peru, and northern Chile. There is evidence that in the pre-Inca period Aymara speakers were geographically spread over a substantially larger area.

Demography. In 1950 the Aymara population was estimated to be between 600,000 and 900,000, with the majority living in Bolivia. More recent estimates claim that the Aymara number between two and three million, of which around half a million live in Peru (approximately 2.3 percent of the Peruvian population). The Bolivian Aymara are about 30 percent of the population. For these reasons, the Aymara tend to be linked more closely to the history of Bolivia than to that of Peru.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Aymara language, one of the three most widely spoken (with Quechua and Guaraní) Indian language in South America, belongs to the Andean-Equatorial Language Family, more specifically to the Jaqi Language Group. There are three Jaqi languages: Jaqaru and Kawki, spoken only in Peru, and Aymara, spoken primarily in Bolivia and Peru.

History and Cultural Relations

The Aymara are considered descendants of some of the earliest inhabitants of the continent and possible founders of the so-called Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) high culture, estimated to have existed from between 500 and 200 b.c. to around a.d. 1000. For unknown reasons this culture suddenly collapsed in the thirteenth century (i.e., before the Inca Empire reached its peak toward the end of the fifteenth century). By then most people of the Andes, from Equador into Chile, were linked in a tightly controlled economic and political system in which the Quechua language of the Incas dominated. But the Aymara, as an exception from Inca practice, were allowed to retain their own language. This contributed to the still-persisting cultural and social separation of the Aymara.

After the Spanish Conquest in 1533 the Aymara shared the fate of most South American peoples-centuries of suppression. In what later became Bolivia, the Spaniards started the extraction of metals, mainly silver, at the price of ruthless exploitation of the Indian population, which was forced to work in the mines. The eighteenth century was a period of great unrest among various Indian groups in what was then called Upper Peru (part of Bolivia today). Lacking coordination, these uprisings had little effect upon the lives of the Aymara in the area. Nor did the fifteen-year long war of independence, which in 1825 resulted in the proclamation of the Republic of Bolivia.

The status of the Bolivian Aymara remained virtually unchanged until the revolution in 1952, which led to economic and social reforms such as universal suffrage and land reform. A continuing stormy political scene has, however, resulted in an underdeveloped economy, poor communication, and social problems; these conditions primarily affect the Indian population, whose situation is not likely to change rapidly. Culturally related peoples are the Quechua, the Uru, and the Chipaya. Their languages are unrelated (in spite of the common belief to the contrary), but there has been extensive mutual linguistic and cultural borrowing.


As the Aymara switched to pastoralism and agriculture, they settled in small clusters throughout the altiplano area. Several millennia later, during the colonial period, two types of highland communities came into existence in Bolivia: the hacienda-dominated community (inhabited by colonos ) and the marginal, freeholding community (inhabited by comunarios ), which contributed to the development of diverging settlement patterns. Homesteads in the comunario community are often widely dispersed, whereas in the colono community living quarters are mostly built in close-knit clusters. The buildings of each unit (for an extended family or some related families) are surrounded with a wall. Aymara frequently own dwellings in more than one location because of their traditional engagement (landholdings, trade, or barter) in different places. In the 1950s, when the Aymara began substantial migration to urban centers, they kept their settlement pattern, including having a wall around the dwelling of a nuclear or extended family.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Early Aymara began practicing animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture possibly around 2500 b.c. Climate, elevation, and poor soil limit the range of plants and food crops that can be cultivated. The Aymara adapted to their harsh environment by engaging in the domestication of animals and crops, some of which are still unique to the Andes (the Andean cameloid, llama, and the native grain, quinoa) and others of which (e.g., potatoes and maize) have spread throughout the world. A method for food preservation was developed early: dehydration (freeze-drying) of the staple food, potatoes, and other Andean tubers. This allowed long-term storage, necessary in a region of seasonal production, as well as the accumulation of a surplus to free labor for nonsubsistence activities. The dramatic differences in elevation create substantial climatic variations in geographically close areas. As insurance against the failure of a single crop and to get access to a greater variety of products, the Aymara have developed a method of agricultural diversification: they keep land in different ecozones. This diversification technique is used also in commercial activities (e.g., trade and wage labor). Trade is by tradition dominated by women, who bring agricultural produce to central markets, where today most products are sold, not traded. Early patterns of seasonal migration (mainly by men) for wage labor have contributed to the engagement in the cash economy by most present-day Aymara. However, there are rural villagers still living mainly through subsistence agriculture.

