Puno, the fourth largest of Peru's twenty-four departments. Puno covers about 28,000 square miles of mainly high Andean plains on the shores of Lake Titicaca, on Peru's southeastern border with Bolivia. As recent as 2005, Puno had 1,245,508 inhabitants as compared to about 900,000 in 1987, of whom 200,000 resided in the departmental capital of the same name. The majority of Puno's inhabitants are poor Quechua- and Aymará-speaking peasants engaged in pastoral and agricultural activities.
Throughout its history the Puno region has been integrated into the regional economy of southern Peru and northern Bolivia as a supplier of wool and foodstuffs. Under Spanish rule (1533–1824), Puno's indigenous communities provided cloth, meat, and labor to the silver mines at Potosí. In the mid-nineteenth century they sold alpaca wool to British merchants based in Arequipa. In the early twentieth century large cattle and sheep estates began to displace traditional producers. Extreme concentration of landowning has contributed to making Puno a center of peasant mobilization and rural conflict.
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Steven J. Hirsch