Kinship and seasonal migration among the Aymara of Southern Peru

Material Information

Kinship and seasonal migration among the Aymara of Southern Peru human adaptation to energy scarcity
Added title page title:
Human adaptation to energy scarcity
Collins, Jane Lou, 1954- ( Dissertant )
Wagley, Charles ( Thesis advisor )
Hardman-de-Bautista, M. J. ( Reviewer )
Margolis, Maxine ( Reviewer )
Oliver-Smith, Anthony R. ( Reviewer )
Alexander, John ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
xi, 346 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural land ( jstor )
Agriculture ( jstor )
Anthropology ( jstor )
Coffee industry ( jstor )
Food ( jstor )
Herding ( jstor )
Kinship ( jstor )
Parents ( jstor )
Potatoes ( jstor )
Seasonal migration ( jstor )
Adaptation (Physiology) ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D ( lcsh )
Aymara Indians -- Peru ( lcsh )
Bioenergetics ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF ( lcsh )
Human beings -- Effect of environment on -- Peru ( lcsh )
Human ecology -- Peru ( lcsh )
Human geography -- Peru ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Peru -- Sarata


The people of the southern Peruvian highlands have adapted to a condition of energy scarcity through seasonal migration to lowland areas. In the district of Sarata (a fictitious name for a real district on the northeastern shore of Lake Titicaca) people spend three to seven months of every year growing coffee in the Tambopata Valley of the eastern Andes. This migratory pattern, which is hundreds of years old, provides the context for an investigation of human adaptive processes. The present study presents models of the flow of energy through high-altitude households and shows that energy is a limiting factor for the population. There are two periods when energy subsidies from lowland regions become crucial to the continued survival of highland households. These are the periods of peak growth and reproduction experienced by households early in their developmental cycles, and times of sharply lowered productivity caused by environmental crises such as drought or killing frosts. Seasonal migration provides the subsidies which households rely on during these periods. Seasonal migration in Sarata is organized primarily through the structure of kin relationships. Exchanges of labor and goods between consanguineal , affinal, and ritual kin make coordinated production in two widely separated zones possible. The information, initial support, and productive knowledge required in the migratory effort are also transmitted along kinship lines. Prior to the Spanish Conquest, political institutions as well as kinship served to organize the exploitation of lowland ecosystems. When regional political organizations were broken down and replaced by Spanish institutions, kinship structure and to a certain extent community relationships became entirely responsible for maintaining seasonal migration as a strategy. Seasonal exploitation of lowland ecosystems is shown to be vital to the survival of the population of the district of Sarata because of the energy subsidies it provides. This fact must be kept in mind when development efforts for the region are designed. The migration of the people of Sarata to the Tambopata Valley also provides a potential model for the exploitation of the eastern slopes of the Andes, a region which Peru is eager to bring into production and where most previous development efforts have been unsuccessful.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1981.
Includes bibliographic references (leaves 328-345).
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jane Lou Collins.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
000297227 ( AlephBibNum )
08353352 ( OCLC )
ABS3600 ( NOTIS )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text






Copyright 1981


Jane Lou Collins

To my parents

Annabelle June Collins


Robert Harris Collins


Many people have helped me in the various stages of the project

preparation, field research, and the writing of this work. Funding for

the period of field research was provided by an Inter-American Foundation

Learning Fellowship for Social Change. Three months of support for write-

up was also provided by Inter-American Foundation. Faculty and staff

of the Universidad Nacional Thcnica del Altiplano (National Technical

University of the Altiplano) in Puno, Peru, gave institutional support

to this project in Peru. Their letters to government agencies and local

officials, their lively interest in the research, and their suggestions

and orientations were greatly appreciated. In particular, Professor

Vfctor Bustinza, Director of Research, and Professors Oscar Chaquilla,

Eleodoro Chahuares, and Rodolfo Machicao contributed greatly to the

success of my field experience. Professor Machicao provided invaluable

introductions to persons in the area of field research and was kind

enough to open his home there to my husband and myself during our stay.

Four Peruvian research assistants aided in the gathering of

data. John Wilfredo Apaza, a former student of agronomy at the UNTA,

spent a great deal of time visiting communities of Sarata with my husband

and myself and helped in the gathering of production data for the region.

His untimely death in 1980 saddened us deeply and deprived Peru of a

very bright, capable, and enthusiastic young scholar. Juan Lira Condori,

a student of sociology at the Universidad Nacional de San Agustin

(National University of St. Augustine) in Arequipa helped greatly in

the gathering of data on consumption and meal patterns, and through

discussions of his own research I learned a great deal about the history

of the haciendas and the present-day SAIS (Sociedad Agricola de Inter6s

Social--Agrarian Social Interest Society) in the eastern part of the

district of Sarata. Eva Mercado Vargas helped to transcribe some very

difficult parts of festivals and to translate them from Aymara to

Spanish, as did Yolanda L6pez Callo. Ms. L6pez was also extremely helpful

in orienting me to the district and to her own home community. She is

currently working as an instructor of the Aymara language at the Univer-

sity of Florida.

Professors Alejandro Camino, Carlos Arambur6 of the Pontificia

Universidad Cat6lica, and H6ctor Martfnez of the Universidad Nacional

Mayor de San Marcos provided assistance and suggestions in Lima. Cor-

respondence with Professor Thierry Saignes helped me clear up important

questions about the history of the northeastern shore of Lake Titicaca.

The companionship and suggestions of North American researchers Peter

White, Benjamin Orlove, Katherine Julien, Phil Blair, and Lucy Briggs

were greatly appreciated.

In the district of Sarata innumerable persons made an effort to

integrate my husband and myself into their fiestas, their exchange net-

works, and many other aspects of their lives, and made our stay a ful-

filling personal experience as well as a successful period of research.

In particular, the support of Lucio Ticona Collquehuanca, Gregoria Sardbia,

Lucia L6pez de Lima, Abdon Ticona Mamani, Juan Ticona Colquehuanca,

Santiago Calli Apaza, and Javier Mamani Mamani must be acknowledged.

The Hermanas de San Jos6 in Sarata and Father Domingo Llanque in Juli

also provided much hospitality and good advice.

I am grateful to the members of my doctoral committee: Professors

Charles Wagley, M. J. Hardman, Anthony Oliver-Smith, Maxine Margolis,

and John Alexander for their advice and support. I am especially grateful

to Doctor M. J. Hardman for first awakening my interest in the Aymara

language and people and for providing me with much of the training in

field methods upon which my research relied. Doctor Charles Wagley

provided guidance, encouragement and support throughout all stages of

my research without which the realization of this work would have been

much more difficult.

Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Michael Painter, whose

doctoral research in Peru was carried out at the same time as my own.

His continual encouragement, excellent advice, and good humor throughout

our graduate studies and research have not only made this work possible,

but made it a truly enjoyable time in our lives.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . ... iv

ABSTRACT .. . . . . . . . . . ix


DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY . . . . . . . . . 1

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . 1
Highland Aymara in the Tropical Forest . . . . 9
Land Tenure, Energy Deficiency, and Seasonal
Migration . . . . . . . . . . .17
Historical Contact with the Ceja de Selva . . . 23
The Pre-Hispanic Roots. . .. . . . 23
The Search for Gold and the Escape
from Forced Labor . . . . . ... 28
Missions, Quinine, and Rubber . . . . . 31
The Twentieth Century . . . . . . . 35
The Altiplano Setting . . . . . . . 39
The political environment . . . . .. 39
Social stratification . . . . . . 47
Language and ethnicity . . . . . . 48

THEORETICAL ISSUES . . . . . . . . ... 51

Human Adaptation . . . . . . . . . 51
Introduction . . . . . . . . . 51
Genetic and Physiological Adaptation . . .. 52
Natural selection . . . . . . . 52
Acclimatization . . . . . . . . 54
Cultural Adaptation . . . . . . . . 55
The evolution of a capacity for culture . . 55
The identification of cultural
adaptations . . . . . . . . 58
The functioning of cultural adaptations . 62
Adaptation on the Southern Peruvian Altiplano . 67
Stresses and responses ........... 67
Seasonal migration and adaptation to
high altitude . . . . . . . . 71


The Role of Energy in Human Adaptation . . . 73
Energy in natural selection . . . . . 73
Energy as a limiting factor . . . . . 76
Population Movement and Human Adaptation . . . 77
Adaptive Movement in Complex Societies . . . 77
Temporary Migration . . . . . . . . 80
Seasonal Migration . . . . . . . . 82

OF SUBSISTENCE . ... . . . . . . . 87

Primary Productivity and Production . . . . . 87
Geographical and Climatic Factors . . . . 87
Natural Life Zones . . . . . . . . 93
The lakeside zone . . . . . . . 96
The intermediate zone . . . . . . 106
The herding zone . . . . . . . 109
Productivity of the Zones . . . . . . 112
Consumption . . . . .... . . . 118
Preservation of Foods . . . . . . . 118
Food Sources and Exchange . . . . . . 119
Meal Composition and Patterns . . . . . 122
Seasonal Variation in the Diet . . . . . 126
Food Beliefs . . . . . . . 130
Evaluation of the Altiplano Diet ..... 131
Food Distribution within the Household . . .. 138
Energy Expenditure . . . . . . . . .. 139
The Division of Labor . . . . . . . 139
Exchanges of Labor . . . . . . . . 146
Annual and Regional Variation in Energy
Expenditure . . ............ .. ... 148
A Summary of Subsistence in Sarata . . . . . 150


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . 160
The Flow of Energy through Altiplano Households . . 163
Description . . . . . . . ... . 163
Analysis . . . . . ... 182
Reproduction, Crisis Survival, and the Role of
Seasonal Migration . . . . . . . . .. 196


The Role of Kinship 201
Descent and the Structure of Consanguineal
Kinship . . . . . . . . . . 203


The Nuclear Family Household . . . . .
Marriage and Affines . . . . . . .
Compadrazqo . . . .. .... . . .. .
The Community and the Marka . . . . . .


Experiences of Kinship and Migration in One
Sarata Community . . . . . . . .
Mauricio Mayta Condori and Justina
Condori Apaza . . . . . . . .
Prospera Chaina Molli and Paulino
Mayta Paxsi
Nicolds Mayta Paxsi and Feleca Paxsi
Ticona . . . . . . . . . .
Daniela Mayta Condori . . . . . .
Santiago Mayta Mamani . . . . . .
Migration and the Development Cycle of the
Household . .
The Household in Historical Patterns of Migration
The Kinship Support System . . . . . .


Theoretical Implications . . . . . .
Policy Implications . . . . . . .



TWO NOTES TO TABLE 4-1 . . . . . . .

THREE NOTES TO TABLE 4-2 ... . . . .

FOUR NOTES TO TABLE 4-3 . . . . . . .

(ALL VALUES x 100 KCAL) . . . .

(ALL VALUES x 106 KCAL) . . .

(ALL VALUES x 106 KCAL) . . . . .

REFERENCES . . . . . .. . . . .












. . . 305

. . . 306

. . . 311

. . . 315

. . . 319

. . . 322

. . . 325

. . . 328

. . . 346

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Jane Lou Collins

December 1981

Chairman: Charles Wagley
Major Department: Anthropology

The people of the southern Peruvian highlands have adapted to a

condition of energy scarcity through seasonal migration to lowland areas.

In the district of Sarata (a fictitious name for a real district on the

northeastern shore of Lake Titicaca) people spend three to seven months

of every year growing coffee in the Tambopata Valley of the eastern Andes.

This migratory pattern, which is hundreds of years old, provides the

context for an investigation of human adaptive processes.

The present study presents models of the flow of energy through

high-altitude households and shows that energy is a limiting factor for

the population. There are two periods when energy subsidies from lowland

regions become crucial to the continued survival of highland households.

These are the periods of peak growth and reproduction experienced by

households early in their developmental cycles, and times of sharply

lowered productivity caused by environmental crises such as drought or

killing frosts. Seasonal migration provides the subsidies which house-

holds rely on during these periods.

Seasonal migration in Sarata is organized primarily through the

structure of kin relationships. Exchanges of labor and goods between

consanguineal, affinal, and ritual kin make coordinated production in two

widely separated zones possible. The information, initial support, and

productive knowledge required in the migratory effort are also transmitted

along kinship lines. Prior to the Spanish Conquest, political institu-

tions as well as kinship served to organize the exploitation of lowland

ecosystems. When regional political organizations were broken down and

replaced by Spanish institutions, kinship structure and to a certain

extent community relationships became entirely responsible for maintaining

seasonal migration as a strategy.

Seasonal exploitation of lowland ecosystems is shown to be vital

to the survival of the population of the district of Sarata because of

the energy subsidies it provides. This fact must be kept in mind when

development efforts for the region are designed. The migration of the

people of Sarata to the Tambopata Valley also provides a potential model

for the exploitation of the eastern slopes of the Andes, a region which

Peru is eager to bring into production and where most previous develop-

ment efforts have been unsuccessful.



Every year approximately one-third of the households in the

Aymara-speaking district of SarataI leave the altiplano for three to

seven months to tend their coffee fields in the Tambopata Valley. The

valley lies just 130 kilometers north of the district "as the crow flies"

(see Figure 1-1), but the road which crosses the snowcapped eastern

range of the Andes and winds down into the valley covers 360 kilometers

in its journey. The steep slopes of the valley are covered with the

dense vegetation of the tropical rain forest. The valley is part of

that ecosystem known to Peruvians as the ceja de selva--"the eyebrow

of the jungle"; or as la muralla verde--"the green wall."

Tambopata contrasts sharply with the homeland of the seasonal

migrants. The district of Sarata lies on the northeastern shore of

Lake Titicaca, running from the edge of the lake north toward the

eastern Andean range. The district is considered the most temperate

part of the altiplano, having milder temperatures and more rainfall than

is generally the case. During the six months of the growing season

rain falls nearly every day, pastures are green, and in the zones near

the lake, potatoes, barley, guinoa, beans, and other crops are produced.

For at least six months of every year, however, the rains cease,

1Sarata is a fictitious name for the district where field re-
search was carried out.

Figure 1-1. Location of Sarata in Peru

and the landscape becomes grey-brown and dusty, with the basic color

scheme broken only by the brilliant blue of the lake and sky and the

green of a few irrigated bean plots.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide are limited at the altitude of the

altiplano, which is 3812 meters, or approximately 12,500 feet. This

fact, combined with low temperatures, nighttime frosts, frequent hail-

storms, and periodic droughts, contributes to low levels of primary

productivity in the altiplano environment. The agriculturalists and

herders of the region receive a low return on the energy they invest in

production. Thomas (1972, 1976) has suggested that energy is seriously

deficient in the altiplano environment, and that the inhabitants of the

altiplano have developed behavioral strategies for dealing with this

problem. Migratory activity has been specifically suggested as one

such strategy. Some researchers feel, however, that a precise definition

and demonstration of energy deficiency is necessary before claims of

adaptation can be made (Smith 1979).

The present study will argue that energy is indeed a limiting

factor for altiplano populations and that seasonal migration serves to

alleviate the stress caused by lack of energy resources in crucial

periods. In particular, it will be shown that energy scarcity poten-

tially affects the survival and reproduction of altiplano households

and that seasonal migration provides added subsidies which households

rely on at critical periods of growth and reproduction, and of agricul-

tural crisis.