Industrial Arts. Pottery making and weaving are performed by both men and women. Works of highly skilled architects and sculptors from the Tiahuanaco culture can still be seen at that site.

Trade. Despite lagging development of infrastructure and poor communications, Aymara men and women traditionally keep long-distance trading partners, which enables them to acquire produce from other ecological zones. In institutionalized reciprocal relationships, such as ayni (exchange of labor, goods, and services) and compadrazgo (godparenthood, coparenthood, ritual kinship), labor may be exchanged for food products or meals. Urban traders exchange, for example, salt, sultana coffee, rice, or vegetables grown at low elevation for several kinds of potatoes and dried beans with their rural partners.

Division of Labor. Labor is divided equally between married spouses (i.e., husbands and wives work the fields together, although they may have different tasks). But no task is so sex specific that the other cannot take it on. Among urban "Westernized" Aymara, however, the traditional labor cooperation seems to be vanishing.

Land Tenure. In early days a form of collective landownership was practiced by the members of an ayllu, a basic social, political, and geographical unit (see "Kinship"). Grazing land was used in common, whereas the agricultural land was rotated and distributed yearly among ayllu members according to the needs of each extended family. Only land on which the families had their houses was privately owned. As land became permanently divided and privately owned by separate families, the tradition of working in common-labor groups has been weakened.


Kin Groups and Descent. According to a common Andean bilateral kinship system, Aymara trace descent through both male and female ancestors within a certain number of generations, usually to the great-grandparents (t'unu ). It is unclear when this cognatic system developed, but ethnographers (e.g., Lambert 1977) at present agree that earlier reports of a patrilineal system are the results of misinterpretations and that the pre-Hispanic kinship system rather was parallel, or dual, in its nature (Collins 1981). Kin groups were traditionally organized into an ayllu, described as a "subtribe," "one or several extended families," "extended lineages," "a unit within which certain bonds of kinship are recognized" or, according to Zuidema (1977), as "any social or political group with a boundary separating it from the outside." The ayllus and the current corresponding comunidades display strong tendencies of endogamy. A high rate of endogamy between urban migrants and members from their community of origin is reported.

Kinship Terminology. According to Lounsbury (1964), the kinship system was a rarity of the Omaha type. This is based on Ludovico Bertonio's early-seventeenth-century Vocabulary. Today there is assimilation to a Spanish bilateral system, but with vestiges of the older system.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Most marriages derive from the choice of the young couple but are regarded as an economic union with binding reciprocal obligations among three households: those of the parents of the groom, the parents of the bride, and the newlyweds. A marriage is entered through a series of stages and wedding ceremonies, earlier mistakenly apprehended as "trial marriages." Marriages are monogamous and divorce is fairly easy.

Domestic Unit. The basic unit is the nuclear family with extended family networks for cooperation. Nuclear families with separate households often live on the same premises as their extended kin. Virilocal or neolocal residence is typically practiced.

Inheritance. Inheritance is traditionally bilateral (i.e., males and females inherit property separately from their father and mother). The equal inheritance rules, legalized in Bolivia in 1953, have sometimes led to extreme splitting up of land, resulting in the bending of the rules in practice.

Socialization. Children are regarded as complete human beings and are brought up with guidance rather than with rebuke or force. They are treated with respect, and, although seldom excluded from any situation, they are taught to be quiet when grown-ups talk.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The idea of equality, embraced by all Aymara, is a component of most relationships in rural society. The social system is flexible, and on the lowest levels of the social structure, the family and the ayllu, individuals are interchangeable (i.e., men and women can change roles). Males and females are considered equal in status, decision making, and rights, as well as in inheritance, labor division, and cooperation.

Political Organization. In pre-Conquest time, when the Aymara dominated the Andean highlands, a number of Aymara-speaking "nations," divided into "kingdoms" or "chiefdoms," developed. An Andean type of endogamous moiety organization with stratification of ethnic groups (Aymara and Uru) has been reported (Murra 1968). The independence of these nations was lost as the Quechua-speaking Incas extended their influence, but on the local level little of Aymara life changed. Decision making in the traditional ayllu was of the consensus type. Leadership authority was executed by the jilaqata, chosen yearly among adult men according to a rotating system. In the new community organization, connected to the national governments, the headman is theoretically chosen by the subprefector in the provincial capital, but in practice he is often elected by his community members. He is merely the "foremost among equals," and actual decisions are made by the reunión (assembly), where consensus is still a goal. In August 1993 an Aymara, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, took office as vice president of Bolivia.

