Prior to Spanish discovery of the new world, the area now known as Bolivia was home to three major ethnic and linguistic groups; the Uru, Aymara, and Quechua. The Uru lived on rafts, fishing and foraging along the shore of Lake Titicaca. The Aymara dominated the Uru, reducing their status to poor fishermen and landless workers. Aymara society was built upon a basic social unit of kinship that organized the distribution of labor, and this system, termed “ayllu,” was later adopted by conquering Quechua. The Aymara are known for their practice of ‘freeze drying’ potatoes high in the mountains, for their organized systems of irrigation, and their control of colonies in warm lowlands to produce food. By the early 15th century the Quechua dominated the northern highlands of the Andes, and by the later half of the century had adopted the name of their supreme ruler, the Inca. The Inca led a series of invasions into weakening Aymara kingdoms in the south Andean region.
The Inca quickly became a successful empire, a relative ethnic minority which controlled a diverse region of peoples. Conquered groups were allowed to maintain local chiefs, cultures, religion and language, bound together only through payments and work for the Inca. The mita (forced labor) system facilitated the lives of common laborers and recruited soldiers while vast tracts of roadways allowed for trade between the high and lowlands. The Inca accumulated great wealth, thus significant artistic and architectural achievements were made with textiles, metal working, and the practice of fitting stones together for building without the use of mortar. Many of these walls survive today. Although the Aymara attem...
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...t the year in search of temporary job opportunities. One might argue that indigenous groups continue to seek independence in the twenty-first century against a backdrop of capitalistic globalization, a lucrative drug trade, and struggles between conservative, liberal, and militant leaders.
Minahan, James. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Volume III. Westport Connectcut: Greenwood Press, 2002.
S. Olson, James. The Indians of Central and South America: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Westport Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991.
Regional Surveys of the World: South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Ed.
Jacqueline West. 10th ed. Europa Publications: Taylor and Francis Group, 2002
Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture: Volume I.
Simon and Schuster, 1996.
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