Households have been chosen as the unit of analysis in approach-

ing this problem since it is at this level that decisions are made with

regard to productive processes, including migration. The kinship ties

which are shared by the members of a household, and which bind them to

other households, form the social relations of production in the district

of Sarata. They organize labor and coordinate the realization of

different productive activities which occur in points as distant from

one another as the altiplano and the Tambopata Valley. Seasonal migra-

tion among the Aymara of Sarata provides a striking example of the way

in which institutions of kin and community can order activities related

to the survival and reproduction of people in their environment. For

this reason, Chapters Five and Six of the present work will be devoted

to Aymara kin and community relationships and their role in migratory


The question of whether energy is truly a limiting factor in

the district of Sarata will be addressed through the use of energy flow

models which were prepared for households in its three ecological, or

natural life zones. These models were quantified with data gathered

through participant observation and interviews. The models serve a

descriptive purpose, as a simplified representation of the flow of

energy through the households. The simulation of the models also serves

as an analytical tool for the answering of questions about energy

availability and the effect of seasonal migration. Basic data on the

altiplano environment, and on processes of production, consumption, and

energy expenditure will be provided in Chapter Three, and the models

and their analysis in Chapter Four.

The migration of altiplano dwellers to Tambopata has been inter-

preted by many observers as an adaptation to a problem of land scarcity

which has arisen in the past half-century. The present work argues

that adaptations which exist in the present are a result of the way in

which people have altered and shaped their behavior to deal with

environmental problems in the past. They reflect changes in behavior

which occur slowly over time. It is unlikely that the carefully scheduled

patterns of movement which occur between the highlands and the valley,

the complex networks of exchange and mutual assistance, and the calcu-

lated maximization of benefits from the two ecosystems, could have

arisen full-formed in response to a recent trend toward reduced size of

landholdings. Neither is this assumption supported by the historical

evidence. As land pressure increases, seasonal migration may become

more essential to the subsistence of sarateios, but it is not land

pressure which gave rise to the strategy.

The current movement to Tambopata is an extension of earlier

patterns of seasonal migration and the conditions which give rise to

it have been a fact of life on the altiplano for hundreds of years, if

not millenia, as subsequent sections of this chapter will show. The

recognition of this fact allows us to deal with the adaptive behavior

of seasonal migration in a more appropriate time frame. The social

institutions which make migration possible today have grown up in con-

junction with migratory activity over many hundreds of years. By looking

at how the Aymara oF the district of Sarata make decisions about and

organize their migrations through the mechanisms of kinship today, and

by using historical data to reconstruct how they may have done this in

the past, a clearer picture of seasonal migration as an adaptive process

is achieved.

Many studies of adaptive human behaviors establish that a given

activity has a specific function in its environmental setting and go

no further. How such a behavior came to be or why it continues to be

practiced is left unclear. Some researchers have postulated elaborate

regulatory mechanisms which would serve to maintain behaviors which

keep a system in "equilibrum" (Rappaport 1968). In the case of the

Aymara of Sarata it is not necessary to postulate complex regulatory

mechanisms or cybernetic models to explain why people behave in an

adaptive way. The adaptive nature of seasonal migration is recognized by

saratenos, and the exploitation of lowland ecosystems has been a conscious

strategy on the part of altiplano populations for more than 1000 years.

Furthermore, the Aymara have a deep awareness of the potential and

limitations of their social structure and they consciously manipulate and

use its relationships to make seasonal migration possible.

Research on the problem of human adaptation to the altiplano

environment was carried out during a year's field work in the district

of Sarata. Participant observation was used to determine patterns of

production and migration throughout the district. In-depth structured

interviews were carried out to obtain detailed information on produc-

tion, consumption, and energy expenditure. Participant observation and

interviews were also carried out during the coffee harvest in the

Tambopata Valley when the author accompanied Aymara producers from Sarata

to that region. The research was carried out principally in the Aymara


As previously described, much of the data collected were inte-

grated into energy flow models and these models were simulated by computer

in order to provide information on energy availability and the effect

of migration. Another specialized analytical technique relied on was

componential analysis, which was used to arrive at a description of the

structure of Aymara kinship patterns which organize migration. This

methodology, which is derived from the field methods of the structural

linguist, was applied both to kin terms and kinship behavior of the

district of Sarata. Finally, migratory histories collected in Aymara,

and early Spanish writings, were consulted in order to reconstruct his-

torical patterns of migration in the district and present-day kinship

terms were compared with those described in 1603 by Bertonio (1879)

in order to show the changes in kinship which accompanied changes in the

strategy of seasonal migration.

Seasonal migration among the Aymara of Sarata is not only a

topic of relevance to theories of human adaptation. Important issues

of economic development and public policy are also involved. The migra-

tion to Tambopata is an example of an autonomously developed adaptive

strategy which has survived from pre-Incaic times and has been altered

to meet the current needs of the population. Older strategies of lowland

exploitation have not been given up in favor of integration into a cash

economy. Rather, the Aymara of Sarata consciously introduced cash crops

into a lowland ecosystem and reshaped their traditional migratory pattern

just enough to accommodate this new development. Their seasonal migra-

tory activity exemplifies the way in which a "marginal" population has,

at least temporarily, been able to exercise control over the changes

which accompany the introduction of awestern-style cash economy.

This favorable situation may be reversed at any time, however,

by government policies which would deny highlanders access to valley

lands, as the Law of Peasant Communities did, at least on paper, in

1969. Government policy makers are often unaware of the close relation-

ships between highland and valley ecosystems. They do not recognize that

to deny people from areas like Sarata access to lowland regions would

at worst jeopardize their subsistence, and at best, trigger mass migra-

tion to the already overcrowded cities of the Peruvian coast. The idea

that migration to the lowlands is a recent phenomenon caused by land

shortages led policy makers in the Peruvian government to feel that

token land redistribution in the highlands would make seasonal migration

unnecessary. This widespread misconception could lead current officials

to the conclusion that token development efforts in the highlands would

make control of lowland ecosystems unnecessary to its inhabitants, and

thus further the current trend to place ceja de selva and selva lands

in the hands of large corporations (Agronoticias 1980).

Finally, the ceja de selva of the Tambopata Valley is part of

an ecological zone which has, until recently, seen very little develop-

ment in Peru. The experience of saratenos in bringing this zone into

production, and the changes brought about by the introduction of cash

crops, provide important insights into the problems involved in the

exploitation of the region. To date, all efforts to colonize the

Peruvian ceja de selva by persons unfamiliar with the zone have failed.

As a model of seasonal use, by persons who have experience in the

region and whose survival in many ways depends on it, the example

provided by saratenos is significant. Actions which would deny sara-

tenos access to the valley would not only deny them resources which are of

the utmost importance for their survival in the altiplano environment.

It would also ignore a potential model for the effective utilization of

a previously unexploited ecological zone.

Highland Aymara in the Tropical Forest

Five hundred years ago, the people of Sarata went to Tambopata

to mine for gold. They went on foot, carrying their food and supplies

in by llama caravan. The journey made this way required ten days (see

Figure 1-2). The old foot paths are still followed by present-day

merchants who take horses and mules to the valley to sell, but this

older pattern has largely been replaced by more modern forms of trans-


In the 1940s a road was built from the altiplano to the town

of Sandia, which is the capital of the province in which the Tambopata

valley lies (see Figure 1-3). Many people took trucks as far as Sandia,

then walked the three days more required to reach the small town of San

Juan del Oro, in the heart of the coffee region. At the present time

the road runs all the way to San Juan, but the area under cultivation

has expanded so greatly that many plots still lie more than a full day's

walk from the road.

The road is a mixed blessing. The journey by foot was long and

difficult and could not be made more than once or twice a year. The

journey by truck is easier, and people are able to travel back and forth

---- 10 km

oIeM 5000 meles

Figure 1-2. Sarata, the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, and San Juan
del Oro

(After Berthelot 1978:949)

4,) o

0 r C


* 4 1) -


.4. l -. N

~ --


ci C

-, >,,
\ N


I0 =



* N

between the highlands and the valley more frequently, but the danger of

the journey is not decreased. The road is entirely of dirt, and once

it enters the valley it consists mostly of a strip wide enough for one

vehicle carved out of the side of a cliff. Its narrowness forces a

general agreement among truck drivers that certain days of the week will

be for traffic descending into the valley, while the rest are for traffic

which is leaving. With the exposed earth of the cliffs on one side of

the road, and the river gorge on the other, landslides are frequent in

the rainy season. At the most conservative estimate, 15 people from the

district of Sarata lost their lives traveling to and from the valley in


The people of Sarata own their lands in Tambopata. The Delega-

ci6n de Tierras de Montana("Delegation of Jungle Lands"), passed in 1946,

made it possible for potential "colonists" to claim small extensions of

land. After years of bureaucratic confusion, in which people had to

claim and reclaim and sometimes lost the same piece of land, the process

for obtaining land appears to have been stabilized. It is currently

controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture. The mean size of a producer's

plots in the valley is 3.5 hectares (Instituto Nacional de Planificaci6n

1979) although a few people have managed to gain access to ten hectares

or more.

Once land is obtained, it is cleared by slash and burn techniques.

The dense vegetation is cut down in June and July and burned after it is

dry, in August or September. Previously propagated seedlings are set

out in January or February and are replanted about three meters apart in

March. All of the coffee grown in the valley is a variety of mild

Arabica, similar to that grown in El Salvador.

Although none equal coffee in importance, other crops are also

grown in the valley and many of them are actually intercropped with the

coffee trees. Corn is often planted between coffee seedlings the

first year, to provide protection from the sun and rain. Plaintains

are also started among the coffee to provide shade once the trees are

larger. Yuca and taro, or papa japonesa (Colocasia esculenta) are grown

for personal consumption during periods of work in the valley, and rice

is being produced more frequently as cultivators move into lower areas

more suitable to its cultivation. Oranges, pineapples, tangerines,

lemons, papaya,and dozens of other fruits grow well and are often sold

to intermediaries for marketing outside the valley.

Approximately three to four years after planting, the coffee

trees produce their first cherries, and they are usually in full produc-

tion after the fifth year. The harvest takes place from April through

September since not all the cherries ripen at the same time. In the

early years of coffee production, techniques for removing the hull from

the bean were extremely rudimentary. Growers placed the coffee in a fast-

moving stream for as long as 15 days until the outer fruit was partially

decayed. This was then removed either by trampling with the feet or by

hand. This process often left the bean, as well as the hull, decayed,

a condition referred to a cafe abombeado. At the present time, nearly

all coffee growers own small machines with which to hull their harvest.

Most producers of coffee depend on a labor besides their own,

at least for the period of the harvest. They tend to rely on people who

are either related by kinship or are members of the same altiplano

community. Only if no one in either of these categories can be found

to help, will strangers be hired. Because of the small resident popula-

tion, workers must be convinced to travel from the altiplano. They are

provided with all their meals and a place to stay in the valley, in

addition to their daily wage, and are usually given a day off with pay

(pallaka) every five to six days.

Most of those who come to pick coffee as day laborers are younger

people. If conditions in the valley agree with them, they will often

claim a plot of their own. In this case, they can usually depend on

the friend or relative they are working for to help them clear and

plant their land, and they, in turn, will continue to help harvesting

that person's fields until their own trees are producing. This is the

most common way for new claims to be staked in the valley, and it is

but one example of how the labor exchange mechanisms of the altiplano

are relied on in the lowland environment.

From the time it was introduced in Tambopata until the late

1960s, coffee was marketed through private intermediaries. Producers

would carry the sacks of coffee on their backs from San Juan to Sandia

where it was sold. Whether they sold it to small-scale transporters or

to larger interests, it all eventually reached the hands of a few com-

panies in the altiplano commercial center of Juliaca, who bulked it and

sold it on the national or international market.

In the 1960s the Peruvian govenrment set up a network of coffee

cooperatives. These were designed to make technical assistance, inputs,

and credit more easily available to producers. They also become the

only legal mechanism for coffee marketing in the nation. There are

currently base-level cooperatives in the Tambopata Valley. Each inte-

grates several hundred producers, who tend to group together according to

the altiplano communities to which they belong. Base level cooperatives

are integrated into a regional organization known as CECOVASA (the

Central Office of the Cooperatives of the Valleys of Sandia), which is

located in Juliaca. The regional office bulks the coffee, grinds some

of it, and sends it to the national headquarters which finally places it

on the international market.

While the creation of the cooperatives effectively ended the

business of the large private sector traders, there are still opportuni-

ties for speculation by small-scale intermediaries. The cooperatives

have a practice of giving small down-payments to producers when coffee

is turned in, and then paying them the remainder when the trend of prices

on the world market is better known. This usually allows the cooperative

to pay higher prices than would be possible were they forced to make an

early estimate. It also allows speculators to buy coffee from culti-

vators who need cash early in the season, at prices considerably below

what the cooperative will pay later. They hold the coffee until the

price rises sufficiently, and then sell it to the cooperative them-

selves for the higher price.

The most salient characteristic of coffee production in Tambopata,

as practiced by the people of Sarata, is the way in which it is inte-

grated with subsistence activities on the altiplano. By careful

distribution of household labor, production is carried out in two

distinct and distant ecological zones. Fortunately, the coffee harvest,

which requires the heaviest investments of labor, takes place largely

during the dry season, when there is little agricultural work to be done

on the altiplano. The beginning of the coffee harvest in April and

May overlaps somewhat with the breaking open of fallow land and the

harvest in the highlands, however, and the end of the harvest and Sep-

tember weeding in the valley also coincide with the beginning of the

altiplano planting season. At these times, and during the December coffee

weeding, labor is shuffled back and forth between highlands and lowlands

as necessary.

This opportunistic movement of productive household members, is

in part made possible by the flexible sexual division of labor among the

Aymara of Sarata. Both men and women engage in all types of agricultural

activity and both men and women will migrate to the valley to carry out

production there when necessary. Since men are considered better at

plowing fallow land on the altiplano, they may work at this task while

women go to the valley to weed and begin the coffee harvest in April. The

women most often return to the altiplano by May, in order to begin the

potato harvest, since they are considered better at this activity.

Their husbands then travel to the valley to resume the coffee harvest.

There is one rule which is never violated in the distribution of

labor between the highlands and the lowlands: at least one adult house-

hold member must remain on the altiplano at all times. The subsistence

of the households of Sarata depends on their highland fields and their

livestock, and someone must always be there to care for the crops and

animals and the household complex. For this reason, although both men

and women migrate, they rarely do so together. Instead, they move back

and forth individually between the two zones, according to where their

presence is necessary.

Land Tenure, Energy Deficiency, and Seasonal Migration

Producing simultaneously in highland and lowland ecosystems,

and the constant movement of household members necessary to maintain it,

seems intuitively awkward to many outside observers. If one looks at

the productive activities of the Aymara of Sarata with western expecta-

tions of consolidated landholdings and fixed residence, they appear to be

a makeshift solution--a way to make ends meet until better alternatives

are available. Perhaps it is for this reason that most investigators

who have had occasion to deal with the migration to Tambopata, have

assumed that seasonal migration is a temporary stage in what will even-

tually become a permanent colonization movement.

The Puno-Tambopata project was a joint development effort of the

Peruvian government and the United Nations, carried out in the 1950s.