Social Control. The flexible and ideally egalitarian Aymara system has resulted in relatively few rules and taboos and consequently a low degree of social control. In case of personal conflict, the common forms of social control are usedgossip and ostracism (e.g., in the form of exclusion from dancing, drinking, and eating with the well-demarcated fiesta group).

Conflict. Individual and family disputes, often over land or inheritance, were settled by the jilaqata, who also arbitrated in inter-ayllu conflicts. In today's organization, conflicts are solved at assembly meetings, or if intractable, referred to central authorities. Physical arguments or regular fights usually occur only under the influence of alcohol. On the ayllu or village level the Aymara have a strong sense of collective identity and "community orientation" at times resulting in prejudice, mistrust, and suspicion toward "outsiders." Competition, mistrust, and conflict between other bonded units, such as family groups and village or community sections, is also not uncommon.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The majority of the Aymara today are nominally Roman Catholic. In practice their religion is a syncretistic blend of Catholicism and indigenous religion, based on a parallelism, in which supernatural phenomena were classified similarly to natural ones. Such phenomena, as well as religious leaders, were ranked in vaguely hierarchical and relatively unstructured and flexible orders. Some indigenous rites are still practiced, mostly in addition to established Catholic ceremonies. Spirits, in the indigenous Aymara cognition, inhabit not heaven but surrounding high mountains, rivers, lakes, and so on, or rather, those sacred places are personified spirits.

Religious Practitioners. Intermediaries between the natural and supernatural spheres are several kinds of magicians such as yatiri (diviner) and laiqa and paqu (practitioners of black or white magic). The aim of their activities is to bring about a balance between human and natural phenomena. Magic is used (e.g., in courtship, at childbirth, to cure illness, at planting and harvest rituals, and in weather-controlling rites).

Ceremonies. Reciprocity, the basic and most salient feature of all Aymara social relations, is culturally institutionalized in several systems (e.g., those of ayni, compadrazgo, and fiesta). Ayni, compadrazgo, and the two types of fiestas (religious and life-cycle) are all surrounded by specific rules and ceremonies. Although there has been much debate over the origin, development, and meaning of these systems, it is evident that in the form they exist today, they serve to extend and maintain an individual's personal network and fulfill his or her occasional need to express group cohesion and feelings of cultural identity.

Arts. Performing arts in the form of band music and dancing are important parts of every ceremony and fiesta. Most common are brass instruments, completed with drums, Andean flutes (kena and sampoña ), and a minimandolin (charango ) made of armadillo hide.

Medicine. Illness is considered to be caused by both natural and supernatural phenomena and may be cured accordinglywith the help of medicine and/or a curer. Most medicines derive from plants; roots, leaves, or flowers, are administered as infusions or herbal teas. Animal parts and minerals are also used. Indigenous methods are applied along with Western medicines prescribed by clinical doctors or obtained at the drugstore.

Death and Afterlife. Formalized passage rites are staged for a deceased, in which food and drink are important elements. This series of rituals (extending over a period of three to ten years) includes mourning wake, funeral, cabo de ano (end of the mourning year), and yearly celebrations at Todos Santos (1-2 November). The souls of the departed are then believed to return to earth, where they must be treated properly (i.e., fed) so they will refrain from vengeance. For the interment, the common practice is to send a number of items along with the deceased, mostly clothing and food, for use during the difficult journey into the highlands, where the spirits dwell.


Albo, Xavier (1976). Esposos, suegros y padrinos entre los aymares. 2nd ed. La Paz: Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado.

Bolton, Ralph, and Enrique Mayer, eds. (1977). Andean Kinship and Marriage. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.

Buechler, Hans C., and Judith-Marie Buechler (1971). The Bolivian Aymara. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Carter, William E., and Mauricio Mamani (1982). "Irpa Chico": Individuo y comunidad en la cultura aymara. La Paz: Librería-Editorial "Juventud."

Collins, Jane L. (1981). "Kinship and Seasonal Migration among the Aymara of Southern Peru: Human Adaptation to Energy Scarcity." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida.

Hardman, M. J., ed. (1981). The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

La Barre, Weston (1948). "The Aymara Indians of the Lake Titicaca Plateau, Bolivia." American Anthropological Association Memoirs 68:250. Washington, D.C.

