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Aymara People of the Andes Region

Last updated: Friday August 10th 2018

Our Quinoa comes from the Andean Region of Bolivia, where there exists rich indigenous culture and harsh living conditions.  The Aymara people are just one of the indigenous peoples that have made this area their home.  The altiplano is the high plains of the Andes Mountains where the altitude rises to between 3,000 and 3,700 meters, making agriculture difficult and living conditions cold and harsh.  Physical adaptation such as enlarged lung capacity has left the Aymara people able to function normally at these high altitudes while others suffer from illness. 

Upon invasion of the Spanish, much of their land and freedom were taken from the Aymara.  They were forced to work in the silver mines, causing illness and death from poor conditions.  The Spanish also introduced Catholicism to the people, and forbade many of the rituals and celebrations of their traditional beliefs.  Today, the Aymara have adopted traits from both religions. 

Festivals and celebrations remain an integral part of the Aymara culture.  They celebrate the same holidays as other Bolivians such as Independence Day, and Carnival, but they also have some of their own.  The Alasitas festival is in honor of the Aymaran God of abundance Ekeko, which is often depicted as a man carrying miniatures of common goods.  During this festival, miniature versions of goods are blessed and given as gifts.  It is believed that you will receive the real objects you are given within the next year.  At midday, the Catholic church blesses the figures at the main Cathedral in La Paz, exemplifying the fusion of Catholicism and traditional beliefs.

Community is very important to the Aymara people.  They live by three main beliefs: work is value, do not steal, do not lie.  Neighbors come together to help with jobs that are too big for one family to accomplish such as building a new house, or harvesting a field.  The favor is then reciprocated by providing the same number of days work required for the original job. The act of working is very respectable in the Aymara community, and men and women of all ages have jobs or contribute to the family in some way. 

The strong winds and harsh cold of the altiplano has shaped the clothing worn by the Aymara.  Men wear cotton trousers and woolen caps and ponchos, while women wear hand-spun skirts and sweaters.  One interesting item of clothing often worn by women is the bowler hat.  It has been said that in the late 1800s, shortly after they were invented, the bowler style hats were sent from overseas for the British men working on the railways, but were too small for their heads.  They were then given to the women under the pretense of being a must have in ladies fashion in England.

Traditional food of the Andes includes the aji pepper, various varieties of potatoes, and quinoa.  The weather in the Andes is perfect for a natural freeze drying process for items such as meat and potatoes.  The food is stored outside for a week, and between the freezing temperatures at night and extreme heat in the day the food is preserved and can be stored for years.  Quinoa is the staple grain of this region, as it is able to withstand the extreme temperatures.  Centuries of careful curation has bred the bigger, tastier grains that we use in our organic Royal Tricoloured and White Quinoa. 

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