In addition to initiating development projects on the altiplano, it

attempted to improve the infrastructure of the Tambopata Valley in order

to stabilize the already existing settlement there and to attract new

migrants. Such efforts were based on a belief that once the health and

transport situation in the valley was improved, seasonal migrants would

begin to settle there permanently. Both Alfred Metraux (1956) and H6ctor

Martinez (1969), who worked in the zone in the 1940s and 1950s, also

expressed the view that people would eventually cease to return to the

altiplano and would take up permanent residence in the ceja de selva.

By the 1980s, such a transition to permanent settlement had not

occurred, at least not among the Aymara cultivators of Sarata. There

is, of course, a resident population in the valley, but it is made up

almost exclusively of shop owners and merchants from the Quechua-speaking

areas of Puno. Virtually no coffee-growers remain in the region year-


In explaining the persistence of a seasonal migratory pattern,

two factors must be considered. The first is the perception of the high-

landers that there is no possibility of subsistence on the resources of

the valley alone. The food crops that can be grown there are seen as

limited, and it is recognized that they deplete the soil quickly. Work

in the coffee fields is by nature seasonal, and while it provides wel-

come cash with which to supplement altiplano subsistence, the amounts

received could never suffice to feed a family for a year.

Subsistence activities in the valley are not only viewed as

insufficient but as insecure. The money made from coffee is subject to

strong market fluctuations as well as to the control of the cooperatives.

The land claim process is seen as overly bureaucratic and arbitrary and

there is always a suspicion on the part of producers that their rights

to land could be suspended. All of these are factors outside the control

of the producers and they make the risk of trying to support a household

on valley activities seem far too high.

The second factor which helps explain why the people of Sarata do

not move permanently to the valley is that they have a tradition of

seasonal migration which stretches back hundreds of years. This seasonal

migration has most often been directed toward lowland areas where crops

were grown or trade was engaged in to supplement highland subsistence.

This is the same role that the income from coffee plays today.

Accounts which have insisted that the visits of saratenos to

Tambopata would eventually give way to permanent colonization have

ignored the time depth of the pattern of seasonal movement. They have

focused on current problems of the altiplano environment assuming that

the movement to Tambopata is a response to forces unleashed only in the

past few decades. Kuczynski-Godard (1945), Metraux (1956), Martinez (1969)

and the Instituto Nacional de Planificaci6n (1979) have all attributed

the migration to Tambopata to population pressure and parcelization of


Landholdings on the altiplano, and in the district of Sarata in

particular, are indeed small. The average amount of cultivable land per

person is 0.5 hectares. Holdings are smaller on land near Lake Titicaca,

and larger as one moves further away from it. Since the land further

from the lake is less productive, more of it is needed to produce the

same amounts. However, none of the studies mentioned above actually

demonstrated that the small size of landholdings was related in any way

to the seasonal migration.

The present study hopes to show that while seasonal migratory

movements are related to deficiencies in the altiplano environment, they

are not necessarily related to a shortage of land. The deficiencies

referred to are energetic in nature, and are related to the particulari-

ties of the high-altitude environment. The problems of survival they

have created for the altiplano population are of long standing, and

seasonal migration is an important historical strategy for solving these


There are some households in Sarata whose landholdings are not

enough for all their children to inherit. In these cases, one or more

of the children may migrate, but in these cases, Tambopata is rarely

the destination. More often than not such migration will be directed

toward the coastal cities--Tacna, Ilo, Mollendo, or Lima--to Juliaca, the

local commercial center, or to La Paz, Bolivia.

It is extremely difficult to obtain accurate figures on such

migration, since in one case it is on a local level, in another it is

international and thus often illegal, and since in almost all cases

there are frequent trips made back to the home community. A survey con-

ducted by the Instituto Nacional de Planificaci6n in 1979 revealed that

44.7 percent of the population of the department of Puno had migrated

at least once in their lifetime. If this figure is accepted as a rough

estimate for the district of Sarata, and the 30 percent of the district's

population which migrates to Tambopata is subtracted, approximately 15

percent of the population appears to have migrated to these other areas

at least once.

For most altiplano households, labor is a scarce commodity.

The high rates of daily caloric expenditure presented in Chapter Three

attest to this fact, as does the vitality of mechanisms of labor exchange.

The accomplishment of critical agricultural tasks within the required

time span is a challenge faced by most families on a yearly basis.

Many households, if given more land outright, would find their ability

to work it hindered by the constraints imposed by the critical periods

for harvest, plowing, and planting.

The present work argues that the altiplano can be classified as

an energy-deficient region. This concept is defined and the data which

lead to such a conclusion are presented in Chapters Three and Four. To

call a region energy-deficient means that the reproduction of individuals

and the growth of the population is limited by the availability of energy.

On the altiplano, low temperatures, periodicity of rainfall, low avail-

ability of oxygen and carbon dioxide, poor soils, drought, hail, and

frost often reduce altiplano yields to a point where producers may barely

net an energetic return. When large crop losses occur several years in

a row, as they did in the drought of the 1950s, the balance between energy

expended and what is available to be consumed may shift to negative.

Given these circumstances, bringing more land under cultivation

would not be the most rational solution to the problems of altiplano

producers. Painter (1978) has described a range of activities in which

altiplano cultivators expend their labor during periods which are not

critical to agriculture. Such activities, of which seasonal migration is

the most important, have traditionally provided energy subsidies for

altiplano households. Historically, these subsidies have taken the form

of food or other goods produced or traded for at lower altitudes. At the

present time, while such goods remain important, a cash income from

the sale of coffee or the sale of one's labor has become a frequent goal.

The cash can then be transformed into additional food or clothing for

the household, improvements to the household complex, or into certain

types of consumer goods which are rapidly increasing in popularity in

the district of Sarata.

Geertz (1963), Boserup (1965), Bartlett (1976), and others have

discussed the way in which population increases in a region lead to

intensification of productive labor. Archaeological remains of agricul-

tural terracing are evidence for the long history of intensive agriculture

on the altiplano. The records of the Inca overlords encountered by Garci

Diez de San Miguel in Chucuito in 1567 (Murra 1964) showed the population

of that region to have been 170,000 before the Spanish Conquest (Sanchez-

Albornoz 1974:44). With the Conquest, a rate of depopulation of approxi-

mately two-thirds occurred on the altiplano. The Peruvian Census of

1972 shows that only today is the population of what was then Chucuito

approaching pre-Conquest levels. The ecological setting, the pre-

Conquest population, and the Conquest history of the district of Sarata

are similar in every respect to that of Chucuito, and there is no reason

to assume that the dynamics of its population change have been signifi-

cantly different. Given the limited production of the region, intensi-

fication of agriculture could not continue indefinitely when population

was at high levels. Vertical patterns of exploitation have historically

been necessary for survival in the region, and they continued even after

depopulation, when land was abundant.

Historical Contact with the Ceja de Selva

The Pre-Hispanic Roots

It has long been believed that the ceja de selva region of the

eastern Andes is, and has been, an uninhabited place. The soils of the

steeply sloped tropical rain forest were seen as too delicate to permit

more than a year or two of cultivation, prohibiting large settlements or

permanent occupation of any one region (Lanning 1967:197). The eastern

face of the Andes was considered to have been a natural barrier between

the aboriginal groups of the Tropical Forest and the high Andes.

Recent archaeological excavations have shown such assumptions

to be untrue. Large settlements, stone architecture and extensive

terracing have been found in association with highland ceramic traditions

in many parts of the ceja de selva below 1500 meters (Ryd6n 1952; Bonavia

1968; Lathrap 1970; Thompson 1968). Extensive systems of terraces and

large settlements at pre-Incaic sites in the Inambari Valley, near

Tambopata, provide evidence of heavy population pressure and intensive

agriculture as low as 800 meters (Isbell 1968). Lathrap (1970) has shown

that the lower ceja de selva was occupied by Tropical Forest groups from

1800 B.C. onward. Ethnographic and ethnohistorical work by Camino (1978)

and Gade (1972) has documented extensive contact and trade between

highland and lowland peoples, as has the discovery of Amazonian materials

in early highland archaeological sites (Wing 1972; Wassdn 1972).

Murra (1964) has called attention to the exploitation of Peruvian

coastal valleys by the Aymara-speaking Lupaqa kingdom of the altiplano

in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Lupaqa were based on the south side

of Lake Titicaca, near the present-day town of Chucuito. They relied

on corn, fruits, cotton, and other products from the Pacific coast, as

did other Aymara-speaking kingdoms of the altiplano, such as the Pacajes

(Murra 1972). The Lupaqa gained access to coastal products through

seasonal migration to trade, and through the placement of small colonies

in the region. Their large herds of animals gave them a means of trans-

port for the goods. Because of their many animals and access to a wide

range of products, the Indians of Chucuito became renowned for their

wealth. They became so famous, in fact, that during the first years of

the Conquest they were given a special status before the Spanish king and

were exempted from the encomienda--or allotment of Indian labor to a

Spanish "guardian."

The Lupaqa, as well as the other chiefdoms of the altip1lano,

also had access to land in the eastern Andean valleys. Saignes (1978) has

documented the presence of groups of Colla, Pacajes, and Lupaqa in the

fertile valleys of Carabaya, Ambana, and Larecaja in northern Bolivia and

southern Peru. As on the Pacific coast, the valleys were cultivated by

colonists, and the products, in this case mainly corn and coca, were

transported to the altiplano by llama caravan.

The eastern Andean valleys, like those of the coast, were char-

acterized by the multitude of ethnic groups which exploited them (Saignes

1978; Murra 1975). Their proximity, however, made them especially

important to the inhabitants of the northeastern shore of Lake Titicaca,

where the district of Sarata lies today. Friar Reginaldo de Lizarraga,

who passed along the northern lake shore in 1609, commented:

This province is heavily populated and for the most part
they are Puquinas; they are rich in camelids and they par-
ticipate [in the tribute system] with more corn and wheat
than those of the other part [the Lupaqa] because they have
at their left hand the province of Larecaja which abounds
in both these products. (1968:72)

The products of the valleys of Ambana and Larecaja are still of great

importance to the people of Sarata. The valleys are known collectively

to the inhabitants of the district as Wallisa, which in Aymara means "our

valleys." Although restrictions posed by the international border prevent

them from cultivating land there any longer, many families still travel

frequently to Wallisa to trade highland products for corn.

While ethnohistorical sources do not allow the exploitation of

lowland resources by peoples of the altiplano to be traced back further

than the Incaic period (see Figure 1-4) the research of Murra (1975) and

Saignes (1978) makes it clear that the colonies in the eastern valleys

were not mitmae sent by the Inca rulers. They were, on the contrary,

placed in the valleys and controlled by the regional powers of the

altiplano. This leaves open the question of the antiquity of such a

strategy, since it was not an importation of the Inca empire, but a

model native to the altiplano.

Recent archaeological work extends considerably the time frame

within which contact between the highlands and lowlands can be examined.

The Nino Korin finds, in the present-day department of La Paz, Bolivia,

provide evidence for early highland contact with the selva region. The

site, which lies only a day's walk from the district of Sarata, is clearly

from the Tihuanacoid period (approximately 600-1000 A.D.). A set of

AD 2000






t oriz n 1500-
Late Intermediate
Period 1000
Middle Horizon
- 500
Early Intermediate
Early Horizon 1000
Initial Period


F- coffee

Peruvian Republic established

reduccion of Sarata established
.__-mines of PotosE opened/San Juan del Oro
-Spanish arrive
-onquest of altiplano by Inca Tupac Yupanqui
Altiplano Chiefdoms


- Pucara

3000 t


5000 I Beginnings of plant & animal domestication

6000 1

Early hunters

Figure 1-4. Major eras in the history and prehistory of the northern
altiplano and the Tambopata Valley

plant products and associated implements were found, which appear to

have belonged to a native healer (Wassen 1972). Several of the plants

are not native to the altiplano and the closest possible environment

in which they could have been found is in the lower part of the

Bolivian yunqas. It appears likely that one plant specimen may have

been traded into the region from as far away as the eastern slopes of

the Ecuadorian Andes (Schultes 1972).

A Tihuanacoid settlement has also been discovered on the Apurimac

River, at the point where upstream canoe navigation becomes impossible.

Immediately below this highland settlement, a Tropical Forest Culture

site is found (Scott 1972). Lathrap (1973) suggests that such place-

ment of Tihuanacoid settlements is not uncommon. It seems likely

from these sites that the altiplano-based Tihuanaco empire engaged in

active trade relationships with lowland peoples. Lathrap (1970) and

Lanning (1967) both give examples of even earlier interchanges between

highland and lowland cultures, but there has not yet been sufficient

archaeological research in the eastern Andes to speculate on the nature

or intensity of such interchanges.

Lumbreras (1974) has suggested that the effective use of

strategies of vertical exploitation, rather than conquest, many have

been responsible for the Tihuanacoid expansion. In the specific case

of the altiplano, the exploitation of lowland regions can first be

documented in conjunction with Tihuanacoid materials. In other parts of

the world the expansion and consolidation of complex, state-level

societies are associated with the intensification of agriculture. It

seems likely that on the altiplano it was linked to large-scale strate-

gies of vertical exploitation.

For the chiefdoms which controlled the altiplano from the fall

of Tihuanaco to the time of the Inca conquest, the lowlands provided a

wealth of useful items: cotton, fruits, corn, peppers, spices, and

medicinal herbs,to name but a few. Under the Inca, for the first time,

gold began to be exploited in large quantities. The mines and rivers of

the Tambopata Valley were rich beyond imagination in this mineral. In

fact, the mines of Carabaya (as the Spanish designated the selva of Puno)

were known as "the most opulent of all of America" by the 17th century

(Bueno 1951; Maurtua 1906:1).

The Search for Gold and the Escape from Forced Labor

Under Inca domination, the large sites of gold excavation in

Carabaya were the property of the Inca himself and were worked by mitmae.

Gold which could be panned from the rivers and streams was designated as

property of the communities of the northeastern lake-shore, or more

properly speaking, of the communal authorities (Berthelot 1978). During

Inca rule, the people of Sarata panned for gold in the valley nearly

three months of every year, during "the time when their absence would

not be felt in the fields" (Jim6nez de la Espada 1965:69).

The earliest Spanish encomenderos in the region, Felipe Guti6rrez,

Francisco de Carvajal,and a Capitan Soto, saw this as a custom worthy of

continuation. They laid claim to the large excavations of gold, as

well as to that panned from the rivers. They relied on the altiplano

communities to provide the knowledge of the area, the techniques, and

the labor for the mining of the latter (Jimenez de la Espada 1965:69).

After the discovery of silver at Potosi in 1545, the labor of

saratenos was diverted to that enormous mining enterprise. The Spanish

did not neglect the gold of the valleys, however. The town of San Juan

del Oro was founded on the Tambopata River around 1547, probably by

fugitive Spaniards of the parties of Pizarro and Almagro (Raimondi

1883). Cieza de Leon noted in his chronicle of 1553 that the town of

San Juan had by that time sent out "more than 1,700,000 gold pesos."

One famous nugget which was shaped like a horse's head and weighed more

than 100 pounds won the title of "Villa Imperial" for San Juan (Bueno

1951). Catholic missions were also established in the valley by the

time of the expeditions of Juan Alvarez de Maldonado in the 1560s

(Maurtua 1906:11, 134), although the difficult terrain kept their activ-

ity to a minimum for many years.