Lambert, Bernd (1977). "Bilaterality in the Andes." In Andean Kinship and Marriage, edited by Ralph Bolton and Enrique Mayer, 1-27. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.

Lounsbury, Floyd (1964). "A Formal Account of the Crow- and Omaha-Type Kinship Terminologies." In Explorations in Cultural Anthropology, edited by Ward Goodenough, 351-393. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Murra, John (1968). "An Aymara Kingdom in 1567." Ethnohistory 15:115-151.

Tschopic, Harry, Jr. (1946). "The Aymara." In Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward. Vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations, 501-573. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Zuidema, R. Tom (1977). "The Inca Kinship System: A New Theoretical Outlook." In Andean Kinship and Marriage, edited by Ralph Bolton and Enrique Mayer, 240281. American Anthropological Association, Special Publication 7. Washington, D.C.


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LOCATION: Bolivia; Peru; Chile

POPULATION: About 2 million (Bolivia); 500,000 (Peru); 20,000 (Chile)

LANGUAGE: Aymara; Spanish

RELIGION: Roman Catholicism combined with indigenous beliefs; Seventh Day Adventist


The Aymara are the indigenous (native) people who live in the altiplano (high plains) of the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous peoples of any country in South America. It is also the poorest country on the continent.

Bolivia was colonized by Spain. The Aymara faced great hardships under Spanish colonial rule. In 1570, the Spanish decreed that the natives would be forced to work in the rich silver mines on the altiplano. The city of Potosí was once the site of the richest silver mine in the world. Millions of Aymara laborers perished in the wretched conditions in the mines.


The Aymara live on high-altitude plains in the Bolivian Andes, on the Lake Titicaca plateau near the border with Peru. The altiplano is at an elevation of 10,000 to 12,000 feet (3,000 to 3,700 meters) above sea level. Weather conditions are cold and harsh, and agriculture is difficult.

An ethnic group closely related to the Aymara lives among the Uru islands on Lake Titicaca. These communities live not on land but on islands that are made of floating reeds.

An estimated two million Aymara live in Bolivia, with five hundred thousand residing in Peru, and about twenty thousand in Chile. The Aymara are not confined to a defined territory (or reservation) in the Andes. Many live in the cities and participate fully in Western culture.


The Aymara language, originally called jaqi aru (the language of the people), is still the major language in the Bolivian Andes and in southeastern Peru. In the rural areas, one finds that the Aymara language is predominant. In the cities and towns the Aymara are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and Aymara. Some are even trilingualin Spanish, Aymara, and Quechuain regions where the Incas predominate.


Aymara mythology has many legends about the origin of things, such as the wind, hail, mountains, and lakes. The Aymara share with other ethnic groups some of the Andean myths of origin. In one of them, the god Tunupa is a creator of the universe. He is also the one that taught the people customs: farming, songs, weaving, the language each group had to speak, and the rules for a moral life.


The Aymara believe in the power of spirits that live in mountains, in the sky, or in natural forces such as lightning. The strongest and most sacred of their deities is Pachamama, the Earth Goddess. She has the power to make the soil fertile and ensure a good crop.

Catholicism was introduced during the colonial period and was adopted by the Aymara, who attend Mass, celebrate baptisms, and follow the Catholic calendar of Christian events. But the content of their many religious festivals shows evidence of their traditional beliefs. For example, the Aymara make offerings to Mother Earth, in order to assure a good harvest or cure illnesses.


The Aymara celebrate the same holidays as other Bolivians: the civic holidays such as Independence Day and the religious ones such as Christmas and Easter. Another important holiday is Día del Indio, on August 2, which commemorates their cultural heritage.

The Aymara also celebrate Carnival. Carnival is a festival held just before Lent begins. It is widely celebrated throughout South America. Dancing to drums and flutes accompanies a week-long celebration. Also important is the festival Alacistas, which features the God of Good Luck. Most households have a ceramic figure of the Good Luck spirit, known as Ekeko. This spirit is believed to bring prosperity and grant wishes. The doll is a round, plump figure, carrying miniature replicas of household goods such as cooking utensils and bags of food and money.


An Aymara child is introduced gradually to the social and cultural traditions of the community. A significant event in the life of an Aymara child is the first haircut, known as rutucha. A baby's hair is allowed to grow until the child is able to walk and talk. At about two years of age, when it is unlikely that he or she will be stricken with the many childhood diseases in the Andes, the child's head is shaved bare.


