By Amy Eisenberg, Ph.D., Photography by John Amato, RN

Aymara Indians“K‟utarapxiw quqanakasxa, ukatxa phichantapxarakiw, quqa tunu lawanaks jik‟irapxi, ukatsi janipuniw jik‟supkit qhuya tunu saphanakasxa.”

“One should take pride in one’s land and culture. There is a popular saying in Aymara, ‘They cut our branches, they burn our leaves, they pull out our trunks . . . but never could they overtake our roots.’ This was addressed to the Spaniards.”

– Aymara agriculturist of Chile

Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes presents our collaborative research with the Aymara people in the Andes of northern Chile. We conducted ethnographic interviews with Aymara people in more than 16 villages from the coast to the high plateau, 4600 meters above sea level. Within a multidisciplinary framework and with a detailed understanding of issues from the Aymara point of view, together we explore the enduring reciprocal relations between the Aymara and the elements of land, water, and the supernatural amid exogenously imposed development within their holy land. We discuss the paving of international Chile Highway 11, diversion of Altiplano waters of the Río Lauca to the arid Atacama Desert coast for hydroelectricity and irrigation, mining within Parque Nacional Lauca, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, and Chilean national park policies re-garding Aymara communities and their natural and cultural properties within the protected area.

For Andean people, economic, spiritual, and social life, are inextricably tied to land and water. The Aymara of Chile are the indigenous people of the northern border Region XV, Arica y Parinacota, who are struggling to maintain their sustainable and traditional systems of irrigation waters distribution, agriculture, and pastoralism in one of the most arid regions of our world, the Atacama Desert. Inter-views with Aymara people reveal the social and environmental dimensions of the larger conflict be-tween rapid economic growth and a sensitive cultural and natural resource base. The Aymara help us to understand indigenous issues and their cosmological vision.


We are human beings; hence we must communicate. We are obliged to dialogue, in spite of all the conflicts in which humans act, we also face and resolve with communication. The Aymara believe in the unity of humankind and that only as one can we make this earth a good place for all of us. Aymara perceptions and needs are the most important consideration in this study.

Development in the Andes must consider the individual and collective needs of the Aymara people. Environmental transformation must be grounded in a careful understanding of the Aymara and their way of life. This book attempts to contribute to that understanding. Through the lens of visual ethnoecology, John Amato vividly and respectfully photo documents details of Aymara life, culture and the environment.


ISE Member Amy Eisenberg, Ph.D. is an ethnobotanist and botanical artist who works collaboratively with indigenous peoples internationally and nationally. She recently conducted organic sustainable agriculture and agroforestry research in Asia and the Pacific.

ISE Member John Amato, RN practices Emergency and Intensive Care nursing. His exquisite photographic gallery can be viewed at:

6 x 9 · 280 pages



ISBN-13: 978-0-8173-8666-5