Another valuable lowland commodity produced by altiplano dwellers

under the Inca, if not earlier, was coca. Like the mining of gold,

the cultivation of coca was encouraged and perhaps expanded by the

Spaniards. Particularly after the opening of the mines at Potosi, coca

for the workers was considered essential and inhabitants of the north-

eastern lake shore were sent to work in the coca fields of the Bolivian


Thierry Saignes has said, "after the Conquest, the Spanish tried

to impose a radically foreign spatial arrangement: in fixing the

Indians in their places of residence, they awoke the contradictions

whose stage was set under Inca policy" (1978:1168). It is true that

the Spanish had a concept of fixed residence, and that they tried to

impose this concept on the native population of the Americas. The

grouping of Indians into reducciones under Viceroy Toledo was but one

example of such policy. Despite their best administrative efforts, the

Spanish were never able to achieve the kinds of stable settlement

patterns which they had hoped would facilitate the execution of their


The incessant movement of the highland population of Peru and

Bolivia to avoid tribute and the mit'a (forced labor) has been docu-

mented by Sanchez-Albornoz (1974). He estimates that as much as 60 per-

cent of highland inhabitants may have been living outside their home

communities throughout most of the 17th century. A document which he

published dealing with the labor shortage which this situation was

causing for the mines of Potosi, in 1690, includes a reference to the

district of Sarata. In it, the captain of the town of Sarata testified

that the governor of the district was robbing the people of their lands

and that "for this reason the Indians have fled to different provinces

and the mit'a arrives so diminished in size" (Sanchez-Albornoz 1978:139).

Kubler has also commented on the movements of the forasteros, as

the mobile population was called. He noted that when the censused

Peruvian tribute population of 1628 was compared with that for 1754,

only 11 provinces gained in population. Three of these were the urban

centers of Lima, Cuzco,and Cajamarca. Seven of the remaining eight were

situated along the eastern Andean frontier. Kubler suggests that this

was a result of "eastward flight . to new settlements in the

uncharted montana," by people avoiding the mit'a and tribute payments


Ulloa, in discussing the history of the southern Peruvian selva,

puts the matter plainly:

When the Spanish dominated Peru, it is probable, even
certain, that in the provinces of Cuzco and the Collao
there took place a strong out-migration toward these
[selva] regions. It is known that the Spanish authorities,
when they undertook the so-called reducci6n of tributable
Indians, complained of the disappearance of immense
numbers of them: some declared explicitly that the In-
dians took refuge and lodged themselves among the heathen
chunchus and others. (1899:19)

This strategy of retreating to the selva in times of adversity

is one which has continued to the present day. Large numbers of high-

landers fled to the selva after all of the major Indian revolts on the

altiplano in order to avoid the subsequent repression. The last of these

revolts took place in the second decade of this century. The physician

Kuczynski-Godard, who visited the Tambopata Valley in the 1930s, commented

that the majority of its population was composed of refugees from the

1922-23 Indian uprising of the northern altiplano (1945:70). It would

seem unlikely that a strategy of taking refuge in the selva would be

practiced by people who had no experience in the region.

Missions, Quinine, and Rubber

Spanish missionization of the Tambopata Valley became more

active under the Bishop of Cuzco in the 1670s. The town of San Juan

del Oro had been destroyed in 1650, either by an earthquake or an

Indian invasion (Raimondi 1883) but had been reestablished by the

1670s, and other towns were built as well. Most of the Indians who were

missionized were of a group called the Toromona, who were slash-and-

burn agriculturalists and appear to have spoken a language of the

Tacana family (Maurtua 1906:11; Steward 1963).

The evangelization of the valley was considered a burden by the

earliest clerics. A group from La Paz had entered the region in the

1600s only to give up their efforts. The valley was too narrow either

for animals or agriculture, they said, and trips to bring in supplies

were difficult and dangerous. They redirected their efforts toward the

Larecaja Valley of present-day Bolivia where living conditions were


Only with the discovery of quinine in the early 19th century did

missionization in Tambopata become intense. During this epoch a fierce

rivalry over mission rights sprang up between clerical groups of La Paz

and Cuzco. By 1806, Cuzco had given responsibility for the zone to

a missionary school in Moquegua, who were provided with instructions

and funds for the establishment or reducciones. Around this time, the

La Paz fathers reentered the valley, claiming that they had made first

contact with the Indians and therefore had the right to reduce them.

The dispute was brought to an abrupt end, however, when, as a result of

preliminary efforts to institute the new settlement pattern, the last

of the contacted Toromona succumbed to a wave of disease.

By the mid-18th century there were 29 Spanish settlements in

the Carabaya region. Large coca plantations had been established along

the Inambari River and gold mining and panning continued on a small

scale. In Larecaja and other valleys of the Bolivian yungas, people

from Sarata continued to cultivate land and exchange products, or to

work as laborers on the coca haciendas (Martfnez 1969).

The early 19th century, as noted, brought quinine exploitation

to the valleys of the eastern Andes. While the curative properties of

cascarilla (Cinchona mecrantha, Calisaya febrifuga, and Cinchona bolivi-

ana) for malaria had long been known to Europeans, confusion over the

exact identity of the bark had prevented its widespread use. Only when

the European colonial expansion into Africa in the 19th century created

an urgent need for an anti-malarial drug, were the scientific problems

resolved, and was widespread gathering of Cinchona for quinine begun in

the jungles of Latin America (McNeill 1976).

By the 1840s quinine had become one of Peru's most vital exports.

The population of the altiplano participated in the gathering of casca-

rilla. The most active participants were from Quecha-speaking areas

around Pucara. While many of the Quechuas entered as independent collec-

tors or to establish tambos or trading posts, the Aymara of Sarata had

less voice in their entrance into the trade. After a regional uprising

in the 1860s against the reinstitution of personal tribute, large

numbers of saratenos were "deported" to the valleys of Carabaya (VAsquez

1976). While the deportation was nominally punitive in nature, it also

served to provide labor for the extraction of Cinchona bark.

Previous experience in the lowlands had made altiplano dwellers

aware of, but not immune to, lowland diseases and dangers. They knew

that in the rain forest environment the risks of malaria, uta

(leishmoniasis), respiratory disease and skin and intestinal ailments

were great. They also feared poisonous snakes and the wild animals

which at that time were still numerous in the valley. CIPCA (1976:25)

has suggested that during early colonizations of the Bolivian yungas

by altiplano peoples, colonizing households may have rotated frequently

to avoid these types of health problems.

In the oral history of the people of Sarata there are references

to the dangers encountered in the gathering of Cinchona bark. In

particular, the era of exploitation of quinine was known as "the time

when 'tigers' learned to eat people." Because the gatherers had to be

constantly climbing the steep slopes of the valley, many lost their

lives by plunging to the bottom of ravines. It is said that when

the "tigers" (probably jaguars) came upon these dead bodies and devoured

them, they acquired the taste for human flesh which causes them to hunt

human beings today.

The exploitation of quinine came to an end in the 1870s when

the wild Cinchona of the Peruvian selva became unable to compete with

the plantation-grown product of Java and Ceylon. Incense and copal,

which had been gathered in conjunction with quinine, also declined with

it. The valley returned to a pattern of small-scale gold exploitation,

which was now largely in the control of foreign interests.

By the turn of the century, rubber exploitation had replaced

quinine. The rubber of the eastern Andean valleys was of poor quality.

Exploitation in the valleys of Carabaya was confined to wild plants.

Rubber gathering was conceived of as a one-time, all-or-nothing enterprise,

and the rubber was not removed from the trees carefully. Most trees

were destroyed in the process (Martinez 1969).

The rubber industry in southern Peru was largely in the hands

of North American companies such as Inca Rubber, Tambopata Rubber, and

Compania Forga. They recruited labor through local political officials.

The officials would bring together groups of young men, by persuasion

or by force, who were taken down to work in the valley. Although their

labor was contracted for a certain period of time at a certain price,

a person entering the valley in this fashion could be held in virtual

slavery. Once the agreed-upon period of labor was completed, it was

claimed that contractors would refuse to pay the workers. This meant

that they had no way of provisioning themselves for the return trip and

consequently could not leave the valley (Martinez 1969:419). Peruvian

rubber, like Peruvian quinine, quickly became anti-economical in the

face of new market developments, and even if it had not, the techniques

of exploitation applied to it in the Tambopata Valley made it a non-

renewable resource.

The Twentieth Century

The 1920s were a period of violence and unrest on the northern

altiplano. A drop in wool prices and subsequent attempts at expansion

by haciendas in the region disposessed smallholders of significant

portions of their lands (Orlove 1976). At the same time, social changes

were being instigated by groups such as the North American Adventist

Church and the Lima-based Society for the Protection of Indian Rights.

These changes, which consisted mainly of the construction of schools

for the indigenous population, were actively opposed by local elites

who feared that the Indians might cease providing them with the labor

services and rent they were accustomed to receiving. This fear carried

some elite groups so far as to burn several of the newly constructed

Indian schools, an act which led to open defiance on the part of the

Indians and eventually to violence on the part of the elites.

Indians retaliated for the burning of the schools by marching

on the towns, where most of the elite families in question resided.

While no acts of violence were reported on the part of the indigenous

population, the "pacificatory" raids conducted by elite families were

a documented series of atrocities. As in the rebellion of Juan Busta-

mente in the 1860s, many hundreds of Indians were killed, their homes

burned, and their animals confiscated. There were public tortures and

executions in the plazas of all the towns on the northeastern side of

the lake and mass graves today mark the sites of the slaughter (Hazen

1974; Gallegos 1972; Luque 1977). Flight to the selva was virtually the

only way saratenos had to flee such repression. It is for this reason

that in 1937, Kuczynski-Godard found the majority of the population of

Tambopata to be refugees from the aftermath of the 1923 uprising.

There was another group of people seeking refuge in the Tambo-

pata Valley in the 1930s. These were families from the Bolivian and

Peruvian altiplano who had been cultivating land in the Bolivian valleys.

In order to avoid conscription for the Chaco War, they left their lands

there and moved into Tambopata. It was with these settlers that the

first coffee, and the techniques for its cultivation, were introduced

into the region.

Throughout the 1940s the production of coffee was scattered and

quite small in scale. It attracted the attention of government officials,

however, and an Office of Indian Migration was opened in 1944. By the

mid-1940s, the Puno-Tambopata Project was begun as a program of the

Peruvian Indianist Institute. Its stated goals were to increase the

production and income of the Department of Puno, provide an alternative

to rural-urban migration, and to increase sovereignty over a relatively

uninhabited area. It was also suggested that migration might serve to

defuse the potentially explosive situation which had been left by the

repression of the 1923 uprising (Hazen 1974:308-9).

In 1946 a law was passed (Ley 1220, La Delegaci6n de Tierras de

Montana) which allowed highlanders to legally claim land in the valley

and by the 1950s several development efforts made the trip to Tambopata

easier. A road was constructed as far as Sandia, using government and

United Nations funds and voluntary local labor. The Puno-Tambopata

project began construction of health facilities and other services in

the valley (Martinez 1969). These efforts facilitated migration to

Tambopata and increased the number of highlanders who participated.

They acted on behalf of a movement which had, however, already been

initiated and whose direction and seasonality had been determined by

local needs.

A further factor which gave impulse to the migration of the

1950s was the agrarian reform of the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario

in Bolivia. Peruvians who were cultivating, either permanently or

seasonally in the Bolivian yungas, could not receive allocations in the

new government's land reform. While a few families chose to remain

in the yungas, assume Bolivian citizenship, and continue cultivating,

most returned to Peru and many of those took up the production of

coffee in the Tambopata Valley.

More than any other factor, the Agrarian Reform in Bolivia

served to cut off the people of Sarata from their traditional lands in

the valleys of Ambana and Larecaja and other parts of the yungas. What

the reducciones, taxation, the creation of corregimientos, the institu-

tion of an international boundary, and countless other measures had not

accomplished, this did. The relationship of the people of Sarata with

the Bolivian valleys became limited to commercial ties--the interchange

of products of their respective homes. While trading trips to the

valleys to obtain corn are still an important activity in most of the

district of Sarata, the trip to the yungas is considered by most people

to be too long and burdensome. The increasing availability of corn

from Cuzco in the local market makes purchase of this item an attractive

alternative to a six-day walk. Many present-day saratenos have relatives

who stayed in the Bolivian yungas in 1952, most of whom they have not

seen in more than twenty years.

A final stimulus to the migration to grow coffee in Tambopata

was the severe drought which dried up the altiplano year after year toward

the end of the 1950s. By far the majority of people from Sarata who

migrate to Tambopata had their first contact with the zone, either on

their own or through a family member, during this period. The stories

which are told about this time reflect the horror of families facing

starvation. Food supplies stored for many years were used up. There

was no seed to plant and no food to feed the workers to open up the

land. By the time the drought ended in 1960, virtually every household

in the area had been forced to find some way to supplement their

decimated production, and the cultivation of coffee in the Tambopata

Valley had been taken up by many families.

The Altiplano Setting

The political environment. The district of Sarata lies in the

province of Huancane in the department of Puno in southern Peru. The

district is bordered on the east by the department of La Paz, Bolivia,

and on the south by Lake Titicaca. To the north, it approaches the

eastern range of the Andes and to the west lie the major cities of the


Huancan6, the provincial capital lies 50 kilometers or about a

two-hour truck ride away. For the people of Sarata it serves mainly as

a legal and administrative center. The town abounds with lawyers, judges,

justices of the peace, notaries and scribes, who in the past made a good

living off the problems and legal disputes of an often illiterate peasant-

ry. With the legalization of Indian schools in the 1920s, the level of

literacy among the population grew rapidly, as did their understanding

of legal and administrative matters. Currently the people of Sarata

will bypass Huancan6 whenever possible to seek legal services in Juliaca,

or Puno, where judges and lawyers are felt to be better trained and less

dependent upon the exploitation of the rural population.

Juliaca, the regional center of commerce and transport, lies

50 kilometers beyond Huancan6. It is a three-hour truck ride from

Sarata in the dry season, but may take as long as six hours in the

rainy season, when roads are in bad condition. Juliaca has only achieved

regional importance in recent years. The town's process of growth

began with the construction of the Southern Peruvian Railroad's Arequipa

to Puno line in the late 19th century. What had been a tiny hamlet of

500 people in 1876 (Appleby 1980) was a booming commercial center of

nearly 120,000 people in 1980 (Caretas 1980a).

Trucks leave Sarata for Juliaca at 2:00 every morning. They

arrive around sunrise at which time the passengers begin transacting

business, and they are ready to start the return trip to Sarata by

10:00 a.m. The largest number of people make the trip on Monday, which

is the day when the major market is held in Juliaca. Saratenos may buy

such things as analine dye, rubber sandals, or hardware, either for

their own use or to sell at smaller markets in the town of Sarata or in

one of its communities. They may sell products of Bolivian origin or

occasionally cheeses, eggs, or beans.

