Tuesday, January 2, 8548

La Paz, Bolivia (1548), and the Aymara

Nuestra Señora de La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, as well as the departmental capital of La Paz Department. As of the 2001 census, the city of La Paz had a population of around one million, and together with the neighboring cities of El Alto and Viacha, make the biggest urban area of Bolivia, with a population of over 1.6 million inhabitants

Also known as Chuquiago Marka or Chuqiyapu from Aymara: "chuqi" = gold, "yapu" = farm

Founded in 1548 by the Spanish conquistador, Alonso de Mendoza, at the site of this the Native American Aymara settlement, Laja, the full name of the city was originally Nuestra Señora de La Paz (meaning Our Lady of Peace). The name commemorated the restoration of peace following the insurrection of Gonzalo Pizarro and fellow conquistadors four years earlier against Blasco Núñez Vela, the first viceroy of Peru. The city was later moved to its present location in the valley of Chuquiago Marka.

Pedro de la Gasca, the Spanish king had entrusted rule over the former Inca lands, commanded Captain Alonso de Mendoza to found a new city commemorating the end of the civil wars in Peru. Then the city of La Paz was founded on October 20th, 1548.

La Paz is the highest capital city in the world.

The city of La Paz was founded by Spanish settlers on the pre- existing site of Choqueyapu, an ancient Aymara village. It was founded as Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) by Alonso de Mendoza, commissioned by Pedro de la Gasca, to commemorate the "pacification" of Peru. It was started as a commercial city, lying on the main gold and silver route to the coast. The Spaniards came for the Bolivian gold found in the Choqueapu River that runs through present-day La Paz. The Spaniards took the gold mines away from Aymara people and made them work as slaves. The primarily male Spanish population soon mixed with the indigenous people, creating a largely mestizo, or mixed, population.


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Aymara (Aymar aru) is an Aymaran language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes. It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over a million speakers.

Aymara, along with Quechua and Spanish, is an official language of Peru and Bolivia. It is also spoken to a much lesser extent in Chile and in the Northwest Argentina.

Some linguists have claimed that Aymara is related to its more widely-spoken neighbour, Quechua. This claim, however, is disputed -- although there are indeed similarities, the majority position among linguists today is that these similarities are better explained as areal features resulting from prolonged interaction between the two languages, and that they are not demonstrably related.

The Aymara language is an agglutinating (word/word-fragment-combining) and to a certain extent polysynthetic language, and has a subject-object-verb word order.

Most present day Aymara-speakers live in the Lake Titicaca basin beginning in Lake Titicaca through Desaguadero River and into Lake Poopo (Oruro) also known as the Altiplano, and are concentrated south of the lake. The capital of the ancient Aymara civilization is unknown, as there were at least 7 different kingdoms (Cornell University Anthropologist John Murra). The capital of the largely populated Lupaqa Kingdom was the city of Chucuito (See also John Murra study of this Aymara Kingdom), located on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The present urban center of the Aymara region is El Alto, a 750,000-person city near the Bolivian capital La Paz. For most of the 20th century the center of Cosmopolitan Aymara Culture has been Chukiago Marka (La Paz), the only Latin American city whose indigenous name is still as commonly used as its Spanish name. During the government of General Pando (died in 1917) and during the Bolivian Civil War, Bolivia's Capital was moved from Sucre to La Paz.

Aymara have grown and chewed coca plants for centuries, and used its leaves in traditional medicine as well as in ritual offerings to the sun god Inti and the earth goddess Pachamama. Over the last century, this has brought them into conflict with state authorities who have carried out coca eradication plans in order to prevent the creation of the drug cocaine, which is created by extracting the chemical from coca leaves in a complex chemical process. Coca plays a profound role in the indigenous religions of both the Aymara and the Quechua, such as the ritual curing ceremonies of the yatiri, and in more recent times has become a symbol of cultural identity.

Most of contemporary Aymaran Urban culture was developed in the working class Aymara neighborhoods of Chukiago La Paz such as Chijini and others. Bowler hats have been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920's when supposedly a shipment of bowler hats was sent from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by Europeans who were working on the construction of the railroads. The hats were found to be too small and were distributed to locals. The luxurious, elegant and cosmopolitan Aymara Chola dress which is an icon to Bolivia (bowler hat, Manila Shawl, heavy pollera, skirts, boots, jewelry, etc.) was born and evolved in Chukiago City and it is clearly not provincial but urban. The dress has become an ethnic symbol for the Aymara women. In addition, numerous Aymara live and work as campesinos in the surrounding Altiplano. The Aymara language does have one surviving relative, spoken by a small, isolated group of about 1000 people far to the north in the mountains inland from Lima in Central Peru (in and around the village of Tupe, Yauyos province, Lima department). This language, known as Jaqaru/Kawki, is of the same family as Aymara, indeed some linguists refer to it as "Central Aymara," alongside the main "Southern Aymara" branch of the family spoken in the Titicaca region.

Traditional Bolivian (and other South American) musical instruments include the charango, charangón, ronroco, hualaycho, zampoña, quena, bombo, huancara, reco reco, chiapya box, pinquillo, tarka, toyos, moseño, pututu, Andean saxophone, and sheep hooves formed into a kind of shaker, as well as European musical instruments such as the violin and guitar.

[8551 Caccini / 8548 Bolivia / 8545 Pedro de Soto]