An important feature of the Aymara culture is the social obligation to help other members of the community. The exchange of work and mutual aid play a basic role within an ayllu or community. Such exchanges occur when more work is required than a single family can provide. An Aymara peasant might ask a neighbor for help building a house, digging an irrigation ditch, or harvesting a field. In return, he or she is expected to pay back the favor by donating the same number of days' labor to the neighbor.


Living conditions of the Aymara depend mainly on where they live and how much they have adopted the Western way of life. Many Aymaras reside in cities and live in modern houses or apartments. There are also large numbers of poor Aymaras in the cities who live in just one room. In rural areas, the construction of an Aymara house depends upon its location and the availability of materials. A typical Aymara house is a small oblong building made of adobe. Near the lake reeds are the primary building material. Thatched roofs are made of reeds and grasses.

The high altitude makes life in the altiplano very difficult. The decreased oxygen in the air can leave a person with soroche (altitude sickness), which causes headaches, fatigue, and nauseaand, sometimes, death. In order to adapt to life in the mountains, the Aymara have developed physical traits that enable them to survive. Most importantly, the Aymara and other mountain peoples have a greatly increased lung capacity.


The central social unit of the Aymara is the extended family. Typically, a family will include parents, unmarried children, and grandparents in one house, or in a small cluster of houses. Large families with as many as seven or eight children are common.

There is a sharp division of labor within an Aymara household, but women's work is not necessarily seen as less valuable. Planting, in particular, is a women's job that is highly respected.

Women in Aymara society also have inheritance rights. Property owned by women will be passed down from mother to daughter. This ensures that not all land and property goes to the sons.

Marriage is a long process with many steps, such as inheritance feasts, a planting ceremony, and the building of the house. Divorce is accepted and is relatively simple.


Clothing styles vary greatly among the Aymara. Men in the cities wear regular Western clothes, and women wear their traditional polleras (skirts) made of fine materials, such as velvet and brocade. They wear embroidered shawls and bowler hats (some of which are made in Italy).

In the altiplano, the story is different. The strong cold winds require warm woolen clothing. Women wear long, homespun skirts and sweaters. The skirts are worn in layers. For festivals or important occasions, women wear as many as five or six skirts on top of each other. Traditional weaving techniques date back to pre-Inca times. Brightly colored shawls are used to strap babies to their mothers' backs or to carry loads of goods.

Aymara men in the altiplano wear long cotton trousers and woolen caps with ear flaps. In many regions, men also wear ponchos. Both sexes may wear sandals or shoes, but many go barefoot despite the cold.


In cities, the Aymara diet is varied, but it has one distinctive ingredient: aji, a hot pepper is used to season the dishes. In the countryside, potatoes and grains, such as quinoa, form the staple diet. Quinoa, which has become popular in U.S. health food stores, is a nutritious, high-protein grain. It has been grown in the Andes for centuries.

The extremes of temperature in the high Andes make it possible to freeze-dry and preserve potatoes naturally. The cold air at night freezes the moisture from the potato, while the sun during the day melts and evaporates it. After a week of lying outdoors, the potatoes are pounded. The result is chuño small, rock-hard pieces of potato that can be stored for years.

Meats are also freeze-dried. A traditional dish is olluco con charquiolluco is a small, potato-like tuber, which is cooked with charqui, dried llama meat. But since llamas are important for their wool and as packing animals, they are rarely eaten. Fish from Lake Titicaca or neighboring rivers is also an important part of the diet.


In Bolivia, primary school education is required until the age of fourteen. However, as in most developing countries, children of subsistence farmers are less likely to complete school. Children often have the responsibility of tending a herd or taking care of younger brothers and sisters. Boys are more likely to complete school than girls, who have more household tasks, even at a very young age.


The Aymara have a rich musical tradition. Although there is a clear Spanish influence, the main musical influences date back to the pre-Inca ancestors. Drums and flutes are featured at festivals and celebrations. Panpipes (zampoñas) and the pututu horn, made out of a hollowed-out cow's horn, are traditional instruments that are still played. Homemade violins and drums are also common.

Traditional dances have been passed down through generations. Many dances feature large, bright masks and costumes. Some dances represent and parody the Spanish colonizers. The "old man dance," for example, features a bent-over Spanish nobleman with a large top hat. The dancer imitates in a comic manner the gestures and mannerisms of old Spanish gentlemen.