Juliaca is a center of transport as well as of commerce. This

is of no small importance considering the wide variety of places to

which saratenos find it necessary to travel. Tambopata and the valleys

of Bolivia are the most frequently visited regions, but some sarate6os

travel to Lima, where they form a large percentage of the membership of

the street cleaners' union. Others travel for purposes of trade or

employment to Cuzco, Arequipa, Moquegua, or La Paz. They may travel to

work temporarily in the small mines of Puno or to the larger ones at

Toquepala in Tacna. They travel to work in the fishing industry in

places such as Ilo or Mollendo; to engage in commerce in Sicuani, Lampa,

Ayacucho, Huancayo, Abancay, and Iquitos; to trade in the coastal valleys

or Arequipa and Moquegua and of the ceja de selva of Cuzco; and to mine

for gold in Puerto Maldonado. The more adventurous people, who have made

money in transport or other business interests, are not strangers to

cities such as Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Buenos Aires in Argentina; or Sao

Paulo in Brazil. Virtually without exception the journeys made by

saratenos to these places are temporary--for the purpose of earning cash,

of trade or for some other type of business venture. Thus, the access

to larger networks of transportation provided by Juliaca is of great

importance. While train, bus, and air facilities are available, the

most popular means of transport are the literally hundreds of trucks

which enter and leave the Juliaca markets every day.

Juliaca's rapid growth and booming commerce caused Puno, the

departmental capital, to be overshadowed, at least in the eyes of

saratenos. Despite the fact that Puno lies only 40 kilometers beyond

Juliaca, and that the paved road connecting the two cities makes the

journey between them require less than an hour, people from Sarata

rarely have a reason to go there. With the exception of the highest

departmental officials, and the regional university, there is nothing in

Puno, in their perception, which cannot be acquired more easily and at

less cost in Juliaca.

This has not always been the case, for in the early part of

this century, steam transport linked the harbor of Puno with that of

Sarata and other small ports around the lake. Juliaca, lying inland,

was not a part of this transport network. A new road, constructed in

the 1940s, linked Juliaca with Sarata and the Bolivian border, at the

same time that steamship transport was ending. This effectively broke

the district's ties with Puno and there has been no reason since then

to reestablish them.

Political divisions within the district of Sarata are quite

complex. This is partly the result of political structures imposed at

different times by different governments, all of which have left their

mark on the system which exists today. The district of Sarata is divided

into 12 ayllu. As a pre-Hispanic unit of social structure the ayllu

remains in many ways a mystery. Based on analogy with present-day

use of the term, Isbell (1978) has defined it as a unit within which

certain bonds of kinship are recognized. Early Spanish documents suggest

that it may also have had political functions (Soldi 1978). Zuidema

(1977) has suggested that the term ayllu may have simply signified "a

group with a boundary" and may have been applied to social and political

groups of varying sizes and types.

The district of Sarata, like most of the rest of the Andes, pos-

sessed a bipartite division as well, with six of its ay11u falling into

each saya or part. The parts were called K"upisaya and Ch'iqasaya, or

part of the left and part of the right. Although both halves of the

district include diverse climatic and geographic subregions, saratenos

characterize K"upisaya as the zone of rich agricultural production and

Ch'iqasaya as the zone of animal wealth.

Within a few years of the Spanish Conquest, the ayllu system

had been adopted as an administrative tool. Despite the fact that many

ay11u had access to land that ran, discontinuously, from the lake shore

to the high altitudes near the eastern Andean range, people were known by

their ayllu membership. What ay11u a person belonged to was significant,

in other words, even though it told one little or nothing about where

they resided.

Only in the present century did ayllu begin to split apart, with

their component settlements establishing themselves as communities or

parcialidades. The most common motive for such action was to establish

each settlement as an independent unit in order that it might receive

its own school. The separation of an ayllu into communities was a

formal, legal process, involving a chartering of the new units and their

investment with the right to representation in the district government

by a teniente governador (lieutenant governor).

A few communities applied for formal recognition by the national

government's Office of Indigenous Affairs (prior to 1969) or through the

various organisms which handled that procedure under Peru's military

government (1968-1980). The benefits associated with recognized status

have varied throughout this century, from legal protection of land, to

technical assistance with development projects, but in no cases did the

recognized communities of Sarata receive any of these benefits.

The splitting apart of the ay11u has led to a binomial naming

system for communities and parcialidades. The ayllu name is retained,

but the unit is given an additional characterization to distinguish it

from the other subunits within the ayllu. For example, a community

formed out of the ay11u Q'arapata might become known as Wara Q'arapata--

"dry O'arapata"--becauseof its lack of irrigation or access to water.

Janq'u Sikta--"white Sikta"--might refer to a part of an ayllu called

Sikta which is characterized by the salt flats within its boundaries.

The internal structure of the communities varies depending

on whether or not they have been officially recognized by the national

government. All communities have an appointed teniente, who acts as an

intermediary between the community and the district governor. Non-

recognized communities also have a president and other elected officials

who take care of community finances, organize work projects, see that

schools and other community buildings are maintained, etc. Recognized

communities have a Council of Administration (consejo de administraci6n)

and Council of Vigilance (consejo de vigilancia) whose officers carry out

functions similar to those of the president, vice-president, etc. of

non-recognized communities.

Under a law passed by the military government of 1968-1980, recog-

nized communities must set aside some portion of their land to be worked

in common for the benefit of the entire community. In Sarata, this

land is often used to cultivate supplemental food crops for the schools.

Members of recognized communities are also prohibited by law from owning

land or working outside the community. This rule, if enforced, would

not only prevent the diversification of landholdings as a protection

against localized frost and hail; it would prevent temporary migration

to the urban centers to seek work and it would deny the saratenos access

to their lands in the Tambopata Valley. Fortunately, to date there has

been no effort made to enforce this rule, although theoretically, if a

community from Sarata were to apply for any type of government benefit,

it would be necessary to show that they were in compliance with this law.

The twelve ayllus and 38 parcialidades or communities are not the

only political units in the district of Sarata. In the mid-18th century

a series of small haciendas were carved out of the eastern part of the

district. These were mainly herding enterprises, and they relied more

heavily on sheep and cattle than native camelids. Under the agrarian

reform of 1969-75, the haciendas were expropriated and restructured into

a SAIS (Sociedad Agqrcola de Inter6s Social or Agricultural Social Inter-

est Society).

As officially defined, the SAIS was to be cooperatively run by

hacienda workers and members of surrounding communities. In terms of its

actual operations, the communities never participated in the SAIS, either

in the formal decision-making body or as a part of its labor supply. The

enterprise suffered such severe financial problems from its outset that

even the former hacienda workers who were its labor force had to forego

wages during the second and third years of its operation (Juan Lira

Condori, personal communication). The SAIS is currently completely

dependent on loans from the Peruvian government for its survival. Accord-

ing to statements made in 1980 by the Minister of Agriculture of Peru's

new civilian government, collective enterprises which are not making a

profit will be reorganized again in the near future. It is not yet

clear, however, what a new reorganization will entail (Caretas 1980b).

The final political unit within the district is the town of

Sarata itself. The town, which is the district capital, has about 2000

residents, or approximately 10 percent of the population of the district.

As a political unit, the town, like the communities, has a teniente

gobernador. It also has a mayor and a town council which administer its

affairs. Fifty years ago, the town was the home of the regional mestizo

elite, who spoke both Aymara and Spanish and had ties both to people in

the communities and elite families at the departmental level. Until

recently this group controlled much of the commerce of the region, but

events of the past fifty years have changed this situation. Declining

opportunities in wool and agriculture forced the elites to the cities.

The young people of elite families left to receive an education and

never returned. The agrarian reform, or fear ot it, was the final factor

which loosed this group's control over the resources of the countryside.

At the same time the elites were leaving, the rural population was

taking advantage of new opportunities. People from rural communities

began to acquire capital from international commerce, and to gain

control of the district's transport facilities. When elite families

moved out of town and put their houses up for sale, people from rural

communities bought them. Having a house in town made it easier for

one's children to attend the district high school. Also since all

transport out of the district leaves at night, it made travel and commerce

more convenient.

The process of the old elite vacating the town and new entre-

preneurial sectors from the communities moving in is not unique to

Sarata. It appears to be occurring in district capitals all around

Lake Titicaca (Father Domingo Llanque, personal communication). In many

ways, this movement is responsible for a revitalization of the towns.

The new inhabitants see them as their home and do not have the goal of

finding a position in the departmental capital and moving out as did so

many of the elite. They are thus more concerned about the town's main-

tenance and the initiation of improvement projects. In 1980, the town

of Sarata had a hydroelectric plant, which produced electricity from 6 to

10 p.m., running potable water from a local spring, and well-equipped

health post. A sewage system was in the process of being installed.

Social stratification. The discussion of the town as a political

unit, inevitably leads to the topic of social class. The town-

countryside dichotomy has traditionally been the most important social

division in the district of Sarata (Painter 1981). Indigenous uprisings

have been frequent in the region from the 18th century to the 20th, and

these have invariably taken the form of the countryside marching on

the town with grievances and the townspeople retaliating with torture,

mass executions, and pillaging. This pattern began with the Tupac Amaru/

Tupac Katari uprisings of the 18th century, was continued with the cam-

paign of Juan Bustamente in the 1870s and repeated again in the Tawantin-

suyu movement of the 1920s.

At the heart of these events lay the determination of a mestizo

town elite (misti) to maintain control of production in a region, where

they owned very little of the land. To do so, the elite attempted to

engage the people of the countryside in patron-client relationships of

a fiercely possessive type. They demanded extreme expressions of sub-

servience and attempted to monopolize the Spanish language and the

educational system to their advantage (Painter 1981).

Town-countryside tensions have been reduced in recent years due

to the out-migration of the local elite. Control of commerce and vital

local services has given new economic power to former rural producers,

and members of the elite who have remained in Sarata have seen their

power diminish. Thus, while there is still a perception of a dichotomy

between the rural and urban populations, the economic basis of this

dichotomy is in the process of breaking down.

Language and ethnicity. The people of Sarata speak Aymara,

an indigenous language of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile which belongs to the

Jaqi language family (Hardman 1966). Everyone in the district, with

the exception of a few policemen assigned there temporarily, speaks

Aymara regardless of their social class, residence, or economic situa-

tion. Approximately half of the district's population speak Spanish to

some degree, with the greatest number of speakers under the age of thirty.

While Aymara is the language of the home, of the community, and of the

regional marketplace, Spanish must be learned in order to have access to

most written materials, to attend to bureaucratic or legal matters and

for one's travels to other parts of the country. For commercialists,

some knowledge of Cuzco Quechua is also important, in order to do

business in the town of Juliaca, which lies in a Quechua-speaking region.

The linguistic situation of Sarata has historically been complex.

The northeastern shore of Lake Titicaca was primarily Puquina-speaking

in the early days of the Spanish Conquest (Lizarraga 1968; Espinosa

Soriano 1980). The first Spanish priest to permanently reside in Sarata

learned both Aymara and Puquina in the course of carrying out his duties

(Salazar Aguilar and Cuentas Collado 1965). It is not known, however,

who within the region spoke Aymara and Puquina, nor to what degree bi-

lingualism in the two languages existed.

The imposition of Inca rule on the northern altiplano, in the late

15th century, introduced even greater linguistic and ethnic diversity.

Because the region had resisted Inca domination for so long, not only a

colony of Inca administrators was established, but Huanca mitmae from

central Peru were brought to the region for the purpose of maintaining

control (Toledo 1975). Inhabitants of the Sarata region were also

exposed to many languages in their travels to other places and their

exploitation of lowland ecosystems.

The linguistic and ethnic diversity of the past are illustrated

in an important ceremony which takes place in Sarata in association with

the fiesta of the Virgin of Candelaria in February. In this ceremony,

which is called Qurawasiri--"the sling-shot duelers"--four groups bring

special offerings to the district governor and then participate in a

ritual slingshot duel which predicts their fortunes in the year to come.

The groups which participate represent the Uru, from the lake shore

region where the tasa de Toledo (1975) recorded Uru living in 1573; the

Qulla, from the western part of the district near the heart of the

pre-Incaic Qulla chiefdom; the Inca, from certain lake shore communities;

and the Kullawaya, from the herding zone in the northeastern part of

the district near the home of the present-day Kullawaya healers (see

Bastien 1973; Stark 1972).

While it is known that the Inca administrators spoke Quechua,

and that the Qulla were Aymara-speaking, the languages which were asso-

ciated with the Kullawaya and Uru have not been well established. Either

one or both could have been speakers of Puquina, but whether they were

or not is by no means clear. What is clear, however, is that there were

at least four well-defined ethnic groups inhabiting what is today the

district of Sarata at or around the time of the Spanish Conquest, and

that present-day saratenos are aware of these past ethnic divisions.

The actual participants in the slingshot dual (which is carried

out with peaches rather than stones) are said to have genealogies which

go back several hundred years and which link them to the groups in

question. Because their responsibilities are genealogically determined,

everyone in the district agrees that this is the one ritual office which

cannot be avoided. In 1980, some of the people whose participation was

necessary had converted to Seventh Day Adventism, and did not wish to

comply. Enormous pressure was placed on them by others in their commun-

ities to insure that the ceremony would be carried out as usual.


Human Adaptation


An adaptation is, in the broadest sense of the word, a biologi-

cal or behavioral adjustment that serves to benefit the survival or

reproduction of an organism or population in a given environment (Little

and Morren 1976:2). The process by which such an adjustment occurs, in

most cases, is also known as adaptation. Such a broad definition encom-

passes the diverse types of adaptation studied by geneticists, physiolo-

gists, demographers, ecologists, and anthropologists. It emphasizes the

interaction of organism and environment which all adaptive processes


While many types of adjustments may prove to be adaptive in a

given setting, they do not all operate by the same mechanisms. In fact,

there are three basic levels on which adaptation can occur in human

populations. Genetic or evolutionary adaptation is a process by which

the genetic material of a population or group is altered cross-

generationally. This is very different from acclimatization, which

refers to physiological and developmental changes which affect individuals

and occur within a single lifetime. Cultural and behavioral adaptive

mechanisms are extra-somatic--they are not, in other words, properties of

human anatomy and physiology. They reflect the use of the capacity for

culture which has evolved in human beings to solve the biological prob-

lems of survival in a given environment. Although they are distinct,

these forms of adaptation are not mutually exclusive. Rather, it has

been hypothesized that they act in conjunction with one another to pro-

vide maximum adaptedness for an organism (Slobodkin 1968).

Genetic and Physiological Adaptation

Natural selection. The form of adaptation which most commonly

comes to mind when the concept is mentioned is genetic change. Genetic

adaptation operates through the process of natural selection. The basis

of natural selection is that individuals with different genetic consti-

tutions have different chances for reproduction. Those individuals whose

genetic makeup is best suited to a given environment have more offspring

and pass on more of their genetic material. Unless sudden changes in the

environment occur, a population can be expected to become more and more

adapted, or suited to its environment, over time.

Natural selection is not, however, a creative force. It can

only operate opportunistically on the existing variation in genetic

material within a population. It cannot create favorable traits which

do not exist. A pest, for example, does not become resistant to a

pesticide simply by virtue of prolonged exposure. A trait which confers

resistance must be pre-existent in the population before it can be the

object of selection. The existence of variation, the selection of

favorable variants, and the maintenance of these variants are the neces-

sary elements of evolutionary process.

Furthermore, while the changes brought about by natural selection

are favorable with relation to the environment in which they occur,

they are not flexible. A change in environment can, at times, render

them useless or even harmful. Among American blacks, for example, the

sickle-shaped hemoglobin cell which in Africa conferred resistance

against malaria when heterozygotic,and caused death when homozygotic,

lost its adaptive advantage in a malaria-free environment. It can take

many generations to compensate for an evolutionary trend that an environ-

mental change has rendered maladaptive.

The inflexibility and long-term nature of genetically based

adaptation is overcome at least in part in human beings by the capacity

for short-term changes. Physiological and developmental adjustments are

one such mechanism relied on by humans and other organisms to allow

quick and often reversible adaptations to stressful environmental

situations. Culture and mental processes provide an additional means

of adaptation for humans, which is quickly mobilized and more flexible

than genetic change. The capacity for culture has given humans what

L. B. Slobodkin has called "an extremely high behavioral flexibility, in

which the flexibility itself is a genetic property." Slobodkin goes on

to say that "if flexibility is sufficiently high, it becomes almost

impossible for gene frequencies to be materially altered by specific

environmental pressures unless these are of extremely long duration and

extremely great force" (1976:58).

A stressful situation is one which produces a deviation from
homeostasis in an organism. Homeostasis is the maintenance of constant
internal conditions in the face of a varying environment.

The circumvention of natural selection by increased behavioral

flexibility has been bemoaned by some as enabling persons to survive who

are physically, mentally, or morally weaker than the average. It is

true that our cultural capabilities enable individuals to successfully

mitigate environmental stresses which would otherwise prove overwhelming

to some members of the population. But that is precisely the significance

and value of cultural adaptation. It allows us to inhabit a far wider

range of environments and to overcome many more hazardous and stressful

situations than would be possible with purely genetic control.

Acclimatization. Acclimatization, as previously mentioned,

refers to short-term capabilities in humans and other organisms to respond

to external stresses. Acclimatory responses, in general, act to maintain

homeostasis, or constant internal conditions in the face of a varying

environment. At their most modest level, such responses occur over a

period of days or weeks, and are reversible. An example of such a change

is the enlargement of muscles from frequent use. Dozens of body responses

which occur on a daily basis, such as perspiration to reduce body

temperature, can be viewed as acclimatizations of this type.

A second type of acclimatization is developmental. Developmental

alterations occur in response to environmental conditions during an

individual's growth period, and may be physiological or morphological in

nature. One of the most well-known examples of developmental acclimatiza-

tion is the enlargement of heart and lungs in people who grow and

develop at high altitude.

Cultural Adaptation

The evolution of a capacity for culture. In human beings,

behavior often acts as a buffer against environmental pressures, and,

unlike in other animals, such behavior is more often ordered by the prin-

ciples of a given culture than by patterned instincts. The capacity for

cultural behavior is a result of a long evolutionary process in humans.

It was a process in which a central nervous system and neocortex of com-

plexity unknown in other animals was developed.

The development of these features did not occur overnight. As

Clifford Geertz has said, there was no marginal genetic change that

rendered humans capable of producing and carrying culture so that there-

after our adaptive response to environmental pressures was almost

exclusively cultural rather than genetic (1973:47). As cultural behavior

developed, and increased the complexity of the environment in which

proto-humans and early humans found themselves, it forced further

development of a cultural capacity. The use of tools, organized hunting

and gathering practices, the beginnings of family organization and the

reliance on symbolic communication such as language, provided positive

feedback2 for long-term evolutionary processes. A selective advantage

was given to those who were most able to take advantage of new cultural

behaviors--to become more adept toolmakers, efficient hunters, or

resourceful leaders (Washburn 1960; Hallowell 1959; Geertz 1973).

2Positive feedback refers to the flow of information or energy
from one component of a system to another which readjusts and reorgan-
izes the system along new lines.

Culture is an evolved biological capacity which gave humans a

tremendous advantage in solving biological problems. Yet it operates

on principles which are somewhat different from the laws of matter and

energy in the biological world. Culture is essentially an informational

system, based on the recognition of significant differences (Bateson

1972). To behave culturally one must use codes and manipulate symbols

(Pike 1964; Goodenough 1964; Hall 1959; Leach 1976). The sounds we utter

in the simplest speech act bear no direct relation to the things about

which we speak. They are systems of non-iconic symbols.

While our capacity for this type of symbol manipulation has

evolved, there is no evidence to suggest that culture itself does. Despite

this fact, a good deal of anthropological theory in the past hundred years

has centered around the concept of cultural evolution. Many investiga-

tors, impressed by the explanatory power of evolutionary theory, postu-

lated that mechanisms similar to natural selection could be at work in

culture. This idea, as it originated in the work of Herbert Spencer

(1883) was based on the proposition that individuals or societies with

favorable characteristics would survive and grow (or reproduce) while

those with inferior traits would die out.

Anthropologists have proposed diverse mechanisms by which a

hypothetical selection process could operate. White (1959) suggested

that increased per capital use of energy was the criterion by which

certain groups achieved selective advantage. Lewis Henry Morgan (1963),

Steward (1955), and Sahlins and Service (1960) did not attempt to specify

a universal selective principle, but assumed a general evolutionary trend

of increasing complexity.

More recent attempts to deal with human adaptation in terms of

a selective process for cultural traits are studies of "co-evolutionary

process" (Durham 1976); "culture as a parallel system of inheritance"

(Richerson 1977); "bio-cultural evolution" (Ruyle 1973); and "Lamarckian

evolution" (Cohen 1981). These types of explanation reason that evo-

lutionary theory is about process, and is independent of the genetic

mechanisms which have been found to corroborate its operation. All that

is necessary, they say, is to appropriately define cultural "traits" and

cultural "species," and identify sources of variation, criteria of

selection and mechanisms of retention. Once this is done, the study of

cultural evolution and human adaptation can proceed by analogy with

natural selection.

The fruitfulness of this approach has been questioned (Dickemann

1981; Medewar 1981). Alland has noted that "analogies, however useful as

heuristic devices, cannot extend a theory into new territory. . The

operating rules of those process mechanisms that produce culture are not

the same as those which produce biologically determined somatic or

behavioral traits" (1967:191). Furthermore, reasoning by analogy in

Alland's view gives culture a superorganic nature, and obscures the true

continuity between biological and cultural processes. When cultures are

set up as equivalent to species, he said, it is easy to forget the role

that human beings play as a species themselves. The consideration of

innovation as analogous to mutation is not only erroneous from the

point of view of the great differences in the way the two processes

operate. It also focuses our attention on an undocumented evolutionary

dynamic in culture itself, rather than on the way in which innovations

solve biological problems and thus confer selective advantages to humans

by allowing more of them to survive and reproduce.

The identification of cultural adaptations. In order to look at

the interaction between environment and culture in a more direct way,

most anthropologists felt it necessary to decide on certain realms of

human behavior which were likely to be most closely related to survival

in a given environment. Julian Steward (1955) suggested that the inter-

action of culture and environment could best be understood by focusing

on a "cultural core" of items and practices most directly related to

human subsistence. Different environments, he felt, required different

technologies, uses of land, or social features in order to be brought

into production successfully. These core elements of culture could be

understood in relation to the environmental context in which they operate.

Steward assumed that while environment had a strong influence on the

elements of the cultural core, there were other superorganic aspects of

culture that were more or less free to take whatever form people wished

to give them.

Steward's approach gave rise to the tradition within anthropology

known as cultural ecology. The work of cultural ecologists has focused

on ascertaining, in the words of Steward, "whether the adjustments of

human societies to their environments require particular modes of

behavior, or whether they permit latitudes for a range of possible

behavior patterns" (1955:36). Most cultural ecological studies, following

Steward's definition of "cultural core," have limited their investigation

to a narrow range of patterns of technology and resource use.

Little and Morren (1976) have criticized narrow definitions

of the types of behavior that are related to human adaptation. They

have suggested that researchers investigating human adaptation should

have an interest in any "cultural and biological factors, processes and

cycles that affect or are directly connected with the survival, repro-

duction, development, longevity, or spatial position of people." They

note that "ample provision exists within this framework for the study

of such cultural factors as ideology, values, motivation, linguistic

categories, personality, ritual and the like, insofar as particular mani-

festations of these influence the interaction of human population with

its environment or affect the biological characteristics of that human

population" (1976:5).

In a model for human life support structures, Little and Morren

(1976) emphasize the role of such practices as marriage prescriptions

and proscriptions, social rules that define sexual maturity, and beliefs

that lead to periods of celibacy, in altering the size and structure

of local human populations. Also included in their model are practices

that modify risk of exposure to conception and that affect the proba-

bility of a successful pregnancy and live birth; practices that

affect the speed and degree of physical and behavioral maturity, and

those which affect nutrition, disease transmission and risk of death.

Adaptive strategies which are relevant include movements in response to

environmental parameters, agriculture and other practices which alter

the environment to make biotic resources more available, strategies of

exchange and distribution of goods, and practices which substitute

the work of livestock or machinery for human labor.

This model considers much more cultural behavior of relevance

to adaptation than do most studies of cultural ecology. In particular,

more attention is given to practices which affect the rate of reproduc-

tion and the size and composition of local groups. The demographic com-

position of populations was particularly neglected in Steward's defini-

tion of a cultural core (Moran 1979:44). Nevertheless, in attempting

to specify aspects of human culture which affect survival and population

growth, and in setting these apart from other aspects which are con-

sidered not to be relevant, Little and Morren (1976) create the same

separation as Steward between the organic and superorganic realms of

human behavior. They are only defining the organic realm somewhat more


All aspects of a given culture are potentially relevant to sur-

vival in a given environment. This does not mean that all behaviors will

necessarily be of adaptive significance, but it does mean that there

are no classes of behavior that can be excluded from an investigation of

adaptation a priori. The identification of cultural behaviors which

influence a group's adaptedness can only be determined in an empirical

manner. Observation of the migratory activities of the Aymara of Sarata

revealed that this adaptive strategy was organized by kinship andintra-

community relationships. The Aymara believe men and women to be equally

strong and productive members of society, and this belief reinforces their

flexible division of labor and the fact that each household member can

make themselves responsible for the full range of productive activities

in either the highland or the lowland environment. These aspects of

Aymara culture are of great relevance to behaviors which can be shown

to be adaptive.

This is a point of view which has been expressed by Godelier

(1978) with regard to the distinction in Marxist analyses between super-

structure and infrastructure. He says that there is nothing inherent

about a given behavior that makes it more or less tangible or more or

less material than any other. The important consideration is whether the

behavior can be empirically shown to be important to the reproduction of

social life. Thus, Godelier argues, thought and language have wrongly

been excluded from studies of production and reproduction, since they not

only reflect reality but organize every kind of social practice on the

basis of this reality . ."(1978:764). Thought, which cannot occur in

the abstract, but only in the context and with the tools of a given cul-

ture and language, not only perceives the environmental reality in which

a population lives, but organizes the way the population will come to

terms with it. Yet belief structures, language, and a population's view

of the world, are among those cultural phenomena most often called

superstructure, or superorganic, or otherwise considered irrelevant to

human adaptation.

Limiting the aspects of culture to be considered can also hinder

analysis of adaptive processes by obscuring the interrelationships between

cultural elements. As Winterhalder (1980) has cautioned, "culture,

including the parts of cultural behavior that can be termed adaptations,

rests on highly integrated and cohesive systems of belief, which can

resist rapid alteration of isolated elements or groups of elements.

Change requires systematic adjustments of multiple interrelationships

of belief, behavior, and goals, all of which require time"(1980:138).

This is an understanding which has long been part of anthropological

theory, but which has often become obscured in discussions of adaptive


Culture is not simply the sum total of individuals' predisposi-

tions and decisions, as some investigators have suggested (Bennett 1974).

Culture has systems properties, and the existence of a coherent cultural

system means that an individual can carry out most daily activities

without having to stop and calculate at every turn whether a behavior is

rational or not. It also means that an individual can benefit from the

special knowledge or specialized skills of other members of his or her

group without having to develop those skills themselves. Cultural beliefs

and practices can be transmitted and do not have to be reinvented over

and over again. All of these are factors which have given culture

adaptive significance. Certain elements of a culture may not be directly

related to survival and reproduction, but they may heavily influence

other behaviors which are. Again, all aspects of culture are potentially

of importance to adaptation, and those which are, in any given circum-

stances, must be empirically determined.

The functioning of cultural adaptations. When studying cultural

adaptive behavior, it is important to remember that some actions of

people or groups are carried out with the conscious goal of remedying

an environmental problem, while other actions affect their relationship

to the environment in an unrecognized or unconscious way. Alland (1967:

205) has distinguished between teleological or purposive adaptations

and those which are non-teleological. Teleological adaptations are those

purposive behaviors which are often referred to as strategies. They

represent the conscious planning and ingenuity of individuals or groups

in the face of an environmental problem. The development and improvement

of technologies, the decision to send some family members to the city

to earn cash, the keeping of herds as a reserve fund, or the choice of a

marriage partner from another community in order to diversify landholdings,

all are examples of such conscious efforts.

The analysis of teleological adaptations is often considered more

or less straightforward. In most cases the persons involved can clearly

explain why a particular action was necessary. When they cannot, it is

often because the reasoning behind it is so obvious to them that it is not

easily verbalized. Occasionally some, but not all, of the members of a

community or culture may understand the rationale for a behavior. Thus,

a given actor may perform an act out of custom alone, but the conscious

reasoning behind it is known within his or her larger group. It must be

remembered, however, that the conscious reasoning involved is the

reasoning of a specific language and culture. Environmental conditions

are perceived through the grid of that language and culture, and the

strategies designed reflect past cultural experience and do not neces-

sarily have anything to do with Western logic.

A further problem in the analysis of consciously designed strate-

gies is that they may or may not be effective. In a given setting they

may not be sufficient to meet a stress. This is most often true when

the stress is sudden and new (Vayda and McCay 1975). It is also possible

that the source of the stress is misperceived, that the response is

inappropriate, or that the response itself creates new problems.

Non-teleological adaptations present still more difficult prob-

lems. Moore (1965), Harris (1966), and Rappaport (1968) have all dealt

with examples of behaviors whose adaptive consequences were unanticipated

by their perpetrators. Moore explained the way in which a divinatory

ritual performed by the Montagnais-Naskapi before hunting served to

randomize game exploitation and prevent overhunting a region. Harris

(1966) showed how Hindu religious beliefs which prevented cattle

slaughter were beneficial, since other products provided by the animals

(milk, labor, dung, etc.) were of greater value to the population than

their meat alone would have been. Rappaport, in his study of the Maring

of New Guinea, postulated that ritual served to regulate the slaughter

and use of pigs.

If it is to be assumed that these favorable situations are not

the result of pure coincidence, then it is necessary to propose a process

or mechanism by which they came to be. Rappaport proposed that in the

case of the Maring, a system of negative feedback3 maintained pigs,

people, and environment in equilibrium. The ritual cycle of the Maring,

in Rappaport's view, served as a sensing device or "homeostat" to begin

a complicated cycle of pig slaughter and warfare which redistributed

resources and restored equilibrium to the system.

A flow of energy or information from one part of a system to
another, which allows for its return to a previous equilibrium state.