Many Aymara are subsistence farmers in the harsh, high-altitude environment. The altitude, cold nights, and poor soil greatly limit the types of crops that can be grown. The Aymara follow traditional patterns of agriculture. Some still use the terraced fields used by their ancestors before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. They also follow a careful pattern of crop rotation. The most important crop is the potato, which first grew in the Andes. Corn, quinoa, and barley are also important. Many families own land at different altitudes. This enables them to grow several different crops.

Tractors and even oxen teams are rare in the high Andes. Traditional agricultural implements, such as the foot plow, are still widely used. While the men do the plowing and digging, the sacred task of planting is reserved for women, since only they have the power to give life. This tradition is maintained in deference to Pachamama, the Earth Goddess.

The Aymara are also herders. They get both wool and meat from herds of llamas, alpacas, and sheep. A family may also supplement its grazing herd with cows, frogs, or chickens.

The growing tourist trade has increased the demand for the luxurious wool of the alpaca, and some people knit sweaters for the tourists. This has provided the Aymara with some badly needed cash.

Some Aymara also work as laborers in silver or tin mines. This work can be very dangerous.

Many Aymara have entered politics. They have founded a political party, Katarista, and they have elected Aymara senators and representatives to the Bolivian congress.


There are no sports that are strictly Aymara. However, soccer is the Bolivian national sport and many Aymara participate in it.


The Aymara now enjoy their own TV shows, both as viewers and as performers. Some Aymara musical groups have made recordings that are very popular. In the cities, Aymara are frequent moviegoers.

One of the favorite activities is dancing in folk festivals. Young people use these occasions to socialize.


The Aymara are skilled weavers, a tradition dating back to the time before the Incas. Many anthropologists believe that the textiles of the Andes are among the most highly developed and complex in the world. The Aymara use a great many materials in their weaving, including cotton, as well as wool from sheep, alpacas, and llamas. The Aymara also use totora reeds to make fishing boats, baskets, and other articles.


The most significant social problems faced by the Aymara stem from colonial times. European colonizers and their descendants have treated the Aymara as insignificant, taking their land and resources and giving nothing in return. The decreased standard of living among the Aymara and the anger between groups have weakened the social structure of the region.

Only in the second half of the twentieth century has Bolivian society been open to accepting the Aymara heritage. In 1952 (almost five hundred years after Europeans arrived), the Aymara and other indigenous people were given some civil rights that every other Bolivian had had.

With access to education, the Aymara have begun participating more fully in the modern life of the country. There are still serious class and racial barriers, however, and unfortunately, many Aymara still remain in poverty in rural areas. Large numbers move to the cities, where life becomes even harder for them in many ways.


Blair, David Nelson. The Land and People of Bolivia. New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1990.

Cobb, Vicki. This Place Is High. New York: Walker, 1989.

La Barre, Weston. The Aymara Indians of the Lake Titicaca Plateau, Bolivia. Memasha, Wisc.: American Anthropological Association, 1948.

Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Latin Americas. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.


Bolivia Web. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Bolivia. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Aymara (īmärä´), Native South Americans inhabiting the Lake Titicaca basin in Peru and Bolivia. The originators of the great culture represented by the ruins of Tiahuanaco were very likely Aymara speakers. Although subjugated by the Inca in the 15th cent. after a long struggle, the Aymara continue to dominate the region, with a population of over 2 million in the mid-1990s. The Aymara languages make up a separate unit; they are spoken in Peru and Bolivia in the Titicaca region. The Aymara, conquered (1538) by Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro, retained their pastoral and agricultural culture. In general, social organization was, and still is, based on the patrilineal family unit. Contemporary Aymara and the related Quechua peasant culture is a blend of aboriginal, Spanish colonial, and modern elements.

See H. Osborne, Indians of the Andes, Aymaras and Quechuas (1952); J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians, Vol. II (1963); H. and J.-M. Buechler, The Bolivian Aymara (1971); A. L. Kolata, Valley of the Spirits (1996).

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Aymara Major tribe of Native South Americans who live in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. by 1500 they had been brought into the Inca Empire, which was subsequently conquered by the Spanish. Today, the Aymara number c.1,360,000. Their struggle to survive in a harsh, semi-desert region accounts for their lack of an artistic heritage. The Ayamara language is spoken by c.1 million people in Bolivia and 3 million people in Peru.

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Aymara •Marat • rah-rah • bajra • baccarat •Aymara • Seurat

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"Aymara." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 10 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Aymara." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 10, 2017).

"Aymara." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from