This interpretation has been frequently criticized, most notably

by Friedman (1974, 1979) who says that it is unnecessary to postulate

such a complex regulatory mechanism. According to Friedman, the decision

to slaughter pigs and begin warfare could have been, and most probably

was, based on the people's perceptions of how many pigs could reasonably

be accumulated, and on the level of social conflict.

If cybernetic models are inappropriate, then the question of the

way in which non-purposive adaptations operate remains. Richerson (1977)

and Friedman (1974) have argued that such adaptations cannot be under-

stood synchronically but that one must look at the historical develop-

ment of the trait or activity or process in question. Practices or

beliefs, which are adaptive in a non-teleological fashion in present-day

situations, may have arisen as conscious attempts to solve past problems.

Harris (1979:248-253) gives an example of this. In answering

criticisms of his previous functional explanation of taboos on cattle

slaughter, he presented the historical context for the origin of the

custom. He related the emergence of the taboos on consuming beef to a

period of intensification of agriculture in Indian history, when the

labor of cattle as draught animals became vital. While the taboo forces

a more energetically rational use of cattle at present, people apparently

do not recognize the energy efficiency of the taboo but obey it out of

religious devotion. It cannot be assumed in such situations that there

is any mechanism in culture which assures the continued transmission

of the adaptive behavior without a conscious recognition of its benefits.

To argue that this is so is to rely once again on explanations based on

negative feedback and non-verified cybernetic systems.

Winterhalder (1980) has emphasized this point. He stresses that

adaptations always reflect the action of past environments on the socio-

cultural information that gives rise to human behavior. For this

reason, extant behavior only partially reflects or is fitted to present

circumstances. People may retain past ways of solving problems posed by

their environments, which are crystallized in their religious taboos,

their kinship structure or their ritual cycle. As environments change,

these solutions to past problems may not retain their adaptiveness,

and new solutions must be devised. There is always a lag, however, and

for this reason it is important that analysis of adaptations concern

itself with historical process. As Winterhalder has said, non-dynamic

analyses of adaptation risk matching observed behaviors to the wrong


Prior studies of migration from the altiplano of Puno provide a

good example of analyses which correlate present behaviors with present

environmental problems, and thus miss the true causes of the behavior

(Kuczynski-Godard 1945; Metraux 1956; Martinez 1969; Instituto Nacional

de Planificaci6n 1979). As discussed in Chapter One, previous studies

have always claimed that increased population pressure on the altiplano

within the past thirty to forty years has made such movement necessary.

The migratory movements, however, have a history which is far longer

than the problems of population pressure such authors have referred to.

The need to exploit lowland ecological zones is deeply rooted in the

past and this suggests that some environmental stress of longer duration,

such as low productivity and energy scarcity, has given rise to migra-

tory behavior.

Adaptation on the Southern Peruvian Altiplano

Stresses and responses. The altiplano of southern Peru and

northern Bolivia has often been cited as an important setting for the

study of adaptation because of the number of stresses or problems which

the environment poses for the human population. Vayda and McCay (1975),

among others, have recently proposed that most adaptive traits arise in

response to crisis situations caused by stress. On the altiplano, both

short-term, acutely stressful situations and more subtle long-term

pressures have led to adaptations on the part of the population.

There are three basic sources of stress for altiplano dwellers.

At altitudes of 12,500 feet (approximately 3800 meters) the partial

pressure of oxygen is reduced to 60 percent of its value at sea level.

At such reduced pressures, a condition of hypoxia is created for humans

and other animals, in which body tissues do not receive sufficient amounts

of oxygen. For non-adapted visitors to the altiplano, this condition

causes shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches, loss of

appetite, and occasional mental impairment and visual problems. While

other forms of climatic stress can usually be buffered behaviorally to

some extent, there are no such means for reducing the effects of low

oxygen pressure.

Cold stress is a second problem for inhabitants of the altiplano.

In particular, body heat must be guarded against low nighttime tempera-

tures, which may drop to OC (320F) any night of the year. The third

major stress factor is related to both low oxygen pressure and cold

stress. These factors, together with periodic climatic events such as

drought and hail and incidental factors such as poor soils, reduce

primary productivity on the altiplano. This low biological productivity,

or energy-deficiency, makes the subsistence situation for the inhabi-

tants of the altiplano quite precarious.

In the 1960s and early 1970s a program of intensive research on

human adaptation to high altitude was carried out by the International

Biological Program in NuBoa, Puno, Peru. The initial hypothesis of the

project were based on assumptions that the native population of the

altiplano was adapted to life at high altitude and that this adaptation

was largely a result of acclimatory mechanisms which had some genetic


Nearly two years of research demonstrated that this was not the

case. What researchers found was a whole series of adaptive mechanisms

operating at the levels of physiology and culture. There has been no

firm evidence of genetic adaptedness among the population to date,

although it appears to be experiencing strong selective pressures due to

high child mortality (Dutt 1976).

It was found that hypoxic stress was mitigated for newcomers to

the altiplano by short-term acclimatizations. The most important of

these is an increase in the body's production of oxygen-carrying hemo-

globin cells. For natives of high altitude, acclimatization also in-

cludes a reduced affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen which allows it to be

released more easily to tissues, and developmental factors such as an

increase in heart size and lung capacity. These and several other

short-term mechanisms allow the same amount of oxygen to be delivered

to body tissues per minute for altiplano dwellers as for low-altitude

natives at sea level (Velasquez 1976).

Cold stress is responded to primarily by use of warm alpaca and

sheep's wool clothing, by solidly constructed adobe homes, and by timing

work activities to avoid exposure to nighttime and early morning tempera-

tures. It is also mitigated by a slightly elevated basal metabolic rate,

and a resultant warmer body core temperature, and by higher levels of

blood flow to the extremities than found for sea level residents. All

of the latter are physiological responses and do not appear to have a

genetic basis (Little 1976).

Energy deficiency or low biological productivity was not studied

as intensively by Nunoa researchers as the other stresses. Thomas (1972)

established that the population was in a very precarious energetic

situation. His research was carried out in a year of normal agricul-

tural production and thus he did not observe the effects of periodic

events, such as severe droughts, in reducing productivity,but only the

constant reduction of primary productivity to cold and low oxygen avail-

ability. Thomas felt it likely that reduced adult body size and a

slow and prolonged growth pattern serve to lessen the consequences of

reduced energy availability. He also suggested that several observed

behavioral strategies might be of value as buffers against the stress of

reduced energy availability. These included a division of labor relying

heavily on children, reduced activity levels, a multiple resource base,

inter-zonal exchange, and migration.

To better understand the nature of the altiplano population's

current adaptive situation, it is helpful to return to a model proposed

by L. B. Slobodkin (1968) which was mentioned previously. Slobodkin

has suggested that cultural, physiological, and genetic adaptive mechan-

isms are integrated into a cybernetic system. His model is based on the

suggestion of Bateson (1963) that there exists an economy of flexibility-

restoring mechanisms in which slow deep-seated physiological changes

restore an organism's ability to use short-term, rapid mechanisms in

a flexible way.

Slobodkin suggests that an organism first responds to a pertur-

bation or stress on a behavioral level. If this effectively relieves

the stressful condition, no further change occurs. If the behavioral

response cannot nullify it, then physiological responses will come into

play. Reliance on these responses then restores a measure of flexibility

to the behavioral level.

If the perturbation continues unabated it will increase the

mortality and decrease the fecundity of the population. This gives

increased opportunity to natural selection, since genotypic frequencies

will to some extent determine who lives and dies. While this decreases

population, a large proportion of well-adapted persons survive, and this

group, in turn, has had physiological flexibility "restored" to it. Any

recurrence of the perturbation in the future would lead to relatively

less genetic change. The genetic change, it must be remembered, does

not represent an improvement, but is an adjustment to the disturbing

event, made opportunistically on the basis of the genetic material at


This model provides a way of approaching the problem of adap-

tation on the altiplano. According to the model, organisms will deal

with stress whenever possible with behavioral mechanisms which are the

most flexible and easily mobilized. Only if these fail will other

mechanisms come into play. The effects of hypoxia, as previously noted,

cannot be dealt with on a cultural or behavioral level. Thus, physio-

logical mechanisms operate to provide resistance for the highland dwellers.

To date, however, there is no evidence for a genetically based adaptation

to lack of oxygen. This is the area where the researchers at Nuioa most

expected to find genetic change had occurred (Baker 1976:14-15).

Cold stress, on the other hand, can be significantly mitigated

by behavioral and cultural means, and is largely handled in this way by

the altiplano population. Apparently, however, the behavioral responses

developed were not always sufficient, since physiological changes related

to cold stress are found in persons who grew up at high altitude. The

same is true of adaptation to energy deficiency. The diverse behavioral

mechanisms suggested by Thomas are operative, as material presented in

subsequent chapters will show. These mechanisms provide a significant

degree of resistance for the population. Nevertheless physiological

changes related to energy deficiency, such as smaller body size, do

occur, and this suggests that the behavioral mechanisms have not been

completely efficacious or have not been effective at all times. Again,

however, no basis for a genetic interpretation of these changes has been


Seasonal migration and adaptation to high altitude. Theodosius

Dobzhansky has said that "every organism has an adaptedness to live in

a range of environments. Adaptedness to only a single constant

environment would lead quickly to extinction, because environments are

not constant. Therefore, every living species is made by natural

selection adaptable to the range of environments which it encounters

regularly, or at least at frequent intervals in its natural habitats"

(1977:182). It is perhaps in this statement that an explanation for the

absence of genetic adaptations to high altitude among altiplano dwellers

can be found.

Patterns of migration to lowland regions engaged in by altiplano

dwellers were documented in the preceding chapter for times of at least

as far back as the Tihuanacoid Empire. Lumbreras (1974:40) and Lanning

(1967:47) have described patterns of seasonal movement between highlands

and lower valleys for some of the earliest inhabitants of the Andes.

Lanning notes that the caves at Lauricocha in the Callejon de Huaylas

in northern Peru, which date from 7500 B.C., were occupied seasonally.

Their inhabitants apparently moved cyclically from the high altitudes

at which the caves are found, to lower valleys and possibly even to the

lomas or temporary oases, on the coast. Given such movement patterns, a

genetically based adaptation to high altitude would not have made sense

for altiplano dwellers or other natives of high altitude areas in the


It has always been necessary for highlanders to seasonally

exploit lowland valleys in order to guarantee their subsistence. This

is a behavioral adaptation to the environmental stress of energy

deficiency. The longevity and importance of this principle are attested

to by the fact that natural selection has apparently not given advantage

to individuals who are in some way better suited to life on the alti-

plano, but that adaptedness is achieved by physiological mechanisms.

To continue the quote from Dobzhansky (1977:182), "inhabitants of the

temperate zones have to survive winters as well as summers, and of the

tropics, rainy and dry seasons." In the same way inhabitants of the

altiplano have had to survive life in the lowland valleys as well as at

high altitude. Genetic adaptedness to the latter would almost inevitably

carry with it a reduced adaptedness to the former. Thus, an individual

with a specialized genetic adaptation to high altitude would have reduced

chances of surviving and reproducing were they to migrate to the lowlands

to deal with nutritional stress caused by the energy-deficiency of their

environment. It is in keeping with Slobodkin's model of adaptive systems

that are hierarchically and cybernetically organized, that adaptation

on one level feeds back to another in order to maintain the entire

adaptive system in harmony.

The Role of Energy in Human Adaptation

Energy in natural selection. Energy is a necessary component

of all processes. It initially reaches the earth as sunlight where it

is responsible for heating and producing plant food through photosyn-

thesis. It also, in an indirect way, generates winds, waves, and the

coal and petroleum reserves in the ground. Every process or change that

occurs on earth is accompanied by a transformation of energy from one

form to another. It is this broad understanding of energy, rather than

a recognition of its specialized functions in nutrition, or as fossil

fuel or electric power, which underlies attempts to relate it to evolu-

tion, human adaptation, and the functioning of ecosystems.

Energy has many forms. Those that are most familiar are mechan-

ical, chemical, radiant, and heat energy. Each of these forms has its

own units of measurement in our scientific tradition. In all of its

forms energy can be defined as the ability to do work. In all of its

forms it obeys the laws of thermodynamics. The first of these says that

energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed in form and

quality. The second expresses the principle that entropy, or disorder,

always increases in real processes; in other words, that energy becomes

dispersed and of lesser quality in any transformation.

While the involvement of transformations of energy in all

processes is unquestionable, there is still a lack of consensus among

researchers in various disciplines on the extent to which energy is

determinative of those processes. In 1922, E. J. Lotka suggested that

the efficient use of energy resources could serve as a universal

measure of an organism's adaptedness. "In the struggle for existence,"

he said, "the advantage must go to those organisms whose energy-capturing

devices are most efficient in directing available energy into channels

favorable to the preservation of the species" (1922:47). This view is

currently most closely associated with the work of H. T. Odum (1971).

While it has not been generally accepted in the ecological or social

sciences, it has opened the question of the role played by energy in

the evolution and adaptation of human groups.

There is considerable continuity between the view of Lotka and

those of Leslie White (1959). White applied Lotka's assertion that

the struggle for existence was a struggle for energy to human popula-

tions in attempting to develop a model of cultural evolution. He argued

that culture was a material system and thus subject to the laws of

thermodynamics. Cultures varied according to White, in their ability to

harness energy as they drew it from outside themselves and incorporated

it into their systems. By measuring their effectiveness at this task,

he considered it possible to postulate a series of stages of cultural

development which were linked to the type and quantity of energy use.

Animal husbandry, he suggested, harnessed more energy than hunting and

gathering; agriculture was superior in this way to animal husbandry; and

a mixed agropecuarial system was the most effective of all.

The universality of energy efficiency as a measure of adaptation,

or of cultural evolution has not gone unquestioned. Colinvaux (1973)

disagrees with the statement that animals and plants have evolved

primarily as efficient converters of energy, since the pressures of

natural selection are for survival and reproduction and not for any

particular quality. While efficient use of energy is often a selective

advantage, effective use of nutrients, insurance of mating, safe winter-

ing, or growth and dispersal may be of great importance in any particular

case. Vayda and McCay (1975) have reiterated this view and have

extended it to human populations. They suggest that while energy may

be the most important factor in survival on the Peruvian altiplano, or

for sisal workers in Brazil, water may be for the !Kung, or resistance

to the anopheles mosquito for the Tsembaga Maring.

Enery as a limiting factor. Many of the objections to the

assumption that energy is universally maximized in adaptive processes

are based on a concept of limiting factors. This concept was first

enunciated by Justus Liebig in the 19th century as the Law of the

Minimum. Simply stated, the principle is that organisms are limited by

the factor in shortest supply.

Eugene Odum (1975) has restated Liebig's Law in a way that takes

into account both energy and other factors.

The success of a population or community depends on a com-
plex of conditions; any condition that approaches or exceeds
the limit of tolerance for the organism or group in question
may be said to be a limiting factor. Although the quantity
and quality of incoming energy and the laws of thermodynamics
set the ultimate limits, different ecosystems have different
combinations of other factors that may put further limita-
tions on biological structure and function. (1975:108)

In this passage, Odum distinguishes between the role of energy as a neces-

sary force in all processes and its role as a factor which is in limited

supply. While the former is universally applicable, the latter must be

decided for each specific situation.

This is similar to the point made by Slobodkin (1972). He dif-

ferentiated adaptive effectiveness and energetic efficiency. Acts which

are adaptively effective, like all actions, have an energy cost, but

this cost is probably not of interest to an analysis of adaptation

unless energy is limiting. "The conditions under which energy is limit-

ing can be specified, but there is not any formal necessity for a

connection between [adaptive] effectiveness and [energetic] efficiency.

Effectiveness may or may not involve optimization of some function relat-

ing to energy" (1972:294).

Slobodkin's distinction between effectiveness and efficiency

has been used by Smith (1979:62-63) to show that the rate of acquisi-

tion of energy, rather than the use of energy in absolute terms, is

significant to an organism's adaptation. In his view it is always

adaptive to increase energetic efficiency. Energy-limited organisms,

however, need to increase the efficiency of energy capture, while non-

limited organisms should increase the efficiency of energy use, in order

to minimize the time spent acquiring energy which can then be diverted

to other activities related to adaptive success.

Odum, Slobodkin, and Smith all mention certain conditions that

hold in cases where energy is a limiting factor, and suggest that the

conditions under which energy is limiting can be specified. Smith says

that an individual organism is energy-limited if, and only if, increased

energy intake would positively affect its reproductive fitness; and that

a population is energy-limited only if its growth rate would show a

positive increment with an increase in energy intake (Smith 1979:59).

For these reasons, the present analysis attempts to establish that

energy is indeed limiting on the altiplano, before proceeding to an

investigation of seasonal migration as a means of increasing access to

energy resources.

Population Movement and Human Adaptation

Adaptive Movement in Complex Societies

Despite the fact that migration is one of the oldest and most

widespread strategies for the redistribution of human population with

regard to resources, it has rarely been studied as an adaptive

phenomenon. This is partly due to the sharp distinction which has

traditionally been drawn between nomadism and transhumance as practiced

by pastoralists and hunting and gathering groups, and the rural-urban

or rural-rural migratory movements which occur in modern states. While

the former have been studied by anthropologists, who have at least to

some extent turned their attention to sociological questions, the latter

have most often been treated by economists and demographers who have

worked with highly aggregated data and within an economic framework.

This has led to a separation of phenomena which, in their essential goals

and functions, are quite similar.

Similarly, most societies in which energetic studies have been

carried out have been relatively self-sufficient in terms of their

resources. This is true, for example, of the Boreal Forest Cree

(Winterhalder 1977), and the Tsembaga Maring (Rappaport 1968). Even

when more complex societies are studied, they are often treated as

though they were self-sufficient and without significant relationships

to urban center or the national economy (Orlove 1980).

There are many examples, however, of temporary and seasonal

population movements which occur within the framework of modern nations

and among groups which possess a considerable degree of integration

into the national society. In these cases, certain segments of the

population find it necessary or desirable to seasonally, temporarily

or recurrently change their residence in order to guarantee their sub-

sistence. There is no reason why adaptive strategies of population move-

ment cannot be examined from an ecological perspective in complex

societies as well as in hunting and gathering groups.

Most studies of migration assume that migratory movements are

permanent. While return migration is acknowledged, it is usually con-

sidered to be a permanent return to one's home related to a failure of

the migratory attempt. There is an inherent expectation that an indi-

vidual will seek fixed residence in a single location which will

presumably be the place where his or her economic livelihood can best be

insured. While permanent moves represent one type of migration, they

are not the only possibility. As Stearman (1976) has noted, fixity of

residence is not an ideal in all cultures, and the normal economic

routine of many groups may involve a considerable amount of traveling.

Yet seasonal, temporary, and continuous migration have been almost

totally ignored by demographers, economists and others who have con-

tributed to studies of rural-urban migration.

As previously mentioned, strategies of frequent, more or less

patterned movement, are generally accepted as having played a role in

the subsistence of relatively autonomous hunting and gathering or

pastoral populations in the past and they are recognized as still

existing among such groups at the present time. It is widely assumed,

however, that agriculture binds individuals or groups to a given local-

ity and limits their geographic mobility. This assumption of limited

mobility is extended to complex societies, which are built on an

agricultural base and need a stable work force for industry. Little

and Morren (1976:23), for example, have differentiated population

movement strategies from migration on the basis that migration is per-

manent in nature while movement strategies are cyclical and related to

oscillations in resource availability. They associate movement strate-

gies among human populations only with hunters and gatherers.

Recurrent population movements do occur, however, as a normal

course of events in predominantly agricultural and industrialized

societies, as the migrations of saratenos testify. These movements vary

in the manner in which they are organized, the frequency with which

shifts in residence occur, and the length of time spent in each location,

etc. Nevertheless, they all represent (as does permanent migration to

the cities) a rearrangement of population with regard to resources to

insure subsistence. They also represent, in many cases, an attempt to

diversify the resources available to a population either through trade or

direct access.

Temporary Migration

Temporary migration refers to a situation in which an individual,

partial family,or family travel to another area to engage in an eco-

nomically profitable activity or to trade. They may stay in the new

area for months, or years, but they eventually return with their earnings

or goods to their home community, which is their point of reference, and

the place where they indend to live for most of their lives. The journey

may take place only once in an individual's lifetime or it may be

repeated a number of times.

In many present-day contexts such activity represents an inser-

tion into and retraction from the labor force of a national economy.

Irregular participation in a national labor market has been noted by

Meillassoux (1972) and others to remove the burden for a worker's

continued subsistence, and that of his or her family from their

employer, and to place it on the domestic unit. While this is true, it

also represents a selective participation in the labor market. A

subsistence base in the home community gives migrants more choice with

regard to when and where to sell their labor than they would have


Temporary but recurrent migration to urban centers is a common

pattern in much of Africa. Literally millions of Africans "spend their

lives alternating between a period in the industrial center and a period

in the rural village" (DuToit 1975:59). Afrequentcourse of events is

for young men and women to go to work in the city for several years and

then to return home to marry. After marriage they are likely to return

to the cities to work, often for several years at a time, in order to

gain cash or goods for their household (Houghton 1958; Mitchell 1969).

The final intent of the migrants, however, is to settle once and for

all in their villages, and their values and lifestyle reflect this

intention (Abu-Lughod 1975).

Similar situations occur in Latin America. Brush (1977:39) has

noted that nearly one third of all households in Uchucmarca in northern

Peru had members who migrated temporarily to work on the coast, but

who fully intended to return to their home community within a period of

months or years. This is also the most common pattern for migration

to urban areas among community members in the district of Sarata.

Arizpe (1979, 1980) has described a temporary migratory process

in Mexican villages which she refers to as "relay migration." Relay

migration is a household-based strategy in which the goal is to keep

one or more family members in the capital city earning a cash income

for as long a period as possible. Fathers go to the city while the

children are young, but beginning at age 14, sons and daughters are

also able to participate, contributing their income to the household

budget until they marry. Arizpe relates the high value placed on

children in the villages she studied to the need to increase the family's

available labor force for this purpose.

Seasonal Migration

Seasonal migrants travel on a regularly patterned or cyclical

basis to other areas to work, cultivate landholdings, or trade. The

migratory journey is regularly patterned because it is almost always

arranged so as not to interfere with the normal subsistence activities

of a household or group. Like temporary migratory activities, seasonal

activities often contribute a crucial part of the total subsistence of

a household. Yet, as with temporary migration, the migrants may

exercise a great deal of choice with regard to where and how often they

will travel and what type of activity they will undertake.

Wagley (1941) observed a pattern of seasonal migration in

Guatemala. In this area, highland Indians traveled to take part in

the coffee harvest on large plantations during periods of low activity

on their subsistence plots. They had been making these journeys on a

yearly basis for generations. Whiteford and Adams (1975) have described

a similar pattern of migration from rural areas of Bolivia to work

seasonally on sugar cane plantations in northwestern Argentina.

People from northeastern Brazil migrate seasonally to partici-

pate in the sugar cane and cacao harvests on the coast. They also

migrate temporarily to find work in rural areas of Sao Paulo or in the

building industry in metropolitan centers. The volume of temporary

migration from the Northeast waxes and wanes in relation to the amount

of rainfall received in the area. When the disastrous droughts which

are so common in the region occur, there is a general exodus. North-

easterners are said to return, however, at the first news that the rains

have begun again (Wagley 1971:41).

Halpern (1975) has described a variety of seasonal and temporary

migratory patterns in Balkan nations. These movements are usually timed

to correspond to slow periods in the agropecuarial cycle. They may

take the form of trading trips, travel to work at specialized crafts,

or seasonal brigandage, and the trips may be made over short distance

or to places as far away as North America. Halpern found that groups

who were most active in migratory activities were those who lived in

mountainous areas where agriculture was marginal and who had previosuly

become accustomed to a partially mobile existence because of the require-

ments of seeking pasture for their flocks. These groups began to adapt

their customs of seasonal mobility to other economic activities with

the expansion of towns in the 16th century.

The various present-day strategies of vertical resource use

in the Andes, such as that practiced by saratenos, are another example of

seasonal migratory movements engaged in by groups integrated into

larger societies. While in pre-Hispanic times, verticality was

administered most frequently by regional political units (Murra 1972),

its current manifestations are usually controlled by individual house-

holds or communities.

One such example is the pattern of vertical transhumance

described by Stewart, Belote and Belote (1976) for the saragurenos of

Ecuador. Family members travel seasonally with their animals to lowland

zones in order to give them access to green pastures throughout the year.

While the pattern is an old one, the option of selling the animals in

regional markets has given an added incentive to the activity.

Brush (1977) has distinguished three types of vertical resource

use which are currently relied on in the Andes. "Compressed verticality"

refers to a situation in which a family exploits several different ver-

tically arranged crop zones by shifting their residence according to

agropecuarial cycle. In this case, the crop zones are on a steep

gradient and are relatively close together. Each family ideally has

access to land in the yunga or low, corn-growing zone; the kichwa or

intermediate tuber and grain zone; and the puna, which is the highest

of the zones and is used primarily for herding. The residence which

is considered permanent is usually established in the kichwa, midway

between the other two zones. In addition to the work done by Brush

in Uchucmarca, Uebster (1973) has described a resource strategy of this

type for O'ero in Cuzco.

The second type of vertical resource use described by Brush

is "extended verticality." Gade (1967) and Burchard (1974) have

described seasonal trips for purposes of trade which are representative

of this type. On these trips goods from the high part of a valley are

exchanged for products from lower zones of the same valley. The crop

zones within which trade is carried out are contiguous but often stretch

over great distances and there is no direct access to lands in all

places by inhabitants of the valley. There is also a long tradition,

throughout the Andes, of longer trading expeditions which are not

limited to a single valley (Casaverde 1977; Custred 1974, 1977; Flores

Ochoa 1977).

A final variety of verticality is the "archipelago" type

practiced by saratehos. In these cases the zones of resource exploi-

tation are widely separated and the travel between them requires many

days. Despite the distances, trips to the "auxiliary" fields are made

as often as three to four times a year. Fonseca (1972) and Mayer (1971)

have also described communities which rely on this strategy. In all

cases the place of permanent residence is considered to be the high-

lands, where there is easy access to potatoes, grains, and animals for


These are but a few examples of present-day populations in

complex societies whose subsistence is tied to movement strategies. The

cases described would not lend themselves easily to analysis by theories

of economic maximization or of income differentials, which are commonly

applied to migratory movements. In many cases, cash is not the goal

of the migration, or is only one of many goals. In many of the examples,

the populations in question recognize that they would lose control over

their nutritional base by becoming completely integrated into a cash

economy, and thus they seek to maintain their semi-integrated status.

As in the case of Sarata, diversification of resources is often as

important a goal as is maximization of any variable.

Neither, in most of these cases, can a set of variables which

tend to "push" or to "pull" the migrants be easily identified. Migration

is not an all-or-nothing, once in a lifetime decision, but forms part of

an integrated strategy for the survival of the household unit. Many

calculations enter into the decisions made with regard to who will

migrate, when they will go, how long they sill stay, etc.

A human ecological framework is effective in analyzing these

types of situations because it does not allow the researcher to take for

granted that any one variable is being maximized. Limiting factors or

variables must be empirically determined for each case. The survival-

related problems which are faced by each group must be identified. The

realms of behavior which are relevant to the solution of these problems

and their cultural bases must also be identified. Ecological studies

in anthropology have been criticized for limiting themselves to isolated

groups of people whose integration into larger economic and political

units is minimal (Anderson 1972). The present study hopes to demon-

strate that the methods and theory of human ecology are essential to

the study of strategies of population movement and of other types of

adaptive behavior, in complex as well as in "simple" societies.


Primary Productivity and Production

Geographical and Climatic Factors

The altiplano is a high-altitude plateau which "extends with a

gentle slope from the Western Cordillera of the Andes to the spurs of

the Eastern Cordillera, prolonged toward Bolivian territory on the

southwest and including the large depression of the Poop6 basin" (ONERN/

CORPUNO 1965:49). In Peru, the altiplano is marked by the presence of

Lake Titicaca, and for all practical purposes, can be said to be con-

tiguous with the broad Titicaca basin. The altiplano landscape, and

especially the northeastern side of the lake where Sarata is located, is

marked by steep, mountain-like rock formations, or monadnocks, and by

numerous narrow and protected valleys.

The topography of the altiplano is important because the region's

climatic characteristics are in large part determined by the land masses

which border it. In particular the Eastern and Western Cordilleras

influence precipitation, which falls from September through April and

then completely ceases in the dry season from May through September.

The rains come when air from the South Atlantic anticyclone crosses the

South American continent and is forced up the eastern slope of the Andes.

As it rises, the air cools and expands, losing its capacity to hold

moisture. The resultant precipitation is responsible for the lush rain

forests of the eastern Andes. By the time it crosses the altiplano,

the air's moisture content has been reduced, and in descending from

the Cordillera increased warmth and barometric pressure make rain less

likely. Still, from late September through late March there is some

precipitation nearly every day and this is what sustains altiplano agri-

culture (ONERN/CORPUNO 1965; Thomas and Winterhalder 1976:24).

Around the end of March a low-pressure area over the Gran Chaco

region draws the moist air of the Andean anticyclone toward it and an

intertropical front from the upper atmosphere over Brazil enters the

altiplano. The dry, gusty winds associated with the front dessicate

formerly green pasture lands and leave the altiplano landscape brown and

dusty. Average monthly precipitation for Sarata for the years 1961-1979

is presented in Table 3-1. As Painter (1981) notes, these figures are

somewhat higher than for the rest of the altiplano. This is because

the Cordillera north of Sarata is not as high as in some places, so

cloud masses pass into the altiplano more easily, and also because the

lake basin is narrower in this region which means that the air's moisture

content is still relatively high when it reaches Sarata.

The temperature of the altiplano is influenced by two factors.

One is the altitude, which measures 3812 meters above sea level at the

edge of Lake Titicaca and rises to well over 5000 meters in many parts

of the Cordillera. The other is the tropical latitude of the region,

ranging from approximately 14 on its northern edge to 20 at its

southernmost point around Lake Poopd. The combined effect of these

two factors is that the altiplano temperature varies little from season



0 (
4-4 1
o ro

o- oT

V) am a

E < aC


41 it: \j

E c c-J




co a t--

4-' E4




C l *o C:-)

to CU

C l -


i- (Tl


01 *r0
r- Cl